If you thought losing weight would mean giving up all your indulgences, look no further than dark chocolate. Louisiana State University researchers found that gut microbes in our stomach ferment chocolate and boost our body's production of gut-healthy polyphenolic compounds, including butyrate, a fatty acid that encourages the body to burn fat as fuel and turns off genes linked to inflammation. (Add fruit to the chocolate to boost fermentation and the release of the compounds.) Make sure you go with chocolate that has a cacao content of 70 percent or above—these have the highest concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols.
Protein Foods: Foods high in protein like whey protein, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish or free-range chicken require more energy for the body to break down than foods lower in protein. They’re also beneficial for reducing hunger or cravings and maintaining lean muscle mass, especially as you get older and naturally lose some every decade. If your goal is to lose weight, I recommend consuming half your body weight in grams of protein a day. For those seeking to burn fat and build muscle, aim to consume 0.7 to a gram per pound of body weight (for example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should get 75 to 150 grams per day).
The fat-burning equation is simple: Protein builds muscle. More muscle = more fat burning. And fish is one of the healthiest sources of lean protein—especially wild salmon, says dietitian Lauren Minchen, MPH, RD, CDN. It's also a rich source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which fuel fat burning, block fat storage and aid weight loss, she explains. But that's not all: "Getting enough protein and healthy fat also helps to reduce cravings and has been shown to help keep weight off for longer," adds Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS.
This brilliantly orange root is a powerful fat fighter. According to a 2009 study by the USDA, mice whose diets were supplemented with turmeric experienced reduced weight gain and body fat levels even when their food intake was not changed. Experts believe the power of this spice comes from the active ingredient curcumin: Studies, including one published in the journal Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, have found that curcumin is one of the most effective anti-inflammatory options out there. Because it's more difficult for your body to lose weight when you're fighting off inflammation, adding anti-inflammatory turmeric will help you achieve your weight loss goals. Talk about the ultimate in fat burning foods!
Green Tea: Green tea and green tea extracts have been shown to activate the body's thermogenic fat-burning activity. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men who ingested the active ingredient in green tea (catechins) significantly reduced their total fat area, waist circumference, skinfold thickness, and subcutaneous fat area. As exercise physiologist Nick Coker explains in the article "Your Expert Guide to Green Tea," taking this ingredient with caffeine has been shown to make it even more effective.
Adding a fat-burning supplement to your regimen to help burn belly fat won't necessarily be detrimental, but it's unlikely to do much good, either. You should always check with your doctor before you start taking a new supplement 1. According to personal trainer Christian Finn, the best ways for men to burn fat fast are to eat less than they burn, lift weights two to three times per week, eat a protein-rich diet and add in some cardiovascular work.