It may sound like a no-brainer, but counting calories is one of the easiest and most effective ways to start losing weight fast.
Weight loss occurs when you use more calories than you take in, either by reducing your intake or increasing your physical activity.
While cutting calories alone is generally not considered a sustainable way to lose weight, counting calories can be an effective weight loss tool when paired with other diet and lifestyle modifications.
Keeping track of your calorie intake can increase your awareness of what you’re putting on your plate, giving you the knowledge you need to make healthier choices.
Interestingly, one review of 37 studies found that weight loss programs that incorporated calorie counting led to 7.3 pounds (3.3 kg) more weight loss than those that didn’t (1).
Try tracking your calorie intake by using an app or a food journal.
SUMMARY When paired with other diet and lifestyle changes, counting calories can help you make healthier choices to increase weight loss.
Upping your water intake is a simple way to boost weight loss with minimal effort.
In fact, one study found that pairing a low-calorie diet with increased water intake before meals resulted in 44% more weight loss over a 12-week period (2).
Research shows that water may enhance weight loss by bumping up metabolism, temporarily increasing the calories your body burns after eating.
According to one study in 14 adults, drinking 16.9 fluid ounces (500 ml) of water boosted metabolism by 30% after 30–40 minutes (3).
Drinking water with meals can also keep you feeling full, reducing your appetite and intake.
For example, one small study showed that drinking 16.9 fluid ounces (500 ml) of water before a meal reduced subsequent calories consumed by 13% (4).
For best results, drink at least 34–68 fluid ounces (1–2 liters) of water per day to maximize weight loss.
SUMMARY Drinking water can temporarily increase metabolism and reduce appetite to enhance weight loss. For best results, drink at least 34–68 fluid ounces (1–2 liters) of water per day.
To lose 20 pounds fast, including more protein-rich foods in your diet is absolutely essential.
A high-protein diet has been associated with decreased belly fat, as well as preserved muscle mass and metabolism during weight loss (5, 6).
Protein can also help reduce appetite and decrease calorie intake.
One study in 19 adults found that increasing protein intake by just 15% increased feelings of fullness and significantly reduced calorie intake, belly fat and body weight (7).
Another study showed that consuming a high-protein breakfast decreased levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger, by a much greater degree than a high-carb breakfast (8).
Meat, seafood, poultry, legumes, eggs, nuts and seeds are a few healthy sources of protein that you can easily add to your diet.
SUMMARY Protein has been shown to decrease belly fat and body weight. It may also promote feelings of fullness to reduce calorie intake.
4. Cut Your Carb Consumption
Decreasing your intake of refined carbs is another useful strategy to accelerate weight loss.
Refined carbs have been stripped of their nutrient and fiber content during processing, resulting in a final product that is nutrient-poor.
What’s more, they typically have a high glycemic index, which means that they are digested and absorbed quickly. Rapid digestion leads to spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, followed by increased hunger (9).
Consuming high numbers of refined carbs has also been linked to increased body fat and weight gain.
For instance, one study in 2,834 people found that a higher intake of refined carbohydrates was associated with increased belly fat while a greater intake of whole grains was associated with less belly fat (10).
Another small study had similar findings, reporting that a diet rich in whole grains decreased both body weight and calorie intake compared to a diet focused on refined grains (11).
To get started, simply swap out refined grains in pastas, white breads, cereals and pre-packaged products for healthy, whole-grain alternatives such as couscous, quinoa, brown rice or barley.
SUMMARY Refined carbs can increase hunger levels and may be associated with increased belly fat and weight gain compared to whole grains.
5. Start Lifting Weights
Resistance training is a type of exercise that involves working against a force to increase muscle strength and endurance.
Adding resistance training to your routine can bump up fat burning and metabolism to help you burn more calories, even while at rest.
One review showed that 10 weeks of resistance training may increase metabolism by 7%, stabilize blood sugar in those with diabetes and lead to 4 pounds (1.8 kg) of fat loss in adults (12).
Meanwhile, another study in 94 women suggested that resistance training preserved fat-free mass and metabolism after weight loss, allowing the body to burn more calories throughout the day (13).
Get started by hitting the gym or doing body weight exercises at home, such as squats, planks and lunges.
SUMMARY Resistance training can help increase metabolism and preserve fat-free mass, helping you burn more calories throughout the day.
Fiber moves slowly and undigested through your gastrointestinal tract, slowing the emptying of your stomach to keep you feeling full longer (14, 15).
One study in healthy men found that consuming 33 grams of insoluble fiber, which is commonly found in wheat and vegetables, was effective in decreasing both appetite and food intake (16).
The satiety-boosting effects of fiber could produce big benefits in terms of weight control.
One review reported that increasing fiber intake by 14 grams per day was linked to a 10% reduction in calorie intake and 4.2 pounds (1.9 kg) of weight loss over a four-month period, even without making any other diet or lifestyle changes (17).
In addition, a 20-month study in 252 women found that each gram of dietary fiber consumed was associated with 0.5 pounds (0.25 kg) less body weight and 0.25% less body fat (18).
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds are all excellent sources of fiber that are integral to a healthy weight loss diet.
SUMMARY Fiber keeps you feeling full to reduce appetite and intake, which may boost weight loss.
While there’s no doubt that switching up your diet and exercise routine are the two most important routes to losing 20 pounds, the amount you sleep could also play a role.
In fact, one study in 245 women showed that both sleeping at least seven hours per night and getting better sleep quality increased the likelihood of weight loss success by 33% (19).
And just as getting enough sleep can set you up for success, sleep deprivation can cause the pounds to slowly pack on over time.
One study following 68,183 women over 16 years found that those sleeping five hours or less gained an average 2.5 pounds (1.14 kg) more than women who slept at least seven hours per night (20).
Another study showed that even a single night of sleep deprivation can increase levels of hunger hormones, which could lead to increased appetite and weight gain (21).
Try practicing a bedtime ritual each night, sticking to a routine and minimizing your intake of caffeine before bed to establish a healthy sleep cycle and enhance weight loss.
SUMMARY Getting enough sleep and improving sleep quality could benefit weight loss. Conversely, sleep deprivation can lead to increased hunger and weight gain.
Staying accountable to your weight loss goals is key to long-term success. There are many different ways to do so.
For example, weighing yourself daily has been associated with increased weight loss and a reduced risk of weight regain compared to weighing yourself less frequently (22).
Research also suggests that keeping a food journal to self-monitor your intake and progress can help you lose more weight and keep it off longer (23, 24).
You can also try partnering with a friend or joining an online weight loss community to increase your motivation and stay on track towards your goals.
SUMMARY Staying accountable can help increase weight loss. Weighing yourself daily, keeping a food journal and pairing up with a friend are all effective strategies to enhance weight loss.
Whether you’re looking to lose one pound or 20, adding cardio to your routine is a must.
Cardio, also known as aerobic exercise, is a form of physical activity that increases your heart rate and helps strengthen your heart and lungs.
What’s more, it increases the calories your body burns to aid fat and weight loss.
One study in 141 overweight and obese participants showed that cardio exercise alone was effective at inducing significant weight loss.
In fact, performing cardio to burn either 400 calories or 600 calories five times per week for 10 months resulted in an average weight loss of 8.6 pounds (3.9 kg) and 11.5 pounds (5.2 kg), respectively (25).
Another study had similar findings, reporting that six months of cardio exercise alone decreased body weight by 9% in 141 obese older adults (26).
To maximize weight loss, aim for 150–300 minutes of cardio each week, or about 20–40 minutes every day (27).
Walking, running, jumping rope, rowing and boxing are some easy and enjoyable cardio workouts that can amp up weight loss.
SUMMARY Cardio can increase your body’s calorie-burning quota to boost both weight and fat loss.
Mindfulness is a practice that involves becoming more aware of your thoughts and feelings while also shifting your focus to the present moment.
Eating slowly and practicing mindfulness can help increase weight loss and decrease intake while also allowing you to enjoy your food.
For example, one small study demonstrated that eating slowly led to greater increases in satiety hormones and feelings of fullness than eating at a faster pace (28).
Similarly, a study in 30 healthy women showed that eating slowly resulted in decreased calorie intake and greater feelings of fullness compared to eating more quickly (29).
Another review of 19 studies found that mindfulness interventions were able to significantly increase weight loss in 68% of studies (30).
Try minimizing distractions while eating, chewing your food more thoroughly and drinking water with your meal to help yourself slow down and enjoy.
SUMMARY Eating slowly and practicing mindfulness can increase feelings of fullness, decrease calorie intake and enhance weight loss.
Though losing 20 pounds can seem like a major challenge, it can be done quickly and safely by making a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle.
For best results, mix and match these tips to enhance both weight loss and overall health.
With a little patience and determination, it’s entirely possible to drop 20 pounds to help reach your weight loss goals in no time.