There are plenty of compelling reasons to exercise—stress relief, better overall health, improved mood, and a lower risk of developing many diseases. But let’s face it—many of us work out with results in mind. We hit the gym or pop in a workout video with the intent of getting a leaner, sleeker, all-around better-looking bod.
And that’s where how you work out becomes so important. Any kind of exercise, whether a moderate stroll around the block or a gentle yoga class, is good for your emotional and physical health. But if you’re looking for results, you want to get the most from your workouts. Here are four proven ways to burn more fat during—and after—your exercise session:
Push it. Go to any gym and you’ll see most of the people on cardio machines are zoning out. They’re exercising, yeah, but they’re not working very hard. If you can have a full-on conversation with your buddy on the elliptical next to you, it’s time to up your intensity. Moderate exercise is great if your aim is better health, but if you want to shed fat and get lean, aim for high-intensity workouts.
Try it: Measure your “perceived exertion,” or how hard you’re working, on a scale of 1 to 10. At a 1, you’re lying on your couch; at 10, you’re about to collapse. After warming up for 5 minutes until you feel like you’re at about a 4, perform an interval where you’re at an 8 or 9 intensity; then go at an easier pace to recover. Repeat several times and cool down. You’ll boost your metabolism much higher than doing a moderate steady-state workout, and you’ll burn more fat overall.
Power up. Can’t go without your morning coffee? Caffeine doesn’t only increase alertness and boost your mood—plenty of studies show that it has a positive impact on athletic performance as well. Consuming caffeine makes exercise feel easier, and more fun—and boosts the number of calories you burn during your workout, too.
Try it: You don’t have to go overboard with a triple-shot large latte—if you don’t drink a lot of caffeine, even a small dose can have an impact on your workout. Regular coffee drinkers can try 100-200 milligrams before a workout. (A cup of brewed coffee has about 100 milligrams.) Try having some caffeine an hour or two before your workout to see how you feel—if it bothers your stomach, cut back.
Preload with protein. When you strength-train, it’s not only what you do during the workout that’s important, but after as well. That’s why it’s important to have some protein and carbs post-workout, ideally within about 30 minutes, to help replenish glycogen stores and start rebuilding muscle tissue. But research shows that having protein before your workout increases your metabolism—not only during your workout but up to 48 hours after as well. A higher metabolism means more calories burned, and greater fat loss.
Try it: Have a light high-protein snack (think, a hard-boiled egg or cup of Greek yogurt) before your workout. Afterwards, make sure you have your usual protein/carb post-workout snack for the most results.
Use more muscles. Simply put, the more muscles you work when you lift weights, the harder your body works and the higher your metabolism is going to be post-workout.
Try it: Spend less time on single joint exercises like triceps kickbacks. Instead, up the challenge to your body with more challenging, multi-joint exercises like clean and presses or squats with biceps curls, where you squat and curl simultaneously. More muscles=more calories burned=greater fat loss.
These four techniques will help get visible results from your workout.