You checked the gym’s hours last night, pushed back your evening meeting, told your hubby you’d be home a little later and packed your gym clothes and a snack to hold you over. The last thing you want to do is show up at the club and waste time. Plan your workout wisely to efficiently burn fat, get out early and show up for dinner earlier than you thought. Choose fresh, nutritious foods and keep up your workout consistency. Chances are, you'll be able to slide back into your skinny jeans in just a few short months.
Do intervals. Although you’ll burn a higher percentage of fat (vs carbohydrates) at lower intensities, work at a high intensity to burn more fat overall. As long as your doctor has cleared you for exercise, warm up for five minutes, sprint for one minute at 90 to 100 percent of your max heart rate, then recover at 65 to 75 percent for two minutes. Repeat the sprint-recovery cycles for 20 minutes then take five minutes to gradually cool down.
Doing longer bouts of cardio will deplete carbohydrate stores, your muscle’s preferred type of fuel. Your body will convert to burning fat and get better at making this switch during other workouts. Go for a 1.5 to 2 hour bike ride at 65 to 70 percent of your max heart rate whenever you can get away.
Focus on Large Muscles
Strengthen all your muscles, while focusing on the leg, back and chest muscles that use up the most energy. You’ll burn more fat by doing step ups onto a bench while holding weights at your side than you will by doing bicep curls. Strength training workouts not only burn fat while exercising, but also increase your metabolism - so you'll burn extra calories all day long, even while lounging on the couch. Pump some iron on three non-consecutive days each week.
Eat a teaspoon of peanut butter with a handful of grapes or a banana about 30 minutes before your workout. The small amount of carbs and protein will give you the energy to workout more intensely, so you'll burn more fat in the process.
Flush Out the Fat
Deprive your body of water and you'll go into what former Navy Seal Stew Smith calls "camel mode," or the storing any water and fat available for survival. Your body needs water and increased oxygen to burn fat as an energy source, according to Smith. Drink about a gallon of water through the course of your day, making sure to stay hydrated during your workouts, to release fat and lose the extra pudge.
Perhaps you absolutely hate squats but you like the way lunges make you feel. Since both work large leg muscles, choose the lunges. Do cardio intervals that make you smile - tag anyone? Getting caught up in the good feelings of a workout will help you workout longer, harder and more enthusiastically. You'll burn more fat during each session and be more likely to show up for the next one.
Be present to your workout. Squeeze the muscles you’re working in each exercise, on both the up and down parts of the movement. Engage your core, leg and butt muscles when you do cardio. You’ll burn a lot more fat than if you go through the motions while reading the paper.
Switch It Up
Do a different workout than you did last week. If you’ve ever switched companies or moved to a different city, you know that it takes more energy to do something new. Burn more fat by inserting a new leg exercise into your weight lifting routine. Switch up the order of the exercises or do a cardio interval in between each set.
Increase the Weight
If you’ve been doing the same lunges for a few months, see if you can challenge yourself by holding a dumbbell in each hand. Maybe you can increase your weight on the seated row by five pounds while keeping impeccable form. Keep safely challenging your body to match your current fitness level.
Do Small Things Throughout the Day
Exercise and burn fat all day long. You don't have to do walking lunges in the grocery store, but engage your core when you bring the bags into the house. Park far away from the entrance to the store so you have to walk the distance, and take the stairs whenever possible. Exercise is cumulative and every little bit counts.
Suzanne Reilley is a fitness professional with a BS in exercise science and more than four years of experience as a full-time ACSM-certified personal trainer. She has been featured in DailyCandy and "The Washington Post," and has taught at Rancho La Puerta, rated Top Destination Spa by "Travel + Leisure."