young woman flexing her shoulders and arms showing off her good muscles

It's no secret that diets are hard. And finding the right balance that works for you can be tricky.

Protein-heavy diets are great for dropping belly fat. But done to the extreme, they can leave you headachey, tired and feeling pretty miserable.

And when you train regularly, sometimes it can be even harder finding the right balance of diet and exercise, to shed those extra few pounds – without compromising your workouts.

Approaching a diet is similar to approaching your exercise regime. You need to be in it for the long haul and find something that you can stick with. It takes careful planning, dedication and unfortunately there are no quick fixes.

That said, there are a few tricks that will help you along the way get through those moments when all you can think about is carbs topped with more carbs.

How to lose weight:

1) Water

Your liver is your body's fat-processing centre. To enable it to function well, it needs lots of water. Get too dehydrated and it won't be able to function properly.

Staying hydrated is also great for your hunger levels. A pint of water just before food will help you feel nice and full when you eat.

And if you're on a low-carb regime, your body might be missing all the extra water it gets from things like fruit and vegetables. So, make sure you add in some of that all-important H2O to your diet to help you stay on track.

2) Do compound exercises

Compound exercises such as squats, bench presses, pull ups and deadlifts are the most important for any training regime.

For example, rather than just targeting your quads, traditional back squats focus your glutes, hamstrings, lower back and even your core and hip flexors.

By working so many parts at the same time, not only are you getting more bang for your buck in terms of training efficiency, but hanging out at the squat rack can also stimulate the production of muscle growth hormones. Ideal if you're looking for that extra bit of muscle definition.

So, regardless of whether you're trying to lose weight, bulk up or simply improve your strength, compound exercises are essential for helping you reach your goals.

3) Fad diets don't work

"Lose 10 pounds in just five days!"

How many times have we seen this now? And yes, although this might be achievable, what these fad diets don't tell you is that you're more than likely going to put most of it straight back on again afterwards.

Most of these diets force your body into starvation mode. What this means is your metabolism slows right down and tries to make every morsel you eat last as long as possible. Realistically, how long are you going to keep up cabbage soup anyway?

Be patient, plan it out and stick to it. Panic-dieting won't help you in the long run.

4) Add in a few cheats

Remember you're human and that cheat days are going to happen. Rather than exhausting yourself in a late-night flurry of chocolate doughnuts, plan in the odd treat now and again so you don't have to go too long without your favourite foods.

Just remember to plan them in little and often. An entire weekend of white carbs and alcohol will undo all of your hard work – and your body won't thank you for it either.

young man with very lean body and lots of muscles choosing between vegan or non-vegan diets

5) Eat regularly

For effective weight loss, you need to make sure your metabolism is confident that you're eating regularly, so that it doesn't go into panic-mode.

Eating regularly will also help you stay on track mentally as you don't have to go so long without food.

Finally, this also helps maintain a steady blood-sugar level. This is important as sudden spikes are more likely to be stored as fat.

Plan in healthy, protein-based snacks throughout your day. Things like small tins of tuna, a handful of nuts or a glass of milk are easy to fit in and will keep those hunger pangs at bay.

6) Lift heavy

A higher percentage of muscle mass is brilliant for helping you to lose weight. By doing hypertrophy-specific exercises (three sets of five-rep-max at around 85-80% Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE)), you will increase your muscle mass.

This in turn means that you will burn more calories at rest as your body needs more energy to maintain high quality muscle mass than it does fat.

So, lift heavy, eat right and reap the rewards.

7) Eat after you train

Recovery is important for ensuring your muscles are repaired and ready to work again in time for your next gym session.

To help ease DOMS and ensure your muscles are in a good, working condition, have a protein-based snack or meal within 20 minutes of training. Especially if you have been focusing your time on lifting weights.

Protein is key for helping your body repair the torn muscle fibres following a workout. It'll also help you prevent any post-workout crashes that can happen when you go too long without food.

8) Know the difference between calorie burning and fat burning

Many people, when they want to lose weight, will opt for calorie burning workouts such as HIIT classes. This is great for cardio and will also help burn off any extra calories eaten earlier in the day. However, if you're looking to target fat i.e. calories that your body has already processed and stored, then you will want to adopt a different style of training.

Calorie burning happens when you have a high heart rate (around 80% of your maximum heart rate but this depends on your age). Fat burning happens when your heart rate is at more like 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.

This means ditching the short, fast and intense spurts of cardio and swapping them for long runs where you're at a more jog-like pace.

9) Sleep more

Sleeping more isn't going to magically help you to lose weight – sorry.

However, not getting enough sleep can really start to stress the body and slow your metabolism down. This, paired with not enough exercise and tiredness-related eating habits (more alcohol and fast food) is all a recipe for weight gain.

10) Set mini goals

Almost everyone has a goal weight that they want to get to. But unless it's one to two pounds, you might get put off by the mammoth task ahead and give up.

Losing even a stone isn't easy and unfortunately can't be done quickly. But when you're dieting, every day is an obstacle course of avoiding treats, saying no and ignoring all those urges to snack on nice things. And there's no reason we you shouldn't feel proud of every single achievement.

Instead of aiming to lose a stone straight off (if that's your goal), aim to lose two pounds. Done sensibly, this will take around one to two weeks. Once you've achieved this, you can celebrate and feel really proud of yourself. Ready, to take on the next goal.

Little by little, you'll have made your way through half a stone and all being well, reach your goal weight soon enough.

young man with huge muscles doing lat pull downs

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