How can I strip fat forever and get fit?

Go down to your local gym and use a rowing machine (or similar piece of CV kit and exercise intensity). If you row for about 45min to 1 hour each day at a steady 2 minutes 10 seconds per 500m pace, you’ll burn around 600 calories. Do that every day for a week and you’ll have burnt 4,200 calories.

Even if you made no changes to your diet, at the end of the week you could have lost half a Kg. As you get fitter you will become more exercise efficient, so to burn the same number of calories each workout you’ll have to increase the time or the pace at which you row or do other CV exercise.

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Training tip: never increase the intensity and the length of your CV workouts at the same time – progress one at a time.

Is CV exercise the only exercise suitable for fat burning?

No. Weight training, all sports and fitness activities, gardening and other day-to-day activities all burn fat. What you specifically need to be concerned about is 1) the total number of calories burned – wherever the calories come from and 2) the effect the exercise type has on your body composition, in terms of promoting and maintaining increased leanness (non-fat weight).

Training tip: for optimum fat burning and great body shape, X-train – that’s combine resistance and CV work in your training – you burn calories and will develop a lean, balanced and strong body.

So how does weight training burn fat?

You won’t burn so many calories weight training (see table 1) compared to CV training, but the potential effect it will have on your body composition and metabolic rate are significant.

Table 1: Fitness activities and calorie burning

The above figures are based on a 65Kg individual. Weigh more and you’ll expend more additional calorie, weigh less and you’ll expend fewer.

Muscle is the most metabolically active part of your body, burning up to three times as many calories as any other tissue type, even at rest. Weights (and other forms of resistance training, like circuits) promote the development of lean muscle, boosting your fat burning potential. A 0.5Kg increase in muscle will up your weekly calorie burn by 350Kcal.

Training tip: weight train before your CV workouts, if performing both activities in the same session. This will allow you to lift strongly and CV train well.

Table 2: Carbohydrate and fat calorie burning averages at low to high exercise intensities.

Why can higher intensity CV workouts be a better weight loss proposition?

Higher intensity workouts are carried out above 75% HRmax. You’ll get a much greater return from these (subject to your fitness level, being able to sustain them). See: Table 2. Try to forget about where the calories burned come from, what really matters is the total calorie burn for weight loss – the higher the intensity the higher the calorie burn and the more significant the potential for weight and fat loss. This is because:

1) Burning greater numbers of calories can produce an energy deficit in your body, which may not be fully recoverable by your eating habits. This is especially the case if you deliberately control your energy consumption through your eating to achieve a ‘negative energy balance’.

A negative energy balance is achieved when you take in less calories than you would need to balance your ‘energy in’ and ‘energy out’ needs on a daily basis. We recommend that for optimum fat burning and weight loss you only achieve this deficit two days of the week. Creating an energy deficit more regularly will run the risk of a) not taking in sufficient calories to supply your body with enough energy (and nutrients) for your daily and fitness needs b) risking metabolic slow down.

2) Post exercise calorie burn and an increase in metabolic rate. Higher intensity efforts can create a positive post workout legacy of calorie burning, where your metabolic rate remains elevated. This can be by as much as 14% for those who train regularly and intensely – that’s equivalent to 143 and 286Kcal a day.

The importance of glycogen

When you exercise carbohydrate in the form of glycogen stored in your muscles, tends to pick up the energy tab. Glycogen is muscle fuel. Rather like money you can run out of it easily, as the body can only store it in limited amounts (on average only 425g). That’s enough for you to run or walk around 16 miles.

In consequence you need to consume sufficient carbohydrate (see below) and follow a balanced training programme to permit the optimum conditions for glycogen replacement. Even if a workout could be devised that gained all its metabolic power from your body’s fat supplies and didn’t touch your carbohydrate (glycogen) stores there’d still be a problem. Your body would be unable to create further glycogen from carbohydrate. This is because its store cupboard would be full, so it would have no other option but to turn this excess into fat.

Training tip: those in medium to hard training should only reduce their daily calorie consumption by 15%-20% two days a week when you want to create a negative energy balance. Doing this everyday in your case could negatively effect your training and slow your metabolic rate. If you are starting out on a weight loss programme and are training more regularly and carrying ‘excess’ weight then more regular – but controlled – calorie restriction can be followed.

Why can it be more beneficial to eat five to six meals a day, rather than two or three?

Ok, you should not demolish a four course meals every four hours throughout the day, but five to six smaller meals can actually make you a more efficient fat burning machine. Eating burns calories as well as providing them. This is called the ‘Thermic effect of feeding’ (TEF). TEF accounts for 10% of total daily energy expenditure. Eating regularly and sensibly will add to your calorie burning, energy maintenance and prevent metabolic slow down.

Training tip: fats have very little effect on TEF, carbohydrates and protein are much more beneficial. Aim for 55-60% of your total calorie consumption from carbohydrate, 15% from protein and the rest from fat. Avoid saturated fats, as found in sweets and cakes.

Are some people less able to burn fat than others?

Research has substantiated this. The difficulty is determining whether you are better at fat burning than someone else. Specialist testing equipment is required. Some people can burn significant amounts of fat at high CV exercise, whilst others max out at much lower levels.

What can you do if you have been training for a long time and are having difficulty losing more fat?

Take a serious look at your training and look to overhaul it regularly. This will provide your body with a fresh stimulus and will optimise the long term potential for continued fitness improvement and fat burning. Try altering between periods of steady state CV work and higher intensity intervals, for example, or change from circuit style weights to heavier workouts, using lower reps and more recovery.

Training tip: alter the emphasis of your training every 12 to 16 weeks.

Why can quick weight loss be disappointing in the long run?

Your body finds it much easier to burn carbohydrate in the form of glycogen rather than fat. We noted that the body cannot hold onto glycogen and that it must continually be replenished. Fat on the other hand can hang around like an unwelcome party guest. Fat also weighs much less than glycogen. If you weigh yourself after a workout, chances are you will be lighter, but as fat heavy.

Reduced glycogen (and water loss) will skew the figures. That’s why dieters often get disillusioned after initial enthusiasm with quick weight loss. If exercise levels are reduced or if eating habits return to pre exercise/diet levels then the chances are that the weight will return largely because your body has restocked with glycogen.

Also diets where insufficient calories are consumed for everyday need and fitness/sports training run the risk of turning your body into a poor fat burner – this is because it will hang on to every calorie it gets in fear that the next one will be a long time coming. This is a genetic predisposition when our prehistoric ancestors could not rely on when their next meal would come.

Training tip: a lack of glycogen will also seriously affect your training potential, so to reiterate don’t starve yourself and follow the guidelines provided in this article if you want to optimise your fat burning and training.

And finally: do not ‘yo-yo’ diet as you can set your body’s fat burning dial at a very low level. A period of calorie restriction can alter your body’s ‘set point’ for burning fat and maintaining leanness. Once this is in the low range, weight can easily be gained.

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