It takes more than a couple of leisurely jaunts on the treadmill to get into photoshoot-ready shape. Those who achieve the lean, muscular look of the men you see in M&F have done so by tackling tough workouts with zeal. By incorporating higher intensity protocols—such as Tabata and high-intensity interval training (HIIT)—you keep your workouts at a modest length and maximize muscle breakdown, which helps boost post-workout calorie burn. Tabata, which calls for eight 20-second cycles of work followed by 10 seconds of rest, allows you to exhaust all types of muscle fiber while elevating your metabolism.
Don't get me wrong — exercising at any time is good for you. But evening activity may be particularly beneficial because many people's metabolism slows down toward the end of the day. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity before dinner increases your metabolic rate and may keep it elevated for another two or three hours, even after you've stopped moving. Plus, it'll help you relax post-meal so you won't be tempted by stress-induced grazing that can rack up calories.
The key to losing belly fat with exercise, though, is making sure your sweat session is intense. You’ll want to be working at 85% of your max heart rate at least, says Olson. “The higher your heart rate, the higher the release of epinephrine into the bloodstream and cells,” she explains. “A positive side effect of epinephrine is that it also activates greater release of abdominal fat into the bloodstream to be used for energy.”
Be choosy about carbs. You can decide which ones you eat, and how much. Look for those that are low on the glycemic index (for instance, asparagus is lower on the glycemic index than a potato) or lower in carbs per serving than others. Whole grains are better choices than processed items, because processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins. They may be added back, such as in “enriched” bread.