Have you ever wondered how personal trainers always stay in such great shape?
We asked 13 personal trainers what their top tips for weight loss are, and believe it or not, spending hours at the gym wasn’t their answer!
Read on to find out the weight loss tools they swear by.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Prudence Scott, Burn Boot Camp Raleigh, NC
“My top tip for weight loss is ensuring you get enough sleep. Many people are unaware that the amount of sleep they get each night is directly related to their weight. You can be eating right and exercising regularly, but if you aren’t giving your body the rest it needs to recover, it can greatly hinder your weight loss goals.”
You have two separate hormones in your brain. One hormone, ghrelin, increases your appetite, while the other, leptin, suppresses it. Your body produces greater levels of ghrelin when you deprive yourself of sleep, which intensifies your feelings of hunger, regardless of eating balanced meals. In an attempt to equalize your hormone levels and produce more leptin, your body craves excess amounts of carbohydrates. And, because you are so tired, you most likely do not have the willpower to say no. Sleep deprivation also causes a snowball effect of raising your cortisol levels, causing your body to release excess insulin, which leads you to experience heightened cravings for sugary and fatty processed foods. If you want to decrease your appetite, rid yourself of unhealthy food cravings, feel more energized and lose more weight, simply make the time to sleep more.”
2. Try Intermittent Fasting
Daniel Pearson, Head Trainer, Burn Boot Camp Menomonee Falls, WI
“I am a big believer in intermittent fasting. When done correctly, and you hit your eating windows consistently, you can see body fat plummet. While sticking to your eating schedule is extremely important, it must still be paired with calorie management in order to see results. Keep in mind that everyone is different and reacts to various eating styles differently, so at the end of the day sticking to a whole foods diet while managing your caloric intake will always be your best plan.”
The most commonly recommended intermittent fasting protocol for women is a 12-hour fasting window followed by a 12-hour eating window, as many doctors claim a fasting window greater than 12 hours can cause hormonal imbalances in women. Each person reacts differently—experiment to find what works best for you.
3. Meal Prep
Hannah Gills, Burn Boot Camp Lexington, SC
“My top tip for weight loss is to start meal prepping! If weight loss is your goal, you have to burn more calories than you consume on a regular basis. Having to count your calories to ensure you create a caloric deficit is extremely tedious and hard to maintain. If counting calories is not something you are able to commit to, meal prepping is for you! You are easily able to control your portion sizes and therefore easily able to control your caloric intake.”
Meal prepping doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Begin with your base: a clean source of protein and fat, a complex carbohydrate and lots of green or non-starchy vegetables. From there, you can add different sauces, dressings, spices and herbs to switch up the flavor every day.
4. Weigh and Log Your Food
Kyle Lane, Burn Boot Camp Elizabeth, NC
“My top weight loss tip I tell my clients is to use a food scale, as well as a food log. Inaccurately estimating your portion sizes, as well as the calorie, fat, carbohydrate and protein of the foods you are eating, can lead you to consume double or triple the amount you may think you are. It may sound tedious, but it may be the reason you are not losing weight regardless of eating healthy and working out regularly.”
Weighing and logging your food does not need to be a long-term habit. It is a tool to utilize until you gain a greater understanding of the nutritional makeup of your foods and what proper portion sizes look like. You’ll learn that what you thought was ¼ cup of almonds was actually ½ cup, or what you thought was ½ cup of oatmeal was actually 1 cup. Regardless of the nutrient density of your food, a calorie is a calorie and consuming more calories than you expend will lead to weight gain.
5. Eat a Variety of Foods
Caleb Greig, Burn Boot Camp South Chandler, AZ
“My top tip for weight loss is getting creative with whole foods. Just about everyone would dislike healthy eating if it meant consuming the same foods every single day. I always tell my clients that variety is their friend when it comes to losing weight. There are countless options and combinations of clean proteins, fat, carbohydrates and vegetables. Grab a new item at the store, or learn a new way to cook an old one, at least once a week to avoid burning out on healthy eating.”
Eating clean doesn’t mean you have to eat plain chicken on top of plain brown rice and raw spinach. Roast your vegetables in new and different herbs. Stir-fry your chicken in coconut oil, or forget about chicken and switch it up with tofu, tempeh, wild-caught salmon or organic grass-fed beef. Learn how to make delicious sauces from cashews, full-fat coconut milk, tahini, tamari, coconut aminos or hummus. Use different blends of spices to easily change up the flavor of your meals from a Mexican fajita to an Indian curry to an Asian bowl. Have fun and get creative!
6. Don’t Skimp on Calories
Cody Burns, Burn Boot Camp Verona, WI
“Without a doubt, my top tip for weight loss is to never under-eat! Overeating is widely spoken about, but under-eating is rarely discussed and many people are not aware of the negative effects it can have on their weight loss goals. I always suggest multiplying your bodyweight by 10 to determine the minimum amount of calories you should consume on a daily basis. And if you weigh less than 140 pounds, multiply your bodyweight by 12. Depending on your goals, activity level and training intensity, you most likely need more calories, but this equation gives you a place to start.”
If you regularly work out or do high-intensity training, endurance training or strength training, you most likely have boosted your metabolism and increased the amount of calories your body burns daily. A greater calorie burn means a greater caloric intake in order to grow and repair your muscles properly. But when you eat too few calories, your body is unsure as to when it will get more food, so it slows down the metabolism to store body fat rather than burn it. Your body is unable to fuel your muscles properly for growth and actually breaks it down, causing you to lose lean muscle mass you have been working hard to gain.
7. Fill Your Plate With Fruits and Vegetables
Katie Dodge, Burn Boot Camp Gainesville, FL
“I like to keep weight loss simple—focus on fruits and vegetables! My top weight loss tip is to fill the majority of your plate with fruit, and especially vegetables, and stop making them a side dish! They are high in nutrients and help you consume fewer calories to fill up your stomach compared to other foods. Did you know 400 calories of beef may only fill ¼ of your stomach, while 400 calories of vegetables will fill it up completely? Focus on how you can add more fruits and vegetables into each meal, especially breakfast! Personally, this helps reduce my junk food cravings and also helps me set the tone for making healthy choices throughout my day. I also love how I can eat a large meal and feel full without overeating and consuming excess calories.”
8. Change Your Mindset
Sarah Ragatz, Burn Boot Camp Parker, CO
“My top tip for weight loss is changing your mindset around food. If you look at certain unhealthy foods, hang your head low and say, ‘I can’t have that,’ you’ll never see success. In most cases, when you deprive yourself of a certain food, your craving increases and leads you to indulging and overeating. Labeling food as good or bad is a surefire way to begin yo-yo dieting. Shift your mindset from ‘I can’t have that’ to ‘I don’t want that because I know it will not nourish my body and help me thrive.’ It’s essential to shift your mindset from ‘not allowing’ yourself to eat something to choosing to fuel yourself with food that provides you with greater vitality.”
9. Prioritize Recovery
Christen Jackson, Burn Boot Camp Mount Juliet, TN
“Learn to let your body recover is always my top weight loss tip. Don’t let your obsession with your weight dictate how often you let yourself rest. Rather than spending hours in the gym every day, you will see better results through exercising in moderation and concentrating on making better nutrition choices.”
When you don’t give your body a sufficient amount of time to rest and recover, you not only slow your metabolism, but you put your body in a state of muscle breakdown. Overtraining will create hormonal imbalances that promote fat storage, disrupt your digestion, greatly increase your appetite and cause heightened food cravings. Your dedication, hard work and motivation to lose weight are actually working against you.
10. Don’t Turn Your ‘Cheat Meal’ Into a ‘Cheat Day’
Becky Patterson, Burn Boot Camp Tallahassee, FL
“My top weight loss tip is to not turn your ‘cheat meal’ into a ‘cheat day’ or even a ‘cheat weekend.’ Allowing one indulgence to justify throwing the rest of your food choices in the trash is a mistake. It’s a slippery slope, and one bad day can easily become three. How many times have you said ‘I’ll start again Monday’? Your diet does not have to be 100% clean to see results, but your consistency with clean eating between each cheat meal is what will lead you to success.”
It’s important to find a healthy balance when it comes to your food choices in order to create lifelong eating habits. If 80% of your diet consists of clean, whole foods, then it’s okay to enjoy your favorite foods 20% of the time. Depriving yourself of your favorite indulgences is not sustainable or a lifestyle. Being too strict generally leads to bingeing or completely falling back into your old ways. You can enjoy a dinner out with your significant other, a social event with your friends or a holiday meal with your family, guilt-free, because you know your next meal will be back to clean eating.
11. Move More
Emmitt Terrell, Burn Boot Camp Holly Springs, NC
“My top tip for weight loss is increasing your non-exercise activity level. Let’s say you do an hour of high-intensity training Monday through Friday. While that is awesome, what are you doing for the remaining 23 hours of your day? If you are sitting for the rest of your day, it may counterbalance your workouts. Stand up, take the stairs, go for a leisurely walk or bike ride, enjoy a yoga class, play with your kids, do anything that will get you to move more. Incorporate movement throughout your entire day; it will help boost your body’s ability to recover, increase your metabolic rate and help you burn more fat.”
This doesn’t mean do more workouts, as that can lead to overtraining and negative effects such as a slower metabolism, increased fat storage and heightened appetite. Low-intensity activities activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your body relax and recover more easily from exercise.
12. Stay Hydrated
Alexis Gates, Burn Boot Camp Newton, MA
“My top tip for weight loss is staying hydrated. There are so many benefits to increasing your water intake, like improving digestion, boosting muscle recovery, controlling hunger and decreasing food cravings. I tell clients to start by drinking half of their body weight in ounces daily and slowly work up to drinking their total body weight in ounces daily.”
Your body and brain can confuse the feelings of hunger and thirst; therefore, dehydration could be causing you to overeat and gain weight. Learn to distinguish the two by drinking a large glass of water before automatically reaching for a snack or for seconds. Wait about 20 minutes and then reassess. You may find that drinking more water was what you truly needed, not eating more food. Drinking more water also helps reduce your muscle soreness, cleanse your body of toxins, increase your metabolism and boost your energy levels.
13. Eat Real Food
Hayley Maloney Perschau, Burn Boot Camp Virginia Beach, VA
“My top tip for weight loss is to learn what it means to eat real food. Added sugar, processed oils, preservatives and toxins wreak havoc on your system. Not only do they stop you from losing weight, but more importantly, it’s harmful to your health and affects your ability to live your best life. It doesn’t matter if something contains the right amount of protein, is low in carbohydrates or claims to be a healthy choice—that does not automatically mean it is nutritious! Always look at the ingredients and understand what your food contains before consuming.”
Beware of packaged foods with labels that say vegan, gluten-free, low-carb, low-calorie, low-fat, high-fiber, high-protein, keto-friendly, paleo-friendly, whole-grain, organic or natural. This does not automatically mean the food is healthy. Many of these products are filled with the processed ingredients you should avoid. Concentrate on decreasing the amount of foods you eat out of packages, meaning you greatly reduce processed foods in your diet or, better yet, completely eliminate them. The best foods only contain one ingredient, like broccoli, sweet potatoes, chicken, rice, almonds and olive oil.
For more top advice from personal trainers, check out What 11 Personal Trainers Eat for Lunch.