You don’t need to count calories, cut calories, or drop carbs to quickly change the way you feel in your body. There are healthy and sustainable ways to reduce bloating and feel fitter (if that’s your goal) without deprivation. After all, weight loss is not the same as fat loss. It’s relatively easy to drop a few pounds of water weight, but if you’re looking to change your body composition, that will come down to tweaking either your calories in our your calories out (or both). Ahead, the best expert hacks for speeding up your metabolism and upgrading your daily routine in a matter of days.
Drink Two Glasses of Water Before Every Meal
“It sounds counterintuitive, but you need to drink water to lose water,” says Lauren Slayton, a nutritionist and founder of Foodtrainers in New York. Along with drinking a minimum of 64 ounces daily, Slayton recommends front-loading meals with two cups of H2O “for maximum appetite reduction; it’ll make you feel full and help you eat less.” Adds Vanessa Packer, a holistic nutritionist at ModelFit in New York, “Avoid seltzer and sparkling water—they cause bloating.”
The difference between feeling lean or feeling bloated may be just a few pounds—of water. “You can retain up to five pounds of extra fluid,” says Jeffrey Morrison, a physician and founder of the Morrison Center in New York, who suggests sipping water-eliminating teas like dandelion or fennel. Other de-bloating elixirs: Ask your juice joint to press a celery-centric concoction, and take a 500-milligram parsley capsule twice a day.
Get Eight Hours of Sleep
“When you get seven-and-a-half to eight hours of sleep, your body is more equipped to get rid of stress hormones, and your metabolism improves,” says Morrison. And taking a vitamin D3 supplement daily may help you sleep better and therefore improve weight loss too. One theory is that when D3 is low, hunger hormones increase, and when you’re not deficient in D, melatonin—the body’s natural sleep aid—works more effectively. Slayton suggests taking 2,000 IUs of D3 daily.
Try Fasting Overnight
Cut off eating at least two hours before bedtime to give your body time to digest, leading to better sleep, says Brooke Alpert, a dietitian in New York and the author of The Diet Detox. Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep, and too little sleep can wreak havoc on your appetite. “After just one night of sleep deprivation, your metabolism may change so that you crave more processed carbs,” resulting in overeating, says endocrinologist David Ludwig, M.D., the author of Always Hungry? and a professor at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Avoid Processed Foods
Which means not only skipping the obvious culprits (chips, cookies, candy) but also anything that is prepackaged (store-bought bread, pasta, cheese), and even canned tuna and almond milk, which may be packed with sodium and sugar, respectively. Opt for whole grain bread from a local bakery; it won’t be heavily processed, and avoid anything made with white flour (it has no nutritional value), says Morrison. Skip all dairy too, including Greek yogurt. “Foods that offer the most volume for your calories—think fruits, vegetables, and broth-based soups—help you feel psychologically and physically fuller,” says Barbara Rolls, a professor of nutritional sciences at the Pennsylvania State University.
Strengthen Your Core
Strengthening your body’s natural corset muscles is always a good idea. Celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson (who has worked with Khloé Kardashian) suggests doing this simple but powerful plank sequence every day: Get into a plank position (forearms on the floor, core and glutes engaged, legs straight) at just less than arm’s length from a wall. While keeping your core centered—don’t move side to side—alternate touching the wall with each hand as many times as possible in one minute. Repeat five times. The goal: Every round, tap the wall more times, says Peterson.
Ditch Alcohol Completely
Not. A. Sip. “One, it affects your sleep, and we know that in turn affects your metabolism and hunger cravings,” explains Slayton. “Two, it definitely causes you to retain extra fluid.” The third, and most damaging, reason: “You don’t burn any other fat or calories until your body rids itself of that 100-, 200-, or 300-calorie cocktail, so you’re putting yourself behind in terms of calorie-burning from the start,” she says.
Try High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Your spinning class will burn calories, but it won’t give you the powerful after-burn effect of high intensity interval training. Oliver Lee, a trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp in New York, recommends this circuit:
For each exercise go as fast and as intensely as you can for 40 seconds, followed by 20 seconds of rest. Repeat the sequence four to six times.
- 1. Fast feet.
- 2. 180-degree squat jumps.
- 3. Squat to side kick (alternating legs).
- 4. Two push-ups into four mountain climbers.
- 5. Finish with shoulder-tap burpees: Go into a plank, touch each shoulder with the opposite hand four times, then jump up into the air.
Focus on Protein and Fiber
“Both stabilize blood sugar levels, and because they take longer to digest they’ll keep you fuller longer,” says Alpert. Some examples: chia pudding with berries for breakfast, a green salad with shrimp for lunch, and wild salmon with roasted cauliflower for dinner.
Consider Time-Restricted Feeding
Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can have tremendous benefits, but the practice is hard to follow. Alpert suggests time-restricted feeding, when you fast for 12 to 14 hours between dinner and breakfast. “You get the metabolic boost of having an earlier dinner, and because you’re sleeping while you’re fasting you won’t be tempted,” she says.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.