Already broken your New Year’s Resolutions to eat your greens and hit the gym every day? Fear not, there are sneaky short cuts that can help you shed those pounds. Or so says Nick Harding…
Kale and quinoa salads followed by hours in a sweaty gym anyone? Not when there’s Netflix to binge on. This month millions of people will commit to a year full of health and fitness, leaving couch potatoes hiding under the cushions feeling guilty. But there is hope for those of us who can’t stomach the idea of a gym and diet plan this January.
There are tricks even the most idle person can do to increase calorie burn and so help lose weight. With the right arsenal of clever life hacks and sly diet tweaks even the most sedentary sloth will start getting more active without even trying. Invest in a few bits of cheaters’ kit, follow the plan without increasing your food consumption, and watch the calories melt away.
Cornel Chin, fitness expert, personal trainer to Leonardo Di Caprio and Colin Firth and author of Celebrity Body on a Budget explains: ‘It’s all about sneaking exercise cheats into your day. It’s like paying in to an exercise bank. If you do them, hopefully at the end of the year you are in the black, not the red. Over time, adopting these hacks can help improve muscle tone and help with weight loss.’
The results can be impressive. There are 3500 calories in one pound of human body fat. The average person requires around 1800 calories a day just to maintain a normal weight. Burning an extra 500 calories a day while maintaining the same food intake can burn off one pound of fat in a week.
There is a word of caution, however, for those tempted to use increased calorie burn as an excuse to consume more on this diet.
‘Once you start using the cheats, stick to them. Over time they work if you don’t use them as an excuse to eat more,’ warns Cornell.
Weight your walks
Any short walk can become a mini workout if you invest in some cheap strap-on wrist and ankle weights. Wear them under normal clothes and carry on as usual. We used a set of 1kg weights and measured heart rate and calorie burn on a 70-minute train commute with around 15 minutes of walking. The weights allow you to burn an extra 50 calories per journey. Getting off one stop earlier and walking an extra ten minutes can add a further 60 calories. In total that’s 1100 calories extra burnt a week.
Stairs are your friend
If the idea of trudging up escalators seems like too much effort, walk down them instead.
Cornel explains: ‘Why would you get in a lift to go down one flight of stairs? It requires minimal effort but even walking down a few stairs will burn a few more calories. Add that up over a year and it can become a significant number.’
And when you’ve mastered the descent, try walking up as well. Depending on the height of steps, you can burn five calories walking up one and down a flight of 12 stairs. Ten flights a day equates to 50 calories, or 350 calories a week.
Invest in a vest
Housework can be dull, so why not turn it into a workout by wearing a weighted vest when you cook, clean or iron? We used a 10kg Men’s Health zip-up vest while cooking a 30-minute meal and burnt off an extra 120 calories. The vest raised his heart rate and effort level too.
As Cornel says: ‘It is all about intensity. In order to get faster calorie burn, you increase the intensity, which a weighted vest will do. It will also increase muscle tone.’
‘Standing burns 15 percent more calories a day, as opposed to sitting down,’ explains Cornel.‘But beware of varicose veins.’
Make a stand
Sitting on your butt all day can be just as dangerous as being obese, according to a study from the University of Cambridge. It can lead to back pain, depression and even sexual dysfunction. Which is bad news for people who work in offices and spend most of the day at a desk. An investment in a standing desk can pay dividends for health, fitness and weight loss. We tested the Varidesk Pro Plus and burnt an extra 400 calories in one day just by standing rather than sitting.
If weighted vests and standing desks seem like too much effort, you can try sitting smarter. Give up the couch for a couple nights a week and sit on the floor instead.
‘It’s true. Your body has to work a bit harder to get comfortable if you sit on the floor,’ explains Cornel. ‘You will not burn loads of extra calories, but it is a cheat and they all add up.’
To turbo-charge your seated workout, sit on an inflatable swiss ball. These Space Hoppers without handles make you move around to stay stable and help develop core strength. If you sit on a swiss ball in front of the TV and watch four back-to-back episodes of The Crown, you could burn an extra 70 calories. And to really feel the burn, forget the remote. Get up and switch channels instead.
Ditch the handbags and briefcases
Handbags, duffle bags, briefcases and sports bags are no good if you are serious about slacking your way to weight loss. Throw them away and invest in a backpack instead. Then pack it with a few extra bottles of water or heavier items. A backpack evenly distributes weight so is kinder to your body and when heavy, acts as a resistance tool while you walk.
Talk more, laugh more
If you work in an office, don’t email your colleagues who work in the same building. Get up and walk to them instead. If you swap ten emails each day for a face-to-face chat, you could be burning an extra 70 calories a day, or 350 a week. And if you have a laugh with them too you’ll enjoy a range of other health benefits. Laughter decreases stress, boosts the immune system and can even temporarily relieve pain. Now that’s a diet we support.
Spice up your life
Certain foods rev up the metabolism and increase calorie burn. One study found that half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper mixed in food or swallowed in a capsule helped normal-weight adults burn about 10 more calories over a four-hour period, compared to eating the same meal without the red pepper. Other studies suggest that after consuming foods with capsaicin, the body’s metabolic rate can increase 15 to 20 per cent for up to two hours. Turmeric and cumin have a similar effect, increasing metabolism by five percent, as does green tea. A naturally occurring mineral called Chromium has also been found to help the body burn fat at a cellular level. It occurs naturally in meat, fish, leafy green vegetables, nuts and pulses so add them to your diet.
You can even lose weight by eating ice cream, but the diet is not for the faint hearted. American online trainer and vlogger Anthony Howard-Crow ate only 2,000 calories a day of ice cream and 500 calories a day of protein supplements a day for 100 days and lost 32lbs while seeing improvements in his blood work. He described it as the ‘most miserable dieting adventure’ he had ever embarked upon.
Caffeine is your friend. Several studies suggest that caffeine can help with weight loss and a review last year concluded that consumption of caffeinated beverages might support diet maintenance, and recommended further research. But beware, other studies have shown that knocking back five cups of coffee a day may lead to weight gain. Stick to a few cups a day and skip calorie laden milk-based coffee drinks all together.
Make Smart food swaps
In life, there is nothing more satisfying than a takeaway washed down with a sugary fizzy drink. But it’s a gut-busting combination. 500ml of some fizzy drinks calories contain up to 250 calories and a pizza can contain anywhere between 1000 and 1900 calories. If you want to enjoy a guilt-free night swap the fizzy drink for a low-sugar version and the pizza for a shish kabab and save yourself an average 500 calories.