Here are 12 ways to boost your calorie burn and get the most bang for your buck in the gym.
Intensify your cardio.1 of 13
Steady cardio is a great way to get in a sweat session, but crank up the intensity with intervals and you'll torch twice as many calories. Studies show that interval training helps keep your metabolic rate higher than a steady-state cardio session for as long as an hour post-exercise. So, thanks to your high-intensity efforts, you'll burn more calories even as you rest.
The best way to ramp things up is to incorporate hard/easy intervals: Go hard for a few minutes, then slow to an easy pace for a minute or two to recover. Continue alternating between those hard/easy intervals throughout your workout. Take on the sweat sesh on any equipment you want—from the treadmill to the elliptical or with no machine at all.
Put some muscle behind it.2 of 13
Don't be afraid of the weight machines. A full-body strength routine can supercharge your calorie-blasting ability. By adding muscle to your body, you burn more calories even at rest, as muscle utilizes more calories than fat. For example, 10 pounds of muscle would burn 50 calories in a day of total rest, whereas 10 pounds of fat would only burn 20 calories.
Choose a weightlifting routine that focuses on total body strength (core, legs, arms, chest and shoulders) to build the muscle needed to turn you into a calorie-burning machine.
Make it a circuit.3 of 13
When you hit the weight room, turn your workout into a circuit. Instead of performing two or three sets of a single exercise before moving on, complete just one set and then quickly move to the next exercise, repeating that circuit two or three times. Researchers have found circuit training results in nearly double the post-workout calorie burn of standard-style lifting.
Load up a playlist.4 of 13
Fight feelings of fatigue with an upbeat playlist. A study from West London's Brunel University found that working out to your favorite up-tempo songs can help you exercise up to 20 percent longer—and burn more calories.
Music helps to reduce your perception of effort, which means hard exercise feels easier. It can also help keep motivation and energy high through your workout.
Turn up the resistance.5 of 13
Sometimes you arrive to the gym a little more tired, lethargic and cranky than normal. While it can be tempting to turn down the resistance on the exercise bike or keep the treadmill on the flat setting and just "coast" through your workout, you aren't doing yourself any favors.
Though it may feel tough at first, adding a gear or two on your bike in spin class, cranking up the incline on the treadmill or adding some weight to those dumbbell curls will enhance both your workout and calorie burn.
Head outdoors.6 of 13
You've heard that fresh air is good for you, but the benefits go beyond a nice breeze. Taking your workout into the great outdoors can give you a 10 percent boost in its effectiveness, since your body has to accommodate the effects of the weather and uneven terrain.
Find a buddy.7 of 13
Working out with a friend can also help give you an extra boost of motivation to turn up the calorie-blasting intensity of your training session. A buddy will hold you accountable, and help make sure you don't skip your daily sweat session.
Not to mention, the natural competitiveness of human nature kicks in when you're confronted by an opponent instead of a machine. Working with (or in competition against!) a friend means you'll see both your performance and your calorie burn reach new heights.
Don't skip meals.8 of 13
Mornings can be hectic, but don't skip breakfast. The act of eating in itself (chewing and digesting your food) kicks your metabolism into gear. If you go too long without eating, your body can switch into starvation mode and slow your system down to conserve energy.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when subjects ate six times a day at predictable intervals, they boosted their post-meal metabolic rate compared to those who ate the same number of calories at three to nine unpredictable intervals. Keep your furnace burning by having three healthy meals along with small snacks at consistent times each day.
Get some sleep.9 of 13
With today's hectic lifestyle, most of us end up hitting the pillow long after we'd planned. But sleep deprivation stresses your system, and the body responds by increasing the production of cortisol, which triggers your appetite. The result? Your hunger hormones are thrown out of whack, making you more likely to overeat.
In addition, a lack of sleep results in less overall energy and poor cognitive function, meaning you'll be less likely to choose going to the gym over relaxing on the couch. Aim for seven to eight hours of good quality sleep each night to keep your body primed to exercise.
Become a morning person.10 of 13
You may hate the sound of that alarm clock early in the morning, but morning exercisers burn more calories. Research shows that people who exercise in the morning work harder and exercise for longer periods of time, burning more calories in the process.
You may find that working out in the a.m. means you feel more alert and energetic, too--or just less rushed than you would have if you'd waited until the afternoon or evening. Establishing a morning routine that works for you will help you make the habit stick.
But first...coffee.11 of 13
Research has shown that caffeine stimulates the production of adrenaline, which boosts the metabolism. However, while it's true that your morning cup of java can accelerate your calorie burn, limit yourself to no more than two cups a day. Too much caffeine can be taxing on your system and can (ironically) cause fatigue.
Get your steps in.12 of 13
Finally, strive to make the whole day work in your calorie-burning favor. Sitting too much can slow your metabolism, even if you're exercising regularly. Making an effort to get up, stretch, stroll and fidget throughout the day can boost your burn through what scientists call NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
Take opportunities to walk and climb stairs, take walk breaks around the office or stand up at your desk while on a call. Little movements that increase your overall activity level throughout the day can help you burn off extra calories and keep you on track with your fitness goals.