To be completely honest, my most recent fitness journey began well over a few months ago, but I didn’t see significant results until a few months in. I didn’t start losing weight until I buckled down and became realistic – mostly about what I was eating. In a two to three-month time frame, I lost 15 pounds and surprisingly, I lost it without stepping into the gym once. I even canceled my gym membership for the first time in about 10 years, because I realized that as my life changed, I needed to tackle fitness differently if I wanted to be consistent.

Losing weight really comes down to a few things most nutritionists and trainers would agree on. That said, here are five things I personally did that rendered the greatest results.

1. Protein before and after workout

I started having protein in the morning, pre-workout and pre-breakfast. I’ve always had protein after my workouts, but having it before my workouts is something I recently added to my regimen. Having protein at the start of my morning helps me regulate my eating throughout the day, it stops me from feeling hungry and feeling like I need to eat a full breakfast before my morning workout. As a vegetarian, it also generally helps with my daily protein consumption. Two things that have always stopped me from having a great workout are:

  • Exercising while hungry
  • Exercising while full

I need to feel light during a workout, but I cannot workout with a growling stomach. Protein before my workouts solved a bunch of issues for me, and has made a huge impact on my daily fitness routine.

2. Workout before breakfast

As I mentioned, I don’t eat a full breakfast prior to my morning workouts. Instead, I’ll have a low-calorie protein source and consider this “breakfast part 1.” I usually have a protein bar, protein shake or a cup of plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit. Eating a full breakfast makes me feel too sluggish and interferes with my energy. Exercising before breakfast grants me the best workout.

Additionally, most research shows that working out on an empty stomach burns more fat – because blood sugar levels are low, our bodies use the fat for energy instead. Ideally, I wouldn’t eat anything prior to working out, but I’m a big believer in listening to your body. If I wake up hungry, I’ll eat – but keep it small, so it doesn’t slow me down.

3. High Intensity Interval Training

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has become my favorite type of workout. As it sounds, it’s super intense and allows you to burn many calories in a short amount of time. The best part is, it’s a combination of cardio and strength training, so you don’t have to choose between cardio or lifting in one session. After 15-30 minutes of HIIT, even the most fit person would feel like they’ve had the best workout ever. I do these workouts in my room or living room with little to no equipment.

I suggest looking into some HIIT workouts – a good place to start is YouTube. When I feel like curating my own workout, I use an interval timer app on my phone to guide my HIIT.

4. Caloric Deficit

A.K.A…I counted my calories. I was hesitant to include this on the list, because eating less calories does not make you “healthier.” As a matter of fact, eating less calories could work against you, depending on what your fitness goals are. Contrary to popular belief, losing weight isn’t everyone’s goal. There are many people trying to gain weight. But if your goal is to lose weight, the general rule is this:

  • If you take in more calories than you use, you’ll gain weight
  • If you take in fewer calories than you use, you’ll lose weight

Between portion sizes and having no idea what’s in certain foods, a lot of us are simply over-eating. Keeping a food journal and noting my calories taught me a lot about food. After a few months, I stopped counting my calories, because doing it for a while taught me so much about portion control and how much excess food I was putting into my body. It taught me about macronutrients and micronutrients, and how our bodies use energy that we need and don’t need. It literally taught me why we shouldn’t consume too many fried foods and why we should eat more fruits and veggies.

Here’s a great article on calories for losing weight.

5. Consistency is Key

At the end of the day, there’s so much more to health and wellness than what the scale says. Above all, my goal is to be healthy. And for me, looking and feeling good both have so much to do with my health. If you’re trying to reach certain fitness goals, you’ve got to be consistent – adulting taught me this the hard way. Working out once a week did nothing for me. It wasn’t until I adopted long term healthy eating habits that I started losing weight. I didn’t see results or reach goals until I found out what worked best for me and practiced consistency.

The bottom line is, find out what works best for you and stick with it!

For those who are curious, here’s my “before” photo.

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For more tips on losing weight, follow me on Instagram and Twitter @tiffyhop.