How to lose weight fast: what you need to know about burning belly fat and getting healthy

This is the honest answer you need to hear if you want to lose weight and keep it off

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Are you looking to lose weight fast? The web is full of quick fixes but most of the more honest experts will tell you this: losing weight is hard. The bad news is we are not going to tell you any different. 

The good news is, we know most people are happy to accept this fact, and are ready to put the work in to lose weight. Trust us, it does get easier when you start seeing results. The frustration comes when you feel like you’re working hard, but the pounds aren’t shifting. So what is the best way to lose weight fast? 

The basics

Essentially, losing weight comes down to achieving a consistent calorie deficit. That is, you need to burn more calories than you consume. 

If you eat 2,500 calories in a day – the recommended daily amount for a man, although of course this amount can vary wildly depending on your height, weight and frame – and burn 3,000, you are in a calorie deficit. 

If, however, you burn 3,000 but have consumed 3,500, you’re not in a calorie deficit, even though you've probably been working out to have burned that much energy. The fastest way to lose weight is by improving your diet and upping your exercise game to achieve a calorie deficit.

A running watch or, to an extent, fitness tracker can help you track calories burned, while MyFitnessPal – which integrates with Garmin and Fitbit wearables – can help you track calories consumed. However, this takes iron discipline, is tedious, and calorie burn estimates from wearables are, shall we say, not 100% reliable.

What is needed for most people is a more holistic approach, making weight loss as 'enjoyable' as possible. Sweating out calories; not sweating the tiny details. Bosh mate, wicked! As Joe Wicks would say.

Compulsively weighing yourself every day is also not a healthy or fun thing to do, but you will need to check your weight now and then as you strive to shed pounds. The great thing about modern bathroom scales is they don't just tell you your weight; they also let you know your body fat percentage.

This is a much, much better metric to track than weight. If you're working out while dieting you can easily put on weight, even when running a calorie deficit, just because muscle is heavier than fat. 

Now, although the calculations of body fat percentage scales produce are based on sound science, accuracy can vary. The key thing to note is that if the overall trend is going down, you're doing well.

How to lose weight fast with exercise

The most important part of weight loss is diet, which we'll come to in a moment, as that mostly comes down to understanding what you're eating, and will power.

First, we want to talk about exercise. Working out is not going to make you lose weight on its own, but done right it will assist, and it will make you look and feel better, which is the point, right? In our view, once you start looking and feeling better, it gets a lot easier to find the will power needed to improve your diet. 

Even if your day job keeps you highly active, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to lose weight quickly without additional exercise, whether that's running, gym, crossfit, team sports, cycling or any of the other myriad activities available. 

There are two main types of exercise: cardio training and weight – or resistance –training. 

Both burn calories, the difference is that whilst cardio burns a lot of calories upfront, weight training continues to to burn calories post workout. 

This is because weight training builds muscle, and muscle burns more than fat as you carry out day-to-day tasks. In short, the greater your muscle:fat ratio, the more calories you burn even when you are standing still.

Another thing in the favour of weight training is that it is easy to do at home with just a pair of dumbbells. That's not to say cardio fitness can't be done at home, or that you need an imposingly large exercise bike or treadmill to do it. There are many other ways to get your heart rate up, from balls to ropes.

Man working out with a kettlebell

Kettlebells are a very powerful weightloss tool 

There are easier and harder ways of working your muscles (including your heart). Members of the T3 team who exercise recommend kettle bells, and bikes of all kinds. For working out specifically, exercise bikes and turbo trainers were the favourites – and also the choice of both the England men's and women's football teams. Man mountain Leon Poultney swears by battle ropes and slam balls.

That's because all of these bits of kit have two great virtues. They are simple to use, although your body position is important with bells, balls and ropes – you can find longer guides to this online but basically, don't slouch. Secondly, they can be used for everything from a fairly gentle workout to a full-on cardio thrash. 

That's important because as well as varying the type of exercise you do, you should also vary the intensity with which you work out. That way, in any given week, and within any given workout, you exercise both aerobically (a little out of breath but not gasping) and anaerobically (going flat out, like when running for a bus, or away from Piers Morgan). 

Aerobic exercise needs oxygen to give muscles energy and generally requires moderate exertion. Examples include gentler running, cycling and swimming. 

Aerobic exercise is a crucial part of losing weight quickly because it uses both sugar and fat as its energy source, but to burn fat you need to do it for long enough that you’ve burned through your sugar stores first. 

Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, primarily uses sugar as its fuel. This doesn’t mean that it’s not good for weight loss, though. Anaerobic exercise helps build muscle, and as we explained above, this will help you burn calories even when you’re resting. Anaerobic exercises are generally high intensity, for example sprinting and weight lifting. 

This brings us back again to our old friends, fitness trackers and, more particularly, running watches. As they either have built-in heart-rate trackers or pair with ones you strap to your chest, they can show you how hard you're working out and let you know when you need to push it harder.  

• Find out more about heart rate zone training

Speaking of high-intensity, high intensity interval training (or HIIT) is one of the best exercises to do if you want to lose weight fast. It combines cardio and strength training, and works through bursts of intense exercise followed by short rests. 

This works so well because it keeps your heart pumping for a prolonged period of time. It marries the intensity of the most full-on cardio workout, but can be done in a short space of time, and should be sustainable if done right. 

Many gyms offer HIIT classes, but if the thought of joining the gym fills you with dread, our favourite fitness book features a selection of HIIT training exercises you can do at home.   

How to lose weight fast by diet changes

As you increase your calorie output, you may feel like you need to increase your calorie intake. This is where a lot of people who start a new exercise regimen without adapting their diet fall short, and fail to see results. Instead, we recommend adapting your diet to get the most out of your calories.

Nutritionist Jenna Hope explains: “Proteins and healthy fats promote more stable blood glucose levels, keeping you fuller across a time period and less likely to crave sugar or over eat,” and so these are the kinds of foods you should get the majority of your calories from. Consuming the same amount of calories as you are now (or fewer if possible), but getting more nutritional value from them will help you feel fuller for longer and lose weight more quickly as a result. 

A tape measure wrapped around a sugared doughnut

Cutting down on sugar will help reduce your waistline 

There's nothing wrong with carbs per se unless you are getting into being an actual body builder, but the biggest food culprit when it comes to hindering weight loss is the simple carbohydrate. 

Compared to complex carbs like beans, whole grains and vegetables, which break down and release energy slowly, thereby keeping you full and energised, simple carbs such as sugar and starchy foods which break down into sugars – such as pasta and spuds – give you a shorter boost of energy, then leave you wanting more. 

The likelihood is that the more simple carbs you eat, the more you’ll end up eating overall, harming the balance of your calorie deficit. 

One easy trick if you're a spaghetti fan is to swap out white pasta for the wonderfully named courgetti (spaghetti made from spiralizing courgette). You’ll hardly notice the difference when you’re eating it, but you’ll be fuller for longer despite consuming fewer calories. When you consume fewer calories, your body can go to your fat reserves for energy, rather than just burning off the food you’ve eaten. 

OXO Good Grips sprializer and some spiralized vegetables

Spiralizing vegetables is a great alternative to pasta 

This doesn’t mean you have to completely refuse yourself certain foods, though. In fact, Spoon Guru nutritionist Isabel Butler (MSc, ANutr) recommends that “the best way to reduce weight and maintain the weight loss is by simply eating a balanced and healthy diet, without refusing yourself particular foods… If you do cut out foods, you need to make sure your diet is still balanced and you are getting the nutrients your body needs from other sources.”   

A person checking their weight using bathroom scales

Losing weight isn't all doom and gloom

How to lose weight fast by drinking water

Okay, drinking water will not, in itself, make you lose weight. That said, an extremely easy way to cut calories is to replace soft drinks, coffee and sugared/milky teas with no-calorie, delicious water. It's obvious when you think about it, but easy to miss because few of us consider what we drink as contributing to our daily calorie count. 

Keep a reusable water bottle with you at all times and restrict what else you drink. This can feel like a hard habit to break at first, but is surprisingly easy to maintain once you have a zero calorie drink to hand 24/7.  

Hydration also brings a range of health benefits, and can help you feel more full by the time you get to meals, so you eat less. 

How to lose weight fast by keeping track

As we mentioned earlier, one of the most difficult and disheartening things about trying to lose weight fast is feeling like you’re not making any progress.

It’s important to decide how you want to measure your success and keep track consistently, understanding that you will see daily fluctuations due to things like digestive contents and water retention. 

Running watches are the easiest way to track your progress, remain motivated and keep weight off. Depending how fancy you go, you can track pretty much any metric that works for you, certainly way beyond whether you’ve achieved your 10,000 steps. Whether it’s weight, BMI, resting heart rate, calories burned or activity level, the best running watch will track it all.

Many wearables branded as fitness trackers also have a stab at these more advanced metrics nowadays, but we'd always recommend a watch over a band. One final note on fitness trackers: while walking 10,000 steps per day has undoubted health benefits, especially for those who were previously sedentary, it will not help you lose weight. 

One interesting approach to calorie counting is to use a powdered food substitute such as Huel. This is not marketed as a dietary aid, but an interesting side effect of the way it replaces 'real' food, as eaten by normal people, is that it makes calorie counting extremely easy. It's highly nutritious, so with the right application it makes the maths of maintaining a calorie deficit much easier.

On the other hand, it is kind of gloopy, and your friends will stop inviting you to lunch.

A woman working out wearing a Fitbit Ionic running watch

Keep track of your weight loss and fitness goals with a running watch

There are varying theories as to when and how often you should weigh yourself to best measure the impact of your health regime. We recommend weighing yourself at the same time everyday but tracking your weight weekly, by taking an average. 

This allows for natural fluctuations, which can be all over the place for no obvious reason, and also takes into account that we all have good and bad days. 

Our final tip is to stress that you need to give your body time to lose weight. You can lose weight faster by using the right gear and having the right knowledge and attitude, but you'll likely need to redefine what 'fast' means to you.

Everyone from the NHS to massive guys doing online powerlifting programmes recommend that you aim to lose no more than 2 lbs (1kg) per week. Anymore than that and you risk burning out and giving up.  

So take it easy. Don't expect immediate extreme results, but do expect that you'll see results fairly soon after beginning to focus on exercise and diet. 

We promise that if you throw yourself into cardio, weight training and healthy eating, you will see your body and wellbeing improving, and the numbers moving in the right direction.  

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