1. TIME YOUR PREMEAL SNACK
Eating a low-carbohydrate protein bar 90 minutes before you work out will enable you to exercise longer and harder (and burn more calories) than you normally would, says Steve Zim, author of Hot Point Fitness. However, that 90-minute mark is crucial. Eat any closer to your workout, and blood will rush to your stomach, actually diminishing your performance.
2. BREATHE THROUGH YOUR NOSE
Inhaling and exhaling through your nose, rather than your mouth, helps stabilize your heart rate and (like the preworkout snack) increase your endurance. The result? You work out longer and burn more calories. But don't get discouraged if it feels unnatural at first — it takes about six to eight workouts to perfect.
3. DO CARDIO LAST
Strength-train before doing any cardiovascular work, says Ken Fitzgerald, owner of Lift Gym in New York. Why? It takes the body about 15 minutes to warm up and start burning fat. So, a 30-minute bike ride is really only burning fat for the last 15 minutes of your workout. But, if you lift weights first, your body is warmed up by the time you hit the bike, and you'll burn fat throughout the entire ride.
4. VALUE VARIETY
Do the exact same workout every time you hit the gym, and your body will start to adapt to it — and eventually stop burning as many calories, says Zim. So if you jog one day, try biking or swimming the next. Or, if you weight-train from the shoulders down one day, next time, begin with your legs and work up. The important thing, Zim says, is to keep your body guessing.
5. DON'T SLOUCH
Slumping over the handlebars on a stationary bike inhibits the amount of oxygen your body can take in — and slows your fat-burning process, says Fitzgerald. The bars and handles are there to help you balance, not to support you. If you can't move without holding on, slow down.
6. TRAIN IN INTERVALS
The best way to burn fat is to work out as hard as you can for as long as you can, says Malick Diop, a trainer at Equinox Gyms in New York. But, if you're just starting to exercise, interval training's your ticket. Two minutes on the treadmill at, say, 7 mph, followed by two minutes at 5 mph, then back to 7 mph (and so on) for 20 to 45 minutes will whittle away pounds and build your endurance. Eventually, you'll be able to extend the high-intensity periods (and decrease the low ones) until your whole workout is done at top speed.
7. ADD LIGHT WEIGHTS
It's a fact: The more muscle tone you have, the more calories you burn — even when you're sitting still. So, if you can't seem to find time to weight-train and do your cardio, Zim suggests doing bicep curls and overhead presses holding two- to three-pound weights while you're fast-walking or stair-climbing. This will build muscle tone, helping you shed more fat during your cardio workout than you would without the weights.