If burning fat is your goal when working out, there’s a few things you should know. The first thing you should be aware of is that exercise is important regardless of how much weight you are/plan-on losing. Even if your fitness is hiding behind a bit of excess fat, as long as you’re exercising then you’re in much better shape than a skinny person who never works out.
Secondly, don’t agonise over your weight loss. Too often, people concentrate so hard on fat burning that confusion takes hold and a workout is less productive. Just find something that fits into your lifestyle and be consistent.
The key to fat burning is to burn more calories than devoured. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends a daily intake of 2350 calories for a woman and 3,000 calories per day for men, based on a moderate lifestyle. This does vary according to the individual, but for example if you stick to these amounts, then you’ll need to burn the equivalent in order not to gain weight. If you want to lose weight, however, you’ll need to burn significantly more than that.
1kg of fat is roughly the equivalent of 7,000 calories. That means that in order to lose your first kilo, you need to burn off what you’re consuming PLUS an extra 7,000 calories. No wonder shifting weight is hard!
With that in mind, you’ll need to make an action plan. An action plan should include diet, exercise, and a good sleep routine. Include a range of fat busting foods in your diet, plus several options for exercise to keep it interesting.
Fat burning activities
The activities you choose are not all that important. What is important is whether or not you can sustain your chosen activity. If you don’t have time for a one-hour brisk walk, you’ll need to find a faster activity. And if, for example, you have painful joints, you’ll want to avoid anything too high-intensity.
Consistency is the key to fat burning. It’s no good going to a spin class one week and then not getting back there for another three weeks.
In a nutshell, if you’re limited for time, look for activities that will get you into the maximum fat burning zone quickly. High intensity (or vigorous) activities include:
- Hill climbing;
- Fast cycling;
- Competitive sports;
- Fast swimming; or
- Heavy labour work (digging etc.).
If you’ve been active for a while but still don’t want to go too hard, look for moderate-intensity activities. These include:
- Brisk walking;
- Housework (vacuum, sweeping etc.);
- General building tasks;
- Lap swimming;
- Tennis (doubles); and
- Bodyweight moves.
If you’re not that fit, suffer a health condition or do have enough time on your hands, look for a lower-intensity activity that spreads your fat burning zone over a longer period. Low-intensity activities include:
- Walking the dog;
- Slow swimming;
- General housework; and
- Climbing stairs.
As a general rule, the more intense your exercise, the faster you reach the fat burning zone and the more weight you lose. But remember, as long as you are prepared to put the time into a lower-intensity activity, you can still reach your goals. And never try to jump straight into vigorous exercise if you’re new to working out.
Our top exercise tips
Here are some tips to keep in mind the next time you begin planning your exercise regime:
- Take a quick power walk to beat a midday slump - instead of turning to sugar for an energy hit, surge your energy with a boost of natural dopamine and serotonin;
- Go for the stairs instead of the lift – if you’re not in heels, take them two at a time;
- Stretch before and after exercise;
- Keep your runners in clear sight, preferably by the front door;
- Lift weights before doing cardio to tap further into your fat stores;
- Work out in the morning – that way there’s less chance of skipping it, and you’ll start the day as you mean to go on;
- Mix resistance with bodyweight exercises;
- Park the car further away from your destination and walk the extra distance; and
- Sprint, recover, repeat – exercise as hard as you can for two minutes, slow and then go hard again – it’s called high-intensity interval training, and it’s a proven way to burn more fat, plus avoid an hour on the treadmill.
Fighting belly fat is 80% diet. Without factoring your foods, you’ll get nowhere.
The most basic way to lose fat is to treat sugar as the enemy and slash your daily calorie intake. This can be done by tweaking your diet using small steps, and doesn’t have to be a hard process.
Cutting calories is a swapping process. You’re not expected to go without; you just have to make wiser food choices. Swapping can include:
- Swapping almonds and cashews for pistachios – not only are they significantly lower in calories, their shells will slow you down and you’ll eat less;
- Eat at the dinner table instead of in front of the TV – according to researchers, eating in front of the TV accounts for habitual over-eating, plus you’re tempted to stay put once you’ve finished – from the dinner table, you can go straight outside for a casual walk;
- Skip the creamy salad dressing and make your own using olive oil and a few herbs;
- Use a small plate instead of a large one – you’ll eat 20% less calories, despite eating a full plate;
- Avoid skipping breakfast, and instead opt for oatmeal and a piece of fruit to power yourself for the day;
- Use a little stock instead of oil when cooking and save 124 calories per tablespoon of oil; and
- Switch soft drink and juice for water.
Top diet tips:
- Eat 5-6 small meals a day instead of three large meals;
- Drink green tea to push your fat-burning to a new level;
- Eat a big-balanced breakfast;
- Limit alcohol;
- Stock up on fruit; and
- Instead of eating all that’s on your dinner plate, save a proportion for your lunch the next day.
Getting plenty of sleep when trying to burn fat is essential; experts say that those who get less than seven hours sleep per night have a significantly harder time losing weight.
By getting more sleep, not only do you avoid late-night snacking, you’ll keep your brain more focused, boost fat loss, and burn more calories. When tired, you produce more ghrelin which triggers cravings for sugar and other fat-building foods. It can also affect your cortisol levels, a prime reason for belly fat.
Top sleep tips:
- Avoid caffeine after 2pm;
- Choose foods containing protein and tryptophan which are sleep-enhancing foods;
- Avoid wine just before bed – it makes the second half of your sleep restless;
- Have a hot bath an hour before bed; and
- Stretch before sleep or perform a yoga pose, such as the Reclined Butterfly.