Getting lean should never be a guessing game. Here are the cold hard facts you need to know when choosing your blubber torching method!
Nobody sets out to be overweight. Most of the time it sneaks up on you like a credit card bill from a night out. Before you lace up your trainers you need to observe the first rule of long-term fat loss success: do what you love. This is the biggest hiccup with all forms of exercise.
You may not enjoy having a beefed up instructor yelling obscenities or relish the chance to numb your crotch on a bicycle. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, there’ll probably be more days when you don’t feel like exercising than days when you do.
So, when choosing your fat burning ammunition, pick a form of exercise you love. And bear in mind that the real secret to health is a sustainable exercise routine, not a two or three-month blitzkrieg on your love handles.
If your enjoyment comes from concrete results then you’ll want to know what works and what doesn’t. Here is a ranking of the best fat burning methods in reverse order, rated according to their effectiveness.
#7 EXERCISE BECOMES A CHORE
Working around the house creates impressive real-world strength that builds muscles and keeps you lean enough to earn a few treats or, in my case, beers. When household chores were compared to an equivalent calorie-burning gym activity, people felt the chores seemed easier even though they burnt as many calories.
Your body doesn’t know you’re not slogging it out in the gym, so it reacts in just the same way: building muscle and burning fat. So jump up and chisel your body and hone your muscles the old-fashioned way, just like gramps did.
- Raking leaves – 352 calories burnt in one hour*
- Painting – 409 calories burnt in one hour*
- Chopping & Splitting wood – 491 calories burnt in one hour*
- Mowing grass – 491 calories burnt in one hour*
*Calories burnt are based on a 180lb person.
#6 STEADY-STATE CARDIO
Ever looked in the mirror, grabbed your gut, given it a shake and realized you’ve added a few extra pounds? That reflections is usually followed by the question, “Where the hell are my running shoes?”. This is pretty much everyone’s knee-jerk response to unwanted expansion.
It’s easy to find studies slamming same-paced cardio in favor of interval or weight training, so let’s assume you already know that going for a run around your local park is not the best way to get leaner. Then why do it? One word: enjoyment. Getting out of the rat race under your own steam without your phone badgering you is pretty fun once you get fit enough not to be gasping for air every few minutes.
That’s because training in the outdoors is a 100% natural form of Prozac. Research in Environmental Science and Technology found that just five minutes of outdoor exercise was enough to boost mood and feelings of happiness.
So if you’re feeling a little stressed or miffed then going for a run on the beach or in the local park is an excellent way to decompress after a tough day.
Great thing about steady-state cardio is that it’s the ideal way to try a sport or even cross-train. If you want to give running, cycling, swimming, rowing or whatever, a go then the first time you have a crack at it you’ll probably plod along at the same steady pace.
That’s fine and it will eventually build stamina and most certainly will burn calories. It is a great way of creating a base level of fitness from which you can go on to tackle the fat-burning techniques higher up the food chain.
The biggest caveat of steady state-cardio: the time. If you’re willing to dedicate hours on end to getting better at a particular kind of sport then this is the route to follow. But if you have a diary full of commitments then taking endurance exercises seriously will be like taking a second job and may become too much to handle.
What’s more, if you’re a bit if a social creature then this can be a problem, but it’s easy enough to rope in a training partner or join a club. So once you’ve got all the pros and cons on the table look at the following list to see which form of exercise fry the most calories.
- Stationary bike – 571 calories burnt in one hour
- Rowing – 572 calories burnt in one hour
- Elliptical trainer – 589 calories burnt in one hour
- Rowing (fast) – 695 calories burnt in one hour
- Step machine – 735 calories burnt in one hour
- Stationary bike (fast) – 859 calories burnt in one hour
- Walking (moderate) – 279 calories burnt in one hour
- Kayaking – 409 calories burnt in one hour
- Tennis – 654 calories burnt in one hour
- Soccer – 818 calories burnt in one hour
- Swimming – 818 calories burnt in one hour
- Running (moderate) – 900 calories burnt in one hour
- Road cycling (fast) – 1,301 calories burnt in one hour
- Running (fast) – 1309 calories burnt in one hour
*Calories burnt per hour are based on a 180lb person.
#5 THRESHOLD TRAINING
This is where you’ll start to do long intervals to boost your sports performance, fat-burning prowess and stamina.
Imagine how you’d feel if you ran 400m or 800m flat-out. If you’re brave enough, give it a try. Or just kick back and try to picture the exhaustion you’d feel when you rounded that final run. You’re legs would feel like they had a curry stewing inside them. That feeling is what most people describe as lactic acid. They’re wrong. Lactic acid is not that burn, and manipulating it is the backbone of this training beast because it’s a fuel that’s friend not foe.
Lactic acid is a by-product – not a waste product – of your body using glucose (energy created when you eat carbs or fat) for fuel. As glucose is fed into your muscles not all of it is used. What remains seeps out of your muscle cells into your blood. When this happens hydrogen ions are released and the resulting salt is called lactic acid or lactate. Your live then sets to work converting these leftovers into more fuel so you can keep exercising.
There are several tests that figure out what your lactic threshold is but if you’re looking to burn fat and get fitter then there are just two things you need to know.
The first is that these intense bouts of exercise need to last 90 to 180 seconds. The second is that you need to train at 85 to 90% of your maximum heart rate for about 20 to 25 minutes. This won’t be continuous – you couldn’t do that if you wanted to – and will be broken down by periods of rest.
You can do far more complex and accurate tests, but this equation will give you a near exact figure to work towards.
#4 CARDIOACCELERATION, AKA EXERCISE CLASSES
This abomination of fat burning and muscle-building will quell post-workout stiffness and give you the most well-rounded form of fitness.
Boxing. Spin. Body pump. There are a lot of fat-burning choices to be had even with the most vanilla gym membership. Most exercise classes follow a pretty set formula that has you alternating between bouts of strength moves and cardio. So you’d do a few push-ups followed by skipping or hitting the mitts.
Fortunately, the boffins at the University of California were also tired of all these ambiguous choices so they decided to test the effectiveness of several kinds of training. They got one group to do cardio, another group to do resistance training and a final group to run for 30 to 60 seconds after each weightlifting set.
The last option is similar to what most exercise classes will do if you’re running around in a boot camp-style environment. Even though each group did the same amount of work, the combination group experienced the following:
- 35% greater improvement in lower body strength
- 53% greater improvement in lower body endurance
- 28% greater improvement in lower body flexibility
- 144% greater improvement in upper body flexibility
- 82% greater improvement in muscle gains
- 9.91% greater loss in fat mass
That means that the hybrid approach not only got rid of more wobbles, it also got a bigger muscle-building response, making it a bit like polar bears breeding with grizzly bears to make a super-bear.
The researchers didn’t mention how intense each session was, which is why this training animal comes in at number four in terms of effectiveness.
#3 INTERVAL TRAINING
Interval training was once a buzzword: ‘do less – gain more’ or ‘twice the burn in half the time.’ You’ve heard the headline but the bottom line is that it works because you get fitter and leaner when your body adapts to a workload that’s higher than it’s used to.
It would be impossible to work hard for a long period of time, such as sprinting a marathon, so in order to force your muscles to work beyond their limits you insert a little break. These rest periods, during which you’re not actually resting but are still moving at a slow pace, help your energy stores recover and let you recharge your battery. The breaks help you work at an intensity that’s far higher than you’re used to which fast-tracks your gains.
So much that a Laval University study found that this kind of training burns up to three times as much far as plodding along at the same pace. And if you’re interested in performing better than this is also your best option.
#2 HIGH-INTENSITY TRAINING
Warm up your running shoes because this system is about to burn holes in them. Warning: it’s not for the faint-hearted or weak-willed. Before you get started, know that there is a big difference between interval training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). The principles are similar, because they both alternate periods of hard work and rest. But this parallel might leave you confused about their key difference.
They’re like the moon and sun: both are big round things you’ll find above you, but they’re not the same entity. This is true of these two training animals.
Interval training is the moon – it’ll give light. But the superior entity, the sun, a.k.a. high-intensity interval training, is best for seeing things like your abs. That’s because HIIT is brutal. It has a single goal: obliterate every scrap of energy you have in the shortest time possible.
If you’re brave enough to do it properly, there shouldn’t be a breath left in you to whine about how tired you are. It’s for this reason that it’s not often done properly with exercisers doing the working part of the intervals slowly.
For it to work, it needs to be puke-worthy so the veins on your forehead are bulging. You see, not everyone has an in-built dungeon master he can turn on during a workout. The best way to do HIIT and push past your pain barriers is to have a training partner or personal trainer tell you what to do.
It works best if he or she has more of a sadistic drill sergeant attitude than that of a respectable professional.
#1 HIGH-INTENSITY WEIGHTLIFTING CIRCUITS
The cast-iron, no fail route to fat loss is to get sweaty using weights. To lose a lot if your gut quickly, don’t think of lifting weights as a choice. Consider it a necessity. Why? Getting to grips with weights affects how your body burns energy.
A West Virginia University study compared weightlifting and cardiovascular exercise and found pumping iron actually speeds up metabolism – the rate at which you fry calories – when you’re doing nothing at all.
The lifters in the study peeled off an average of 32lb and saw their metabolisms hike by 4%. The people in the study who were doing aerobics lost more weight – an average 40lb – but that included 9lb of muscle.
Consequently, their metabolisms slowed down by an average of 14% This means, in the future those folk with slower metabolisms will have more trouble keeping the weight off, a problem easily avoided if you build muscle while dropping fat. Resistance-based circuits do this by targeting all your muscles: chest, back, arms, core and legs.
The overall goal of lifting weights to burn fat is to increase your energy expenditure in the long-term by giving you more muscle all over, so your metabolism hikes up and prevents future fat gain.
Though your shirt size will decrease, your weight might hike up as you add muscle. Remember not to treat the scale as gospel because it doesn’t take your body fat levels into account. A pound of fat takes up a lot more space than a pound of dense muscle.
Rather take readings with a tape measure or get your body fat percentage taken, although some scales will do it for you. These are perfect points of reference to plot your improvements against. You may not always notice the difference because the increments of change are sometimes too small and happen daily, but the figures will help you keep track of your progress, making for a great source of motivation.
And having the will to stick to it guarantees you a body to be proud of, which doesn’t have to come at the cost of a normal life.