When it comes to losing weight, it's hard to know what 'really' works and what doesn't.
Especially when different, conflicting pieces of diet advice are thrown all over the place.
People are being advised to do all sorts of crazy things to lose weight quickly.
Obviously, most of them have no scientific proof behind them, except a very few.
Over the years, scientists successfully discovered a handful of effective weight loss strategies.
In today's post, I'll discuss 11 weight loss tips that are evidence-based and proven to help people lose weight very fast.
Here are the 11 weight loss tips that are backed by "science"
1. Sleep and weight loss
Sleep and weight loss is closely related.
Not getting enough sleep at night time can hinder your weight loss.
Sleep deprivation (less than 6.5 hours of sleep) has long been linked to stress, but according to Harvard School of Public Health, it can even lead to weight gain.
Stanford University's research also confirmed the association between less sleep with weight gain.
In their study, they found short sleepers are linked to increased body mass index (BMI).
In their large population sample, those with less than 6.5 hours of sleep had the highest 'BMI' score and people who regularly sleep 7 to 8 hours showed the lowest BMIs.
See the BMI graph below.
There are seemingly 2 ways chronic sleep deprivation may lead to weight gain.
- By increasing how much food people eat
- By decreasing the energy they burn
Less sleep makes you eat more
- More Time, More Food: One simple explanation is people who sleep less have more waking time. Instead of staying up at night and get tempted to cave into your late night food temptation, go to bed early to get adequate sleep. It saves the unnecessary fight with food cravings.
- Less Sleep Increases Your Hunger and Appetite: According to one research, "when people are sleep deprived and surrounded by tasty snack, they tend to snack more -especially during the extra hours they are awake at night" (4,5). Less sleep is also linked to higher levels of ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone and lower levels of leptin, the satiety-inducing hormone. Combined, they increase your hunger and appetite.
Less sleep, less physical activity
- Less Physical Activity - According to a study released by Case Western Reserve University's University Hospitals of Cleveland, short sleepers are more tired during the day and tend to engage in less physical activity. Other studies have also found they tend to have a longer TV time and less time being physically active than those who get longer sleep at night.
Takeaway: Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night time. Getting adequate sleep (7-8 hours) is a strong target in preventing weight gain.
Have a hard time falling asleep? Check out these simple sleeping tips below.
How to sleep better at night:
- Limit caffeine intake at night time
- Store your tech gadgets outside of your bedroom
- Set a consistent bedtime
2. Reduce calorie intake for weight loss
Recent popular diets are mostly based on nutrition compositions.
Low-carb diets and high-protein diets, just to name a few.
Frank Sacks, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at Harvard Medical School along with Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D. Director, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) warn calories should be the focus.
They advise dieters (people with a weight loss goal) to follow a heart-healthy reduced-calorie diet.
Nabel adds, "as long as you control calorie intake, there is more than one approach to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight".
The importance of calorie intake over nutritional composition was evident in the trial done on 811 overweight women and men, who were randomly divided into four diet focus groups with different nutritional compositions.
- Low-fat diet: 20% of calories from fat, 15% of calories from protein, 65% of calories from carbohydrate
- Low-fat, high-protein diet: 20% fat, 25% protein, 55% carbohydrate
- High-fat diet: 40% fat, 15% protein, 45% carbohydrate
- High-fat, high-protein: 40% fat, 25% protein, 35% carbohydrate
Other than the differences in nutritional composition, they all followed the same heart-healthy eating principles which included unsaturated fat, whole cereal grains, fruits and vegetables and excluded saturated fat.
Their daily calorie intake was reduced by 750 calories with a minimum of 1,200 calories a day.
They also performed 90 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week.
The results were interesting.
On average, participants loss 13 pounds within the six months and maintained a 9-pound loss at two years regardless of diet.
The difference in diet didn't translate to difference in weight loss and reduction in waist circumference.
What seemed to trigger a double-digit weight loss is reduced calorie intake, not nutritional composition.
That's right. 'Calories for weight loss' is critical.
Now we know that calories matter, the next question you should be asking yourself is 'how many calories should I eat a day' to lose weight.
So let's get right to it.
How many calories to eat to lose weight
Nutrition.gov advises the following calorie reductions for effective weight loss:
- Reduce 500 calories a day to lose 1 pound a week.
- Reduce 1,000 calories a day to lose 2 pounds a week.
This is when you are trying to lose weight without working out.
However, if you are also committed to exercising, a portion of the deficit will be created by additional calorie expenditure from the workout.
According to West Virginia University, if you reduce calorie intake by 300 calories a day and increase your activity to burn 200 extra calories per day, you can expect a steady weight loss of approximately one pound a week.
Minimum Daily Calorie Intake
University of Michigan urges not to go under 1,400 calories a day.
They warn anything less can put your body to a semi-starvation state where it attempts to use alternative energy sources.
Instead of burning fat, your body will burn muscle tissues which potentially lead to weakening of heart. (your heart is a muscle).
Starvation not only slows down your metabolism, it leads to poor body functions and more fat being stored.
3. Cut back on sugar
Added sugar is one of the most devious ingredients in the Western diet, and most people are getting in excess.
Not only excess sugar has been linked to 'weight gain', research shows that sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup consumption is strongly associated with increasing the risk of many diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
If you want to lose weight, you should cut back or completely eliminate added sugars from your diet.
Easiest places to start is soda and other soft high calorie drinks.
By doing that, you will seamlessly lose weight.
Sugar in 'soda'.
Soft drinks like soda is one of the most common sneaky ways you consume a significant amount of sugar and calories.
And sadly it is not just in sodas. Juices and even beers are high in calories and refined sugar.
But you probably knew that already.
What you didn't know is you can end up consuming 20% more if you eat the same food as a liquid, says Virginia Commonwealth University.
The reason behind this added calorie consumption is quite simple.
Liquids are less satisfying than solid foods.
Besides, the chewing process known as mastication is important in your digestive process and impact your health and weight loss.
According to Dr. Mercola, chewing help you absorb more nutrients and energy from your food.
It also directly impacts weight loss by by taking longer to finish a meal.
In fact, University of Rhode Island did a study on slow and fast eating and found that people who ate slowly consumed 11% less calories, drank 34% more water and showed more satisfaction than those who ate quickly.
All in all, there are numerous weight loss benefits to consuming calories in a form of solid food rather than liquids.
What to drink instead?
Drinking water to lose weight.
You often hear that drinking water can help you lose weight. It is true.
A researcher from Virginia Tech reported that drinking water before a meal resulted in 44% decline in weight over the 12-week period.
How much water? 500 ml of water is what participants of the study had to drink.
Water is calorie and sugar free and help you flush toxins out of your body.
Takeaway: Drink water before your meal to help reduce your calorie intake.
4. Eat more protein
Protein deficiency is surprisingly common.
By not including enough protein in your meal, you are missing out weight loss benefits protein offer.
After all, proteins are considered foods that help lose weight.
Here are three ways protein helps with your weight loss.
- Stay satisfied and full longer: protein foods (fish, poultry, meat, beans, seeds and nuts) move from your stomach to the intestine more slowly and keep you satisfied longer.
- Help keep blood sugar levels stable: unlike simple carbs like white bread or baked potatoes, protein foods prevent sharp blood sugar dips and insulin spike.
- Preserve muscle mass: During weight loss, muscle loss happens too frequently. Protein helps preserve muscle mass and even help gaining mass when combined with resistance training.
What are protein foods?
Protein foods include meats, seafood, nuts, beans, soy products, and dairy products.
Limiting processed meat and choosing healthiest and leanest sources of protein (anything with 2 legs or less is considered lean.
Healthy protein examples include skinless chicken and turkey, eggs, fish, and soy). can help reduce your waistline.
How much protein to eat per day?
There is no single number that applies to everyone and different dietary disciplines recommend varying protein portion sizes.
The general recommendation for protein is 2 servings a day with 1 serving being the size of your palm or 3-4 ounces or 3 servings per day with low-purine protein such as nonfat dairy products.
5. Use a smaller plate
For better or for worse, we play mind tricks with just about everything including food consumption volume.
When a same portion food is on two plates with different sizes, it appears different.
On a larger plate, the portion looks smaller than it really is.
On contrary, on a smaller plate, it looks full and plentiful.
Feeling of fullness is a sensory experience that involves almost all senses.
Everything from package size, plate shape, lighting to socializing can influence just how much we eat.
Use it to your advantage, research says it can reduce food consumption by 22 percent.
The trick is to place a moderate portion meal on a smaller size plate to avoid appearing too small, says National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH).
According to Michelle Cardel, Ph.D., your smaller plate's diameter should be nine to ten inches. They are proven to cut calorie intake without changing in the level of satisfaction.
It's a method that leads to waistline without much effort, says the researcher.
6. Eat fresh fruits & veggies
Fruits and veggies are among the 'best foods' you can eat to lose weight, and for better health.
They are low in calories, sugar, but high in fiber.
Most contains mostly water, which can help you with hydration.
Research show that people who eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits tend to weight less.
But despite being highly nutritious and filling, most people don't take full advantage of what they have to offer.
One source reported 87 percent of Americans don't meet the recommendations for fruit and 91 percent don't meet recommendations for vegetables consumption.
If you want to lose weight the healthy way, you're going to have to add more of these delicious and nutrition packed foods to your diet.
How much fruits and vegetables to eat per day?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Takeaway: Fruits and veggies are highly nutritious and low in calories. Eating them often can help you lose weight quickly and safely.
7. Keep a Food Journal
By all measures, we are horrible estimators.
Many of us can't even seem to correctly identify our own weight status, let alone food portions.
Especially with our "the bigger, the better " mentality, food portions sizes are on the rise.
In fact, Michigan State University reported the average dinner plate is 33 % bigger than a dinner plate from 1950s.
With constantly enlarging plate sizes and portions sizes, it's hard to really know how much we are eating without keeping a food journal.
Monitoring your food intake has long been a proven way to shed extra pounds and keep it off.
A recent study from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics revealed just how effective a food journal can be.
According to their study, participants who kept a food journal lost 6 pounds more than those who didn't keep a journal.
Another study from Kaiser Permanente confirms the effectiveness of a food diary in weight loss.
Their 1,700 participant study found that keeping a food diary can double a person's weight loss.
The researchers listed three top reasons why it works:
- It increases your awareness of serving sizes and your patterns of eating
- It makes you accountable for your actions
- It tracks your progress toward your weekly goal
But the key to a successful journaling is to be honest with yourself.
It's with accurate recording, it harnesses the power of self-monitoring.
8. Cook your meals at home
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research found that "people who frequently cook meals at home eat healthier and consume fewer calories than those who cook less."
Julia A. Wolfson, lead author of the study reported that with home cooked meals, people generally consume less carbs, less sugar and less fat and those who cook less or not at all.
It's really no surprise considering most restaurants serve portions twice the size of an appropriate amount. But it's not just the portion that's super-sized.
SF Gate reported a food prepared in a restaurant usually has as much as double the calories of a home cooked version, averaging 1,000 to 1,500 calories a meal (American Dietetic Association).
Here is a couple of examples from Colorado State University:
- Grilled chicken
- Restaurant 766 calories
- Home 434 calories
- Restaurant 650 calories
- Home 340 calories
9. Exercise at least 3 days a week
Workout 3 days a week.
Cardio has a bad rep, and there is some truth to it.
Numerous studies found slow cardio sessions burn muscle, not fat.
It's also known to increase cortisol, a fat-storing, stress hormone. But that doesn't mean cardio can't help you lose weight.
According to Duke Medicine, cardio can burn 67 percent more calories than resistance training (includes weight lifting and bodyweight training. The additional calorie burn evidently translates to weight loss.
A study from Precision Nutrition reported weight loss results favored cardio. Participants of their study were divided into three groups: aerobics only, anaerobics only and both aerobics and anaerobics.
Out of all three groups, the aerobics only group lost the most weight, 3.88 lbs. But that's not to say cardio is the best and only weight loss workout.
You need both cardio and strength training to lose weight and tone up.
While the cardio burns calories, resistance training (or strength training) turns fat into lean muscle mass and gives you the sculpted, slimmer body you want.
Without resistance training, you will be more likely to hit a weight loss plateau somewhere down the road.
It's because much of weight loss results in muscle loss.
While it may not sound alarming, but it is.
According to University of Illinois, muscle is more active and energy-demanding than fat. And a higher percentage of muscle compared to fat results in higher basal metabolic rate (BMR).
This metabolism efficiency muscle is linked to is what helps you shed pounds and keep them off.
More lean muscle is good for aesthetic reasons too.
Jennifer Regan, NASM certified fitness trainer (NASM) and C.H.E.K practitioner explains muscle is about 18% more dense than fat. This means one pound of muscle takes less space than the same one pound of fat.
This is also the reason two women who weight the same can be at completely different dress sizes.
This is where resistance training can help.
According to Harvard Health, strength training can help build and maintain muscle mass and strength.
Some study reports, 2 days a week of full-body moderate resistance or weight training can slow the muscle loss by 3-5%. This muscle development and preservation is what helps support metabolism and gives the sculpted and toned body.
For best results, perform 2-3 days of resistance training (fitwirr 20 min db)and do cardio activities (biking, walking, jogging, running swimming,etc) on your off days.
10. Get your omega-3s daily
You probably already know some of the health benefits of omega 3 fish oil: improved brain functions, mental development, better eyesight, just to name a few. But a recent research published in International Journal of Obesity also found it's positive effect on fat burning and metabolism.
They believe omega 3 fatty acids in fish oils aid weight loss and fat reduction in part by increasing fat metabolism.
The secret is in the types of fatty acids fish oil contains.
There are three primary fatty acids.
- eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA
- docosahexaenoic acid or DHA
- alpha-linolenic acid, referred to as ALA
According to John William, clinical psychologist, ALA is a short chain fatty acid found in walnuts, canola, soybean oil, flaxseed, and flaxseed oil, whereas EPA and DHA are long chain fatty acids found in fish, algae extracts and fish oil supplements.
The research examined the fat burning and calorie burning effect on EPA and DHA fatty acids that can easily be utilized by your body and ALA short chain fatty acid that needs to be converted into a long chain fatty acid to be used.
In the study, participants were divided into two groups and fed the same diet daily with 6 grams of oil for 3 weeks.
One group's oil intake came from omega-3, and the other group took the oil in form of butter, sunflower oil, olive oil and peanut oil (No EPA or DHA).
The group who took omega-3 fish oil lost 2 lbs of body fat and while the other group without fish oil only lost 0.7 pounds of body fat.
The fish oil supplemented group also burned fat 26% faster than those without fish oil.
Researchers believe this positive effect on the metabolism is due to insulin level that was dropped by 50% with fish oil supplements.
While insulin itself if not a harmful hormone, spike in insulin usually indicates fat storing and decreased use of fat as fuel.
As a result of the decreased insulin level, more fat was used as an energy source and led to a greater fat loss, says Kathleen Martin from Vanderbilt University on Fish oils and Weight Loss.
Livestrong.com, writes daily intake of 1.5 to 2 grams of fish oil is suggested by International Journal of Obesity for weight loss of couple of pounds over a month or so.
For better results, add exercise, advises The American Journal Nutrition. Several studies they report found people who took fish oil and exercised saw better weight loss results than those who only took fish oil or exercised.
11. Eat whole foods
Budgeting calories is a major part of weight loss; however, "a calorie is a calories" mindset can limit the success of your weight loss and long-term overall health.
Harvard School of Public Health advises in their "The Best Diet: Quality Counts" article, food quality is indeed important and can promote weight loss and long-term weight management.
Coming from a calorie to calorie theory, it's a shift in how you compose your meal.
Rather than composing a meal based on each food's caloric value, choose foods based on nutritional values and quality and do portion control using caloric value.
Harvard Medical School's 20 year long, 120,000 participant study, Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men found a link between participants' weight change and consumption of potato chips, potatoes, sugar sweetened beverages, and both processed and unprocessed red meats.
The study's researchers concluded foods higher in starches, refined grains, fats and sugars can increase weight gain.
Conversely, foods associated to weight loss were vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and yogurt.
They also provided us with a high-quality foods that promote a healthy weight and low-quality foods show high association with weight gain.
Definition: Unrefined, minimally processed foods
- Whole grains
- Healthy fats
- Healthy sources of protein
See Healthy Eating Plate for more recommendations.
Definition: High processed, refined foods
- processed snack foods
- sugar-sweetened beverages
- refined (white) grains
- refined sugar
- fried foods
- foods high in saturated and trans fats
- high-glycemic foods such as potatoes
There you have a list of 11 evidenced based weight loss tips researchers along with millions of followers found they work.
These tips not only promote weight loss, but are proven to provide other health benefits that lead to your long-term optimum health.
Do you have any other tips you think we missed? Let us know in the comments below.