A scoop of guacamole is one of the most effective fat-burning, hunger-squashing snacks known to man. Not only are avocados rich in vitamin B6—which directly counteracts the belly-fat-building stress hormone, cortisol—they’re also full of monounsaturated fat. This healthy fat may actually prevent body fat distribution around the belly by down-regulating the expression of certain fat genes, according to research in the journal Diabetes Care. These same satiating fats may also be the reason behind another study that found people who ate half a fresh avocado with lunch reported a 40 percent decreased desire to eat for hours afterward.
Although your diet steers your weight loss progress, not getting enough sleep can be a giant roadblock. When you don’t get enough sleep each night, you’re more likely to eat more calorie-dense meals the next day, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. While we know sleep is an important part of any weight loss routine, many of us don’t realize eating certain foods before putting our heads on the pillow may actually enhance our ability to fall and stay asleep. Among the best foods to eat before sleep is cottage cheese. This snack is rich in casein protein—a slow releasing milk protein that will keep a rumbling tummy at bay through the night—and also contains the sleep-promoting amino acid tryptophan.
Whether you’re adding it to your smoothie or having it as the perfect post-workout recovery fuel, Greek yogurt will help you build muscle. This creamy snack is brimming with muscle-building protein—about 20 grams in a 7-ounce cup. It has the one-two punch of vitamin D and calcium, which turn off cortisol, a stress hormone that causes the body to hang on to belly fat. Don’t believe us? Take it from the researchers at the University of Tennessee who found that people who ate 18 ounces of Greek yogurt a day lost 22 percent more weight and 81 percent more belly fat than those who didn’t.
If you thought losing weight would mean giving up all your indulgences, look no further than dark chocolate. Louisiana State University researchers found that gut microbes in our stomach ferment chocolate and boost our body’s production of gut-healthy polyphenolic compounds, including butyrate, a fatty acid that encourages the body to burn fat as fuel and turns off genes linked to inflammation. (Add fruit to the chocolate to boost fermentation and the release of the compounds.) Make sure you go with chocolate that has a cacao content of 70 percent or above—these have the highest concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols.
But you'll lose the most fat by doing HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. This training technique involves working at full throttle for short intervals -- typically 10 seconds to a minute -- then recovering at a slow pace or resting for a minute or two. It increases your metabolism after a workout, since your muscles need to work hard to get "back to normal." HIIT also burns more belly fat than traditional, steady-pace cardio, according to Penn State University.
Don’t let extra hours lounging in bed stand between you and a flatter stomach. While getting enough sleep can help boost your metabolic rate, sleeping in may undo any benefit you’d enjoy from catching a few extra winks. One Obesity study reveals that late sleepers who snoozed past 10:45 in the morning ate nearly 250 more calories over the course of the day, despite eating half as many fruits and vegetables as their early bird counterparts. Even worse, they chowed down on more salty, sugary, and trans-fat-laden fast food than those who woke up earlier. If you happen to head out of the house early, you’re in for an additional metabolic boost; researchers at Northwestern University have found that people exposed to just a short period of early morning sunlight had lower BMIs than their late-waking counterparts.