Losing weight can seem impossible! Breaking down the challenge into small, easy to accomplish goals not only is proven to help you lose weight, but will set you up to successfully keep it off in the long run. Here’s your hour by hour guide to jumpstart your metabolism and lose weight all day long.
7 AM: First things first! Drink some water. It may sound simple but chugging two glasses of H2O increases metabolism (one study found by about 25% for an hour) and also reduces the amount of calories eaten when consumed before a meal. After being asleep all night, we wake slightly dehydrated, so drinking water soon after waking can help perk you up and rev up your metabolism.
8 AM: One recent study found when people exercised before breakfast they were more likely to use stored fat, leading to improved weight loss. But if you’re not a morning person, don’t fret! Some people enjoy working out later in the day, and what matters most is that you enjoy your workout and make it a habit to get at least 30 minutes of activity, most days of the week.
9 AM: Make your breakfast a good one. Recent research found that when people made their breakfast the biggest meal of the day they were more likely to lose weight. Realistically though, many people don’t have the time to prep and enjoy a hearty breakfast when they’re on the go. Try making breakfasts that will be ready for you in the morning, like mixing up some overnight oats the night before or baking a frittata Sunday for weeklong breakfasts.
10 AM: Fill up a big glass or water bottle once you get to work to sip on throughout the day. People often mistake thirst for hunger. Staying properly hydrated will help you recognize true hunger, and if you’re jonesing for a snack out of boredom having water nearby to sip on gives you a zero calorie option instead.
11 AM: Grab a mid-morning snack. Snacks high in fiber and protein will help keep you satisfied till lunch time and will keep your energy up. Try a snack around 200 calories or less with at least 5 grams of protein and/or fiber, like a handful of nuts, two tablespoons of hummus with carrot sticks, or some fruit with greek yogurt.
12 PM: Try a vegetarian lunch. (Lentil soup, anyone?) A plant-based diet is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients and it contains fewer calories and fat, meaning vegetarians tend to eat fewer calories, weight less, and have a lower risk of heart disease. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Research shows that those who eat less meat have a 30 percent less chance of dying, mostly due to reduced risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease, than their beef loving counterparts, so small changes can add up to a big impact. Need more convincing? Recent studies have found a boost in mood after just two weeks of eating more fruits and veggies, and vegetarians diets were found to be twice as effective for weight loss.
1 PM: Grab a co-worker and take a quick spin around the block. Adding small bursts of exercise throughout the day has been found to improve mood, decrease fatigue, and reduce food cravings.
2 PM: Avoid the mid afternoon crash with a glass of green tea. Green tea contains about 40 mgs of caffeine to help perk you up (but not keep you up at bedtime). It also contains powerful antioxidants, like EGCG, which have been shown to boost metabolism and help burn fat.
3 PM: Grab another low-cal, high protein and fiber snack to keep you going till dinnertime. Looking for more ideas? Try 5 ounces of cottage cheese, a hard boiled egg, half a cup of edamame, or an apple with two tablespoons of a nut butter.
4 PM: Take a few moments to write in a food journal or instagram your meals. Keeping track of your meals allows you to spot trends in your diet, allowing you to make tweaks and reduce overall calories. One study found that women who used a food journal lost on average 6 more pounds than those who did not. The author recommends journals be honest (record everything), accurate (measure portions and read labels), complete (include how food is prepared and any toppings), and consistent (always carry your journal or plug it into your phone).
5 PM: Ready. Set. Burpee! Throwing a set or two in throughout the day will tone your whole body and keep your metabolism pumping. Alternatively take the stairs instead of the elevator or take the long way when walking. While you’re at it, throw down another glass of water before dinner. Research has found that people who drank two glasses of water before a meal lost more weight than people who didn’t drink water before meals — and they kept it off. This simple tip works in two ways. Thirst can mask itself as hunger, causing you to eat more and water makes you feel fuller, causing you to eat less during a meal.
6 PM: Enjoy a healthy dinner filled with veggies, low-fat protein, and whole grains. This combo will keep you full and satisfied till morning. One recent study found that switching to whole grains reduced calorie intake and increased metabolism, a net change that was the equivalent of a daily 30 minute walk!
7 PM: Take a post-dinner walk. After a meal, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is circulated through the blood and taken up by cells. Any extra glucose after a meal will be stored as fat. Walking for just 10 to 20 minutes after dinner has been found to help speed up digestion, reduce spikes in glucose and help reduce weight.
8 PM: Pack up your gym clothes and a healthy lunch so you’re ready to go in the morning. You’ll be much more likely to workout and eat well tomorrow if you’re prepared. While grabbing food to go is convenient, one study found that those who ate out at least once a week over a year long period lost 5 less pounds than those who packed their own lunch. By bringing your own lunch you can easily control ingredients and portions.
9 PM: Take a timeout with some mindful meditation. Not only will it help you relax for a better night’s rest, but a study by Carnegie Mellon found that practicing mindful meditation reduces stress hormones related to weight gain and affects parts of our brain that lead to better self control, meaning a couple of minutes of meditation each day could help you pass on that office birthday cake.
10 PM: Blue light, emitted from TVs, computers, smart phones, and tablets, can affect circadian rhythms, making it harder to fall asleep and feel rested the next day. An hour before bed, turn off your gadgets, switch them to “night mode” or reach for an old fashioned book and you’ll be much more likely to hit that workout the next morning.
11 PM: Get some good Zzzs. Inadequate sleep does a number on weight loss efforts. You’re much less likely to exercise and much more likely to underestimate portions and eat more calories after a poor night’s sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep. Cutting back to just 6 hours of sleep ups your risk of weight gain by 12%!
A version of this article originally appeared on Dr. Oz.