"Trying to make big sweeping changes to your lifestyle can feel overwhelming and unattainable before you even start,” says Brigitte Zeitlin, R.D., M.P.H., C.D.N., owner of BZNutrition. “Instead, focusing on smaller tweaks empowers you to reach your goals. Accomplishing each one reinforces your commitment. And small changes add up to big results."
Try some of these ideas for a couple of weeks (no need to go nuts and put them all into play), and get ready to see some major #gains.
1. Pack your workout clothes the night before
“Time is the biggest reason people fail to work out,” says trainer Erica Suter, C.S.C.S. So toss your clothes, shoes, snack, and water bottle into a bag the night before, and you'll be that much more inspired to hit the gym the next day.
2. Make overnight oats
Skipping breakfast might seem like an easy way to cut calories, but it basically guarantees that you'll overeat later in the day, says Zeitlin. Plus, having a high-protein breakfast within one hour of waking up helps your bod build and maintain muscle.
Since it takes a near-miracle to just make it out the door showered and on time most mornings, prepping your breakfast the evening before guarantees you have something healthy and filling to grab. Try these carrot cake or banana cream pie overnight oats, and you’ll feel like you’re having (a very healthy) dessert for breakfast.
Other simple, filling, grab-and-go pairings include one serving of a protein, one serving of fibre, and a healthy fat.
3. Drink a glass of water before meals
Staying hydrated boosts energy and prevents cravings, cutting the chances you’ll graze on extra calories you don’t really need between meals. “Our bodies interpret thirst as hunger, so you may be reaching for more food when really you just need more water,” says Zeitlin.
Divide your weight in half, and that’s the number of ounces of water you should try to hit each day (so if you’re 64kg, you’ll want 2L, or eight to nine cups).
In addition to keeping a water bottle on-hand to sip throughout the day, try to down a full glass of water about half an hour before each meal. Not only does that guarantee you’re getting three glasses minimum, but a number of studies have found that sipping water before meals may help you lose more weight overall, potentially by cutting the number of calories you eat.
4. Swap chicken for fish
Poultry is a healthy, simple sandwich staple and salad-topper—but consider swapping turkey for tuna or chicken for grilled salmon a couple of times a week. “Fish and seafood are great sources of lean protein that help fill you up, boost your focus, and help you maintain healthy muscles to burn fat," says Zeitin. "Plus, they’re low in calories."
What’s more, fish are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, heart-healthy fats that fight inflammation and potentially even boost weight loss by helping you to feel fuller for longer and boosting your metabolism. And most of us don’t get enough.
Zeitlin suggests having fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout, halibut, or shrimp at three meals per week.
5. Sip coffee before workouts
Loads of studies have suggested that sipping on coffee before a workout can increase calorie burn as well as endurance—even if you’re already a caffeine addict — by increasing focus and sustaining energy.
But that doesn’t mean you should chug like a frat boy at a keg. “Even just half a cup before a workout will ensure you have an extra boost without feeling too jittery,” says Suter. Add a splash of cream and even a sprinkle of sugar if you want; just skip the whole-milk latte, warns Suter, since it might make your stomach feel icky.
6. Do a 5-minute HIIT workout before a big meal
Got a big birthday dinner or a night out on the books? If you know it’s going to be one of those days, fit in a five-minute HIIT workout, preferably before you eat.
“Once you've finished an intense workout, your body needs the carbs and sugars anyway, so it's the perfect day to enjoy a little,” says Suter. For optimal calorie burning, choose total-body HIIT moves that work multiple muscle groups: squats, push-ups, pull-ups, lunge variations, and sprints.
Suter’s suggested workout:
*30 seconds of goblet squats (or another lower-body move like squat jumps or lunges) to get your heart rate up, followed by 30 seconds of rest
*30 seconds of pushups (or another upper-body exercise that recruits multiple muscle groups, like rows, pull-ups, or TRX rows), followed by 30 seconds of rest
Continue alternating between lower- and upper-body moves for five minutes total.
7. Add deadlifts and squats to your lifting routine
If you’re hitting the gym anyway, include moves that maximize the number of muscles you’re working. Suter’s top picks: deadlifts and squats, which recruit the lower body and the core.
Get more bang (and booty) by lifting heavy—you’ll get more results for fewer sets and reps. Try for three to four sets of three to five reps instead of 10 or more reps at a lighter weight.
8. Fit in a post-workout snack
While it might seem counterintuitive to eat more when you’re trying to shed pounds, getting enough protein is essential to building muscle—which in turn burns more calories throughout the day than fat.
What’s more, keeping your blood sugar stable by spreading healthy meals throughout the day means you’re less likely to really overdo it at any one meal.
To maximize the effects of a strength-training workout, have a snack with about 20 to 30 grams of protein and 60 to 90 grams of carbs about 45 minutes to an hour after you finish. “This way, you are replenishing and building your muscles with much-needed nutrients,” says Suter.
9. Sip on green tea or matcha
Although sipping on tea while leaving the rest of your routine intact isn’t going to magically make those last 5kgs go poof, there is proof it can help. Green tea and matcha have caffeine and antioxidants, which may help boost your metabolism to help you to burn more calories throughout the day, explains Zeitlin. Just skip the green tea supplements, since super-high doses can be toxic and cause liver damage.
10. Snack on veggies while you're prepping dinner
Wine might be your dinner prep go-to, but make sure you're getting some crudités in there, too.
“Vegetables are very low in calories and high in fibre to keep you satisfied and full so you don’t overeat at your next meal,” says Zeitlin.
Alternatively, you can start your dinner with a colourful salad topped with a tablespoon or two of vinaigrette. In all, shoot for two to three cups of veggies per meal, says Suter.
11. Go to bed 5 minutes earlier
Tons of research has linked a lack of sleep with overeating and weight gain. “By aiming for seven or more hours of sleep each night, you can stop food cravings before they start and make smarter and healthier food choices throughout the day. Plus, you’ll have more energy to hit the gym,” says Zeitlin.
If hitting the sheets an hour earlier is daunting, aim for just five minutes a day. Keep at it, and in just one week you’ll already be a half hour ahead of schedule.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.