3/03/2009

Losing Body Fat

There are only 2 proven ways to lose body fat: Burn more calories than you consume or consume fewer calories than you burn. Most of use a combination of both - exercise and watching our diets. What about watching carbs? Sure, if you load up on empty calories your body may crave more nutrition and you'll end up eating more, but protein shakes are also loaded with calories that you may not need. I've got some tips, by no means a complete list but just my personal top 10:

Cary's Top 10 Fat Burning Tips
1. Eat a good breakfast. Numerous studies have shown that people who eat breakfast do a better job losing weight and keeping it off. Breakfast skippers tend to make up lost calories later in the day. They don't have the energy to work out as hard, and the body doesn't produce the enzymes need to burn fat during their workout. One theory is that if you workout hard on an empty stomach, the body goes into "survival mode" - sparing fat and burning muscle protein for energy.
2. Use a combination of cardiovascular and strength training activities. Both burn calories while you are working out. Strength training has the added advantage of building muscle mass so that your metabolism increases - so you burn more calories at rest. Start with a cardio warm up, but avoid long cardio sessions before your strength training if you want to burn fat. You want as much energy as possible available for the strength training session. (If you're already lean and training for a marathon, you can skip this advice). Exercise at least 150 minutes er week, more to make real changes in body composition.
3. Work in the "cardio training zone" and you'll burn more fat than in the "fat burning zone." The fat burning zone is a myth: you may get a higher percentage of calories but the total calories burned is lower. You actually burn the highest percentage of calories while sleeping, not exactly a fat burning activity. The cardio zone begins at about 70% of your maximum heart rate. People who aren't on medication can use 220-age to get their maximum hear rate. (In my fitness orientations, we use a different formula that is more personalized.)
4. Interval training for your cardio activities can increase your calorie burn for several hours after you are done exercising. This is recommended for those of you who have already established an aerobic base. Try alternating between 65%-75% of your maximum heart rate for 2 minute intervals.
5. Circuit Training for your strength activities keeps the calories burning - The idea is to keep your heart rate up by eliminating the rest in between sets. Most of my workouts are organized in compound sets, working opposite body parts so that while one side works the other side rests. You may need to rethink or reorganize your traditional split routines. Just be sure to rest each muscle group for 48 hours in between workouts.
6. Gear your strength training to building lean muscle and burning fat. Target the large muscle groups, your legs, back and chest muscles burn more calories than arms and shoulders, and the latter get worked along with the big muscles. You should generally be working in the endurance strength training zone, so do 2-3 sets of 12-20 repetitions of the exercises at moderate weight. Exercises that require you to stand and/or stabilize generally burn more calories than seated or lying exercises. Total body exercises (i.e. lunges with chest press/lat pull down/biceps curls) really turn up the heat.


7. Don't rely on fad diets and supplements. Try to make lasting changes in your diet and lifestyle. Be careful of supplements containing large amounts of stimulants like caffeine and guarana, these can increase your heart rate and you may already be consuming caffeine in your coffee or tea. Caffeine in moderation does help burn fat. If you're already getting enough protein in your diet, ship the protein supplement you don't need the extra calories! The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that endurance trained athletes consume 1.2-1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily.
8. Periodize, or change your exercise routine, at least every 4-6 weeks. Your body adapts during this period and you will see diminishing returns on the time you invest. You can change the pace and duration of your cardio routine. For strength training, change the sets, repetitions, tempo, try less stable exercises and total body exercises.
9. Avoid Overtraining - Muscles grow while you rest. If you are spending more than an hour 3-4x a week working out and not seeing results, and often feel tired and sore, you may be overtraining. Your body shuts down the muscle building process and stops burning stored fat. Work hard, but also rest.
10. Pay careful attention to posture, aches, pains and injuries. You're in this for the long haul and cannot afford to be sidelined by pain or injury that keeps you from working out. It is important to incorporate corrective exercises into your program - call it "prehab" - and avoid exercises that can exacerbate your problem areas. The most common problems that I see include: a. Feet Turn Out /Knees Turn in - sets you up for foot pain (plantar fascitis), knee or hip pain or injury, back pain; b. Shoulders Roll Inward - sets you up for rotator cuff injury, possible upper spinal injury; c. Arched Back - Sets up disk injury may also indicate predisposition to abdominal herniation. I am happy to meet with you, assess you for these potential issues and discuss appropriate corrective exercises and program modifications.