Whether it’s a beer belly, spare tire, or love handles, there’s no doubt that some of us carry a few extra pounds that would look way better on a middle school arch nemesis (kidding… sort of). But running marathons, heavy lifting, or going the no carb route doesn’t guarantee a drop in jean size. The key to weight loss is (drum roll, please) burning more calories than devoured.

Fat Attack — The Need-to-Know

One pound of fat is roughly equivalent to 3,500 calories, so individuals need to burn 3,500 calories more than they consume to shed that first lb. But what’s the best way to do it? Researchers insist that diet is key— since studies show that losing weight comes down to a simple numbers game: calories in versus calories outExercise improves fat metabolism in muscle but does not increase 24-h fat oxidation. Melanson, E.L., MacLean, P.S., Hill, J.O. Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes, University of Colorado Denver, Denver, CO. Exercise and Sport Science Reviews, 2009 Apr;37(2):93-101.. Still, exercising the right way will help tip the scale. In one study, overweight participants signed on for eight weeks of either aerobic workouts or strength trainingEffects of aerobic vs. resistance training on visceral and liver fat stores, liver enzymes, and insulin resistance by HOMA in overweight adults from STRRIDE AT/RT. Slentz, C.A., Bateman, L.A., Willis, L.H., et al. Div. of Cardiology, Dept. of Medicine, Duke Univ. Durham, NC. American Journal of Physiology Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2011 Nov;301(5):E1033-9. Epub 2011 Aug 16.. Surprisingly, the aerobic group burned 67 percent more calories than the resistance training group. Consider quick sprints over slow miles to slim that midsection, though; intervals are considered by many to be a more efficient way to burn fatTwo weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. Talanian, J.L, Galloway, S.D., Heigenhauser, G.J. et al. Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. The European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2007 Apr;102(4):1439-47. Epub 2006 Dec 14.High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. Boutcher, S.H. School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Journal of Obesity, 2011;2011:868305. Epub 2010 Nov 24.. (Also Check Out: The 63 Best Health and Fitness Apps) But we may need more than a pair of Asics. Researchers have also found grabbing those dumbbells is an effective way to get rid of excess flabStrength training and adiposity in premenopausal women: strong, healthy, and empowered study. Schmitz, K.H., Hannan, P.J., Stovitz, S.D., et al. Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,2007 Sep;86(3):566-72.Effects of resistance exercise bouts of different intensities but equal work on EPOC. Thorton, M.K., Potteiger, J.A. School of Nursing, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2002 Apr;34(4):715-22.. And unlike aerobic exercise (like running and biking),strength training dramatically increases muscle— which ramps up metabolism and calorie-blasting, too.

Bye-Bye Beer Belly — Your Action Plan

Still, let’s not forget food’s role (that Iron Man isn’t quite worth it if we hit the all-you-can-eat buffet every day this week). Cutting back on calories through healthier choices can make all the difference— so skip the super-sized burger and fries and go for some lean blackened chicken instead. And while calories count most when it comes to the number on the scale, researchers have found thathigher protein diets have a greater thermic effect, a fancy phrase for speeding up metabolic rateEffect of dietary protein content on weight gain, energy expenditure, and body composition during overeating: a randomized controlled trial. Bray, G.A., Smith, S.R., de Jonge, L. et al. Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2012 Jan 4;307(1):47-55.The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Halton, T.L., Hu F.B. Dept. of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2004 Oct;23(5):373-85.. (So maybe get that burger, but hold the bun?) The body also adapts to exercise, so keep that workout routine varied to stay challenged while beating out boredom. Besides, studies suggest a combination of cardio and strength training is the best way to say sayonara to that excess body fat— something we surely won’t missEffects of resistance vs. aerobic training combined with an 800 calorie liquid diet on lean body mass and resting metabolic rate. Bryner, R.W., Ullrich, I.H., Sauers, J. Department of Human Performance and Applied Exercise Science, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 1999 Apr;18(2):115-21.. Do you have a weight loss success story? What are your tips for keeping off the pounds? Also check out Greatist’s complete Fitness Resources This article has been read and approved by Greatist Experts Emran Riaz and Michael George.