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One way to improve your performance on the field is by dropping a few pounds of fat and adding more muscle. Less fat and more muscle mass are functional, not just for sports and exercise, but also for basic, daily physical activities. In fact, maintaining a low body fat count and consistently working to build muscle should be fitness goals of athletes and non-athletes alike.
Whether you're looking to enhance your sports performance or simply to improve your health, here are some helpful fat-burning tips on how to lose unwanted weight:
1. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep.
More sleep means less fat, so make getting to bed on time a priority. Sleeping for at least eight hours each night stimulates the release by the pituitary gland of human growth hormone (HGH), a naturally occurring anabolic hormone that promotes muscle building and fat burning.
2. Increase water intake.
Keep that water bottle handy all day, because dehydration slows your metabolism, which decreases your body's ability to burn fat. Shoot for a minimum of eight to 10 glasses of water daily, and consume water-based fruits and vegetables.
3. Strength train three to four days per week.
If you want muscle, you have to build muscle! Strength training every other day with total body workouts using multi-joint exercises—like Deadlifts, Squats, Push-Ups, Chin-Ups, Rows, Leg Presses, Dips and Power Cleans—efficiently works the most muscles, optimizing growth and promoting fat burning.
4. Incorporate interval training with strength training.
Rev up your metabolism by adding sprints to the end of your strength training sessions. Combining high-intensity interval training, such as alternating sprints with brisk walking, burns more fat than low-intensity aerobic training alone.
5. Exercise in sunlight.
Exercising outdoors in sunlight boosts vitamin D absorption, promoting production of testosterone, which helps decrease fat storage.
6. Consume fat-burning foods and beverages.
What you eat can naturally burn fat. Green tea is a potent beverage for increasing metabolism. Spicy foods such as hot peppers and curry powder help burn fat, because they make you perspire and raise your heart rate, thus enhancing metabolism. Dairy foods such as cheese and yogurt also aid in fat reduction. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as nuts, flaxseed and seafood, are helpful as well.
7. Eat five or six small meals.
Research shows that consuming five or six small meals—each containing protein, carbs and essential fats—every two to three hours preserves muscle gains and boosts fat-burning metabolism. Protein and fat help stave off blood sugar spikes from quickly digested refined carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and bread. To optimize your metabolism, choose slower digesting complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables and whole grains), protein-rich dairy foods (milk, cheese and yogurt) and other high protein foods such as eggs, meat and fish.
Jim Carpentier is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a New Jersey-licensed massage therapist and a health/fitness writer. He currently serves as associate health and wellness director at the Greater Morristown YMCA in Cedar Knolls, N.J.