3. "C" yourself slimmer
A study in Nutrition & Metabolism found that exercisers who skimp on the vitamin burn 25 percent less fat during workouts. "Vitamin C helps produce carnitine, an amino acid that helps you use fat for energy. If there is too little carnitine in your tissues, your body will use carbohydrates or protein for fuel," says lead study author Carol S. Johnston, Ph.D., R.D., a professor and the director of the nutrition program at Arizona State University, who published the study. "Not only does this reduce the amount of fat you burn, but you're also more likely to feel fatigued when exercising." Johnston advises aiming for at least 100 milligrams daily, about the amount in 10 large strawberries, one small red pepper, one large orange, or 1 cup of cooked broccoli.
4. Swap carbs for spinach
A cup of this leafy green packs just 41 calories—five times less than a cup of cooked brown rice or whole-wheat pasta—making it a better side dish option in these crucial last weeks. This superfood may be light on calories and carbs, but it's rich in more than a dozen stress-fighting antioxidants. Try it sautéed in 1 teaspoon olive oil with chopped red bell pepper, minced garlic, and a dash of chili oil. Or serve it in a salad topped with strawberries, minced red onion, and a few pecans.
5. Crank up the fat burn
Capsaicin, the natural substance in peppers that gives them their heat, helps you use more calories, even at rest—and every little bit helps. "Studies show that eating the amount of capsaicin found in one small chili pepper at meals may boost metabolism by 23 percent in the short term," says Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., co-author of Energy to Burn. In other research, people who got about a gram of red pepper in capsule form or stirred into tomato juice before they sat down to eat cut their calorie intake by 16 percent over the course of the day, but didn't feel deprived. Try using fresh chilies or peppery Thai, Indian, or Latin seasonings to spice up your meals.
6. Have fruit for dessert
The enzymes bromelain (in fresh pineapple) and papain (in fresh papaya) ease digestion by breaking down proteins in meat, tofu, dairy, and beans, so food moves through your system faster, which can decrease bloating.
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