LIFEstyle changes mean changing your usual day-to-day habits into healthier ones. This means food choices, stress management, overall wellness and yes, exercise. Lets talk about the best types of exercise to burn body fat.
OPTIMAL FAT LOSS IS NOT ACHIEVED BY ONE SPECIFIC MODALITY OR EXERCISE.
Getting lean, toned or thinner is not a matter of losing weight, it is about losing fat. Muscle is more dense, has a smaller surface area, than fat does. So 1lb of muscle still weighs the same as 1lb of fat, it just takes up less space. Which means if you are losing fat and replacing it with muscle, the scale is not going to move; even though you feel thinner, your pants are looser and people are noticing a change in you. This is why i say THROW THE SCALE AWAY. Lets focus on how feel feel and look rather than what that stupid square thing on the floor says. More often than not it will DIScourage you, not ENcourage you. In my “Helpful Advice for Fat Loss Through Diet” blog I mentioned how important diet is for fat loss. It makes up the bulk of the equation, but exercise is still a factor as well.
Why Exercise Helps Burn Fat
Metabolism. You have all thrown the word around, but what is it? Your metabolism is all of the chemical reactions going on inside your body. Whether it be digesting your food, moving blood, filtering waste, all of those things are what is your metabolism. So therefore, the speed of all of these reactions in the body is what determines how “fast” your metabolism is. If you are fueling your body with good foods and all body processes are running at peak performance, then your metabolism is going to speed up and burn more calories at rest. If you fuel your body with fake foods and sit around a lot, your body processes will begin to slow down and thus, resulting in a slow metabolism.
Active uses the analogy of your metabolism being a 401(k) plan. You slowly add money to it over time, and you know it will pay out eventually, but here is no instant gratification. For your metabolism, it is constantly working to burn calories, but you aren’t going to drastically lose a bunch of weight in 1 day, it takes time, but you know it will pay off eventually.
Well, exercise is going to help us reach that payout faster. (Like working overtime and adding more money to your 401(k) gets you to retirement faster).
Yes, general body processes make up most of our daily caloric expenditure, but exercise can help us kick start that even more. When we exercise, we are putting stress on the body. That stress is going to start a chain reaction of different body processes; your mind telling your heart to pump faster, to push harder, to lift heavier. So the more muscles we work at a time, the more chemical reactions and neuron impulses we send. This is going to speed up all of the reactions going on in the body. Overtime, with regular exercise, we are teaching the body to work more efficiently; which in turn is going to speed up your metabolism.
Not only that but building muscle also speeds up your metabolism because muscle uses more energy to move than fat does (remember, energy used in the body is calorie burning). So if we eat foods that regulate body functions (whole foods), we exercise regularly and we keep our stress levels down…we can turn ourselves into fat burning machines!
Best Types of Exercise to Burn Fat
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and is the hottest topic in the fitness industry. Research has been done to prove that HIIT training added into your exercise regime burns more calories both during your workout and after. But how?
HIIT is designed to have you exercise at your bodies VO2MAX, which is the maximum capacity of oxygen you can utilize during exercise. Working out at this level is going to force your body to make adaptations in order to 1. Function at that capacity and 2. Recover after that capacity. The repetitions of increasing your heart rate and then allowing it to come down forces your body functions to work faster and more efficiently, which in turn is going to burn more calories. Continuously training at high-intensity intervals is going to allow the body to become a more efficient machine.
HIIT has been proven to lower insulin resistance (allowing your body to use food more efficiently), enhances skeletal muscle fat oxidation, improves glucose intolerance, and increase EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). All of these factors help your body become a fat burning machine, both during exercise and at rest.
Yes, the exercise you fear is going to “make you bulky” can actually help you lose fat. This is because it is also a high EPOC exercise type, which means even after exercise your metabolism is elevated to help your body recover from the damage done during resistance training.
As mentioned earlier, muscle uses more energy (calories). Which means as you walk around, or even sit around, your body automatically burns more calories to keep the muscles fueled. Fat uses less energy to move, because stored fat has no actual function in the body, unless it is being used for energy; which only happens when we are running low on energy because we are burning more than we are creating/consuming.
Now, this does not mean if you eat less food your body with automatically tap into fat stores. You’re body uses what is available. Its go-to for energy is glucose (which is either carbohydrates or muscle tissue). It only uses fat cells if you have conditioned your body to do so…aka you eat enough protein and fat in your diet that your body is used to running on those and not glucose (carbohydrates).
LISS stands for low-intensity steady state, so long duration cardio. When most people think about losing body fat or starting a gym regime, they think about doing countless hours of boring cardio on an elliptical or treadmill. Studies have shown that LISS training once in a while is very beneficial for aerobic fitness but can also be known for fat loss.This is because fat is the number one source of energy when working at a moderate intensity. So essentially if we do cardio at a moderate intensity 55-70% VO2MAX, we will mostly burn fat. But, that is only burning fat DURING the exercise and not after. LISS is a great way to build endurance and burn “extra” calories so that your calories in are less than your calories out, but it is not the best way to burn body fat.
LISS is very boring. And very rarely do people actually work in a moderate intensity the entire time. People will hop on the cardio equipment and start going, and then zone out. During that “sone out” phase you have no idea what your intensity is at, you are just trying to get through the boring duration. And, just like any other exercise type, your body begins to adapt. So while you increase weights in your resistance training and the level in your HIIT training, you have to also increase LISS intensity because of adaptation.
Frequency, Duration and Intensity of Exercise for Fat Loss
Most of these variables depend on the individual. No two people are alike, so no two people will get the same benefits from following the same program.
Frequency is based on how many times a week you should be exercising. My advice, whatever fits into your schedule. You don’t want to dive into too much, too fast, or you will fall off the wagon. Start with a few times a week and slowly increase. You want to try to end up anywhere between 3-6 workouts per week.
Duration is based on how long you should exercise. This also depends on the person and their schedule, although I do not recommend working out for 2 hours a day just because you have the time. More is not always better, remember that. I would shoot for your steady state exercise to last anywhere between 30-60 minutes. Your resistance training to last 30-45 minutes and your HIIT training to last from 10-20 minutes. You should never spend more than 2 hours in the gym (and that is for someone who is incredibly slow and decides to do multiple types of exercise during that time). I tend to spend about 45-60 minutes in the gym. And even that is because i sometimes drag my feet. If you put your head down and work, you can get in and out of the gym in 30 minutes and have done a stellar workout!
Intensity is based on how hard you are working. This is where some people tend to struggle. They go into the gym and kill it for a few weeks, and then plateau and can’t figure out why. This is because they never change up their workouts, or intensity, and therefore are also training at the same threshold. In order to make changes and avoid adaptations is to constantly change your training routine. This can be anything from upping the weight, upping the repetitions, increasing the level of resistance during cardio etc. If you never change the intensity, you will stop working at your anaerobic threshold and start to just maintain. As you get more efficient, so does your body, and so the threshold that you need to be working at to improve increases and therefore you need to increase!
Fat loss is tricky. It is not always a matter of calories in vs calories out. There are a lot of variables that go into successful fat loss, and sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error. Like I said, it’s not always immediate. You have to put the time and energy into the investment before you gain reap the benefits of it. But, nonetheless, this is a great tool to start from. My biggest advice…change up your routine regularly, challenge yourself, and be mindful of your diet. You can read my tips on eating for fat loss here, and there are also a few more beneficial tools in my overview of fat loss.
Contact me if you have further questions about fat loss or are ready to have some help on your journey!