How to Get Lean: 25 Ways to Lose Fat Faster

Any time is the perfect time to kick your workout routines into high gear—and actually make some significant progress toward reaching your ultimate get-lean goals.

We know you want to get rid of that last bit of fat and finally uncover the cut body you’ve got hiding underneath. We know because we asked readers: If you could transform your body overnight, would you pump up your shoulders, get a huge chest, or a go for a serious six-pack?

The answer? None of the above: 43% of you said you’d want an “overall fat-free physique,” rather than a single bigger or better body part. So we want to help you achieve that.

We asked some of the most respected trainers and experts about the best ways to jumpstart fat loss via training, diet, and lifestyle tweaks. You’ll have to work hard for every ounce, of course, but we can promise you—the results will be worth it.

1. Do intervals and high-intensity training (HIIT)

You’ve heard about their benefits—and for good reason. If you’re looking for a surefire way to burn fat faster and lose some pounds in the process, HIIT is a solid go-to.

“High-intensity interval training is more time efficient in caloric expenditure than a traditional cardio workout,” says Kurt Hester, head strength and conditioning coach at Louisiana Tech. “Not only will your body burn more calories during HIIT workouts but you’ll also continue to burn more calories and fat in the 24 hours after a HIIT workout. That doesn’t mean you need to limit yourself to only sprint interval workouts on a treadmill, though. Go out and sprint hills, drag tires, and push or pull sleds.”

2. Sprint more

If you think hitting the weights is the only thing you have to do to lose fat faster, you’re wrong. You need a soild balance of weight training, cardio, and nutrition. “You need cardiovascular work to burn excess body fat,” says Mike Duffy, CPT and owner of MikeDuffysPT.com. “The body will burn primarily carbs during the first twenty minutes of cardiovascular exercise. Right about minute twenty, the body shifts over and starts to burn stored body fat as the primary source of energy. You need a combination of both weight training and cardio to get fat off your body.

Lee Boyce, Owner of Lee Boyce Training Systems, agrees: “Sprinting,” Boyce says, “uses fast twitch muscles, which take more energy to utilize, and puts you in an oxygen debt, so your body has to play ‘catch up’ after the workout is done. This also increases the rate of metabolism to tap into more fat loss during and after the workout.

3. Hit the weights

If you’re not already hitting the gym and racking up the weights, now’s the time if fat loss is your goal. Even if you start small and work your way up to heavier weights, gaining muscle is going to put you on the fast-track to hitting that goal. “When it comes to exercise, you have to train with weights to increase lean mass,” Duffy says. “Fat is burned inside of your muscle cells. The bigger and more plentiful your muscle cells, the bigger your fat-burning furnace.” In short, adding muscle increases the size of your fat-burning furnace, while dieting or exercising incorrectly decreases it.

4. Pick up a sport

Getting into pick-up games is a great way to burn extra calories, trim away the fat, and still have a hell of a lot of fun doing it. “Playing a sport involves cardio and lots of non-linear movement (jumping, back pedaling, side stepping), making it healthier than straight jogging,” Boyce says. There are loads of ways to burn 1,000 calories without even realizing it.

5. Reduce stress with yoga

Slowing down for some deep breathing and stretching can seriously keep you zen—as well as boost your flexibility and help you lose fat, because stress can contribute to abdominal fat and other issues. If you’re an absolute novice, use our beginner’s guide to yoga.

6. Experiment with CrossFit

The jury might still be out on the longevity of the current CrossFit craze (the quick, heavy lifting can be straining on your joints). But the benefits of this total-body workout are tremendous, and the WODs (workout of the day) seriously test your physical abilities in just about every way. The combination and timing of exercises, the competitive aspect of the sport, and the group-training philosophy of CrossFit help you burn a crazy amount of calories.

7. Stop trying to spot reduce

Here’s the thing about spot reduction: It doesn’t exist. Doing 1,000 crunches every day and abs-only workouts aren’t going to make your six-pack come out from hiding if your diet and exercise regimen are severely lacking. Use that time, instead, to do some high-intensity interval training or mixing up your lifting routine.

8. Take photos and track progress

Taking photos before, during, and after a weight loss journey is a great way to stay motivated throughout the entire sweat-inducing ordeal. Not only do you get to see the fruits of your labor as your skin tightens up, your face thins out, and your body transforms into a lean, mean, fat-burning machine, but you can also share your progress photos (if you’re brave enough) on social media. It’s a surefire way to up your confidence.

9. Change up your workout order

Every once in a while, totally change your workout order. “Humans are creatures of habit,” Hester says. “Go into any gym in America and you can watch gym rats performing the exact same workout three times per week. Cardio for 30-60 minutes followed by a circuit trip around the weight room. You want results? Change it up! 30 minutes of high-intensity lifting followed by 15 minutes of high-intensity intervals will produce more results in two days than your standard 90-minute workout three days a week.

10. Train with a partner

When Mens Fitness interviewed Jacksonville Jaguars Fullback Greg Jones for a piece on the 25 fittest football players, the 6’1” 254-pound beast talked glowingly about how training in a group improves everything about his workouts. “One of the things that sets me apart from some other players in the league are the people I surround myself with,” Jones said. “I have great people around me. We’re always lifting each other up when we have bad days.”

And that’s exactly what training with a partner or group can do for your workouts (and your ability to lose fat faster). It’s all about motivation. You pull each other out of the doldrums and into the world of the fit. Just when you think you can’t run any farther or do that last rep, you have your buddy there to make sure you do it.

11. Download an app

Being cognizant of everything you put into your body is one of the most important ways to ensure you eat healthy. But that’s easier said than done, so download an app to make it all a bit simpler.  Tracking meals and macros will be far less complicated. Plus, you’l get great visual and quantitative feedback about the calories you’re ingesting.

12. Create a meal calendar to plan meals out

You just got home from an insanely intense workout at the gym. You’re tired, sweaty, and your body is begging for some rest. But now it’s time for dinner. Your stomach is growling but you just don’t feel like cooking anything after that workout. That’s when you tap into the cabinet where you’ve hidden all those takeout menus, grab the phone, and dial up your favorite greasy spoon. But if you can create a meal calendar and plan (and even cook) your meals ahead of time, weight loss will be far simpler.

13. Eat more home-cooked meals

Unless you’ve been plugging away at a healthy lifestyle for a long time, going out to eat at restaurants can be a daunting task. Most menus don’t provide very good details and calorie counts on all their meals, so knowing what to order can often be an exercise in futility. The more home-cooked meals you eat, the more likely you’re able to maintain that healthy lifestyle. It’s much easier to control portion, ingredients, and quality of the food when you’re cooking it yourself.

14. Ditch the soda and alcohol

“Drinking more water,” says Boyce, “will help your body avoid storing water due to deficiencies. People often don’t make the connection that high water retention often means there’s a lack of it in your diet.” Not only is water great for you and your active, healthy body, but the alternatives like soda and alcohol are some of the very worst things you can ingest when trying to lose fat quickly. Sugary high-in-(empty)-calorie drinks are one of the ways that weight can sneak up on your without you even realizing it. Stay away from the processed drinks and pour yourself a nice cold glass of H2O. There are also healthy alternatives to tap water that taste great, pack little to no calories, and have a bevy of nutrients.

15. Eat more fish

There are several reasons why fish is a power food to help you lose fat: Leptin is a big one.

People who eat fish regularly tend to have lower levels of the hunger-curbing hormone leptin. Since higher levels of leptin have often been associated with decreased rate of metabolism, fish has become an essential food for anyone trying to lose fat. So break out the salmon and tuna.

16. Learn to love veggies

“Vegetables (especially the cruciferous kind) are anti-estrogenic, meaning they fight against that hormone, resulting in fat storage,” says Boyce. “Upping your veggie intake can help get you lean. Plus they’re good for you.” Experiment with new recipes and spices to make veggies more tasty and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy, fat-burning diet.

17. Eat smaller meals more often

There’s a reason most nutritionists tell their clients they should be eating six small meals a day rather than the three large meals that most people are accustomed to eating. It’s all about managing cravings and preventing overeating. When your body goes several hours without food, it starts to assume its never going to get food again, upping the odds of eating binges and dangerous cravings. To combat that effect, it’s smart to eat six small, well-timed meals a day to keep yourself full throughout the day.

18. Vary your caloric intake

Here’s the thing about the human body: It’s much smarter than you think. If your daily caloric target is 1500 calories and you hit that number consistently every single day, your body is going to recognize it and your metabolism will start to plateau (so to speak). If you want to “trick” your body into jumpstarting your metabolism again, all you need to do is vary that daily caloric intake to keep it guessing. Try downing 1200 calories one day and 1800 the next. As long as it all balances out, you should be fine and there’s a good chance your increased rate of metabolism should help you burn fat faster.

19. Never skip breakfast

Eating a healthy breakfast daily can help you lose weight and keep it off. Often times, people that skip breakfast end up replacing all those calories with more (lower-quality) food throughout the day. Breakfast is the earliest meal of the day – and the one that occurs before you start burning all those calories with your daily routine, so start chowing down in the morning and you’ll set yourself up to have a great, healthy day.

20. Reduce carbs, and eat more proteins and fats

“The most important step is to control the carbohydrates,” say Duffy. “Most people get fat from eating too many carbs, eating carbs alone, and eating them late at night. Instead, what people should do is eat carbs in combination with complete proteins and good fats. Eating carbs alone will lead to an increase in blood glucose. This increase in blood glucose causes an over-release of insulin, which triggers a fat storage response by the body. In short, your body’s hunger mechanism and sugar cravings skyrocket. When carbs are combined with proteins and fats, glucose in the blood stream is buffered by the metabolites of the consumed proteins and fats. This will not lead to an over-release of insulin and thus not fat storage, hunger or sugar cravings.”

21. Stop being lazy

Stop being lazy is a pretty general thing to say, right? Well, here’s what we mean: Do you always take the elevator every time you have to go up to the second or third floor? Yeah? Well, this time you’re taking the stairs, buddy. There are any number of ways to be more active and start burning away the fat: Switch to a standing (or treadmill) desk. Bang out a set of pushups or jumping jacks during the commercials when you’re watching TV. You get the idea. Just get up and keep moving.

22. Walk more and drive less

This one is self-explanatory: The more you walk, the more active you are. The more active you are, the more calories you burn, and the more weight you can potentially lose. Instead of driving up the street to grab your morning coffee, take a nice brisk walk up and back. If you want to take the family to the park for an hour, skip the gas-guzzler and slap on your favorite pair of sneakers instead. Not only will you save a few bucks on gas, your body will benefit from it.

23. Get a yearly check-up

Not only is it generally a good idea to get checked out by your doctor on a regular basis, it’s also essential if you want to make sure your body is in peak physical condition for hitting the gym, running, or doing any kind of fitness regimen. It’s especially important to have your thyroid checked to make sure you’re not suffering from hypothyroidism (or, in layman’s terms, an underactive thyroid gland). According to the National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service, the thyroid gland controls your body’s metabolism. With that in mind, it’s essential to ensure your thyroid is working correctly if you want to lose weight (or avoid possible weight gain). If you’re having trouble losing weight (and you’re staying active and eating right), you might need to get that thyroid checked out.

24. Get More Sleep

We checked in with Dr. Michael Breus, Phd. (world renowned sleep doctor and consultant to the team behind the Renew SleepClock) to see just why sleep is so vital to staying healthy. Here’s what the doc had to say:

Sleep deprivation is like the trifecta for weight gain. When you’re sleep deprived, your body reacts in different ways on a hormonal level, which can impede weight loss. During times of sleep deprivation, your body is on high alert thinking that there’s danger (or else you would be sleeping), so your metabolism slows down to conserve energy. Second, your appetite is higher (due to elevated levels of cortisol) looking for food for more energy. Third, your food choices change. Your body tends to crave high-carb, high-fat foods because they help produce serotonin, which helps calm you down from this aroused state.”

25. Stop looking at the scale

Are you a scale-watcher? Do you check in on that little slab of doom every morning before you get dressed? Well, you could be doing yourself a disservice, especially if your goal is to lose fat and gain muscle. If you’ve been going to gym every day, eating right, and staying active there’s a good chance you don’t see a big drop in the scale because, as you’re losing fat, you’re also gaining muscle. Looking at the scale and not seeing the numbers drop can be discouraging. Instead, stick to your fitness routine and forget the numbers. You’ll be healthier and the fat will continue to fly off. That said, those who weigh themselves daily are said to keep off weight in the longterm, so keep that in mind as well.

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