As we begin another year, most of us are sketching out our plans for shedding the holiday goo, or diving in to a new fitness program for the first time. There will, of course, be myriad strategies that can be employed. But we want to take you off of the beaten path and offer you a few options that you may not already be considering – things that can both relieve you of your belly fat and separate you from the rest of the pack in the gym.

1. Don’t Just Lift…Carry

Most of what we do to start a new workout program involves picking stuff up and putting it down – overcoming gravity vertically, one rep at a time. But what about moving weight horizontally, from A to B?

“I think that we need to add more loaded carries and pushes to our workouts,” says Justin Grinnell, CSCS, owner of State of Fitness ( in Michigan. “Sled pushes, farmer walks, rack carries, sled drags, overhead carries and goblet carries build tons of muscle and strength.”

These moves add a great way to spice up your conditioning that transcends the treadmill. Don’t have access to a combine-style gym? You can build various implements with little-to-no-budget using things that exist in most households such as wheelbarrows, suitcases even heavy stones. The awkward nature of these implements has the added benefit of building dynamic core strength.

2. Downplay Meal Frequency

One of the most oft-prescribed approaches to nutrition for gym newbies is to have 5-7 smaller meals a day to “keep metabolism high.” But this may be overcomplicating the issue, according to Grinnell.

“I think that people will start to look at overall protein and calorie intake more than meal frequency,” he says. “Studies have shown that as long as you get your protein and calories in each day, the meal frequency won’t matter. Like your training, just make sure you get it in!”

You can stick to your 5-7 meals if you want but it may be a better approach to determine your physique goals, set some nutritional guidelines, then concentrate on the macronutrient ratios and total calories required to get there.

3, Give Fat a PR Makeover

Dietary fat is perhaps the most maligned of all the macronutrients. After all, it’s fat, and who among us wants to be associated with that stuff more than we already are? (Cue the crickets…) But UK-born fitness model and actor Mehmet Edip wants you to remember something: Fat is your friend.

“Eating fat will not make you fat,” he reminds us. “You actually need to eat good quality fats which can be found in avocados, nuts and in red meat, if you want to build muscle and burn fat.”

Studies show that the saturated fat in red meat is ideal for keeping testosterone levels where they need to be and the monounsaturated fats in nuts, seeds and certain oils lubricates joints and boosts heart health. Let this be the year that you become a believer in the benefits of fat.

4. Get Free

People may be taking sides in the debate over the effectiveness of multivitamins but there is less controversy surrounding the need to have a diet high in vitamins and minerals. And on that point, Edip has a suggestion.

“Why not add free range animal products into your diet? Free range animals have more varied diets and in turn contain more vitamin K, A, B and zinc.”

5. Cycle It

Carbs are fuel. We need ‘em to power workouts and to build muscle during the recovery process. But if you spent the last few weeks gorging on Christmas cookies and mashed potatoes, a more refined approach is in order. And one way to go is to cycle your intake. This may sound like a strategy reserved only for pro bodybuilders but in reality anyone can take advantage of how the body processes this macronutrients.

“One way to get rid of stubborn fat is to carb cycle,” says Edip. “This is when you manipulate your carb intake. One easy way to do it is to have a high-carb, low-carb and no-carb days. Generally, the three days are rotated, or cycled, equally. Carbohydrate manipulation is the key here. By lowering and eliminating the carbohydrates for a few days the body is put into a fat burning state. By having a high carbohydrate day the helps prevent metabolic slowdown and also allows you the opportunity to have better energy levels throughout the fat loss process and this could even result in the gain of muscle tissue.”

6. There Will be Squats

If you have had relative success with your physique-building over the years without the squat, we applaud you. But one can only deny the anecdotal and lab-verified proof that continues to mount for the barbell squat and the advantages it offers anyone trying to change the way they look. So step away from the leg press for a bit – greater gains await.

A new study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research that pitted the squat versus the leg press showed that the squat resulted in a 25 percent greater level of strength-boosting testosterone during a workout than the leg press. Growth hormone, which greatly affects your body’s ability to grow muscle and burn fat, was a staggering 200 percent higher in the squatting group. Cortisol, a stress hormone, was also higher in the squat group, confirming what we already thought to be true – that the squat is a lift for big boys.