Before we start pointing the finger at fat and accusing it of being evil, we need to understand firstly that fat is incredibly important in the optimal functioning of our bodies! Most importantly, fat is our bodies primary source of energy. To put this in perspective, the typical adult male of normal weight has around 100,000 calories of stored fat. In comparison, we only have around 1,500 calories of stored carbohydrate. Fat also serves many other functions in the body from absorbing and transporting fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) around the body, protecting and insulating vital organs, providing cell membrane structure to allow better nerve/ brain signal function and the regulation and production of hormones within the body (particularly estrogen). On the flip side, an extreme lack of essential fats can lead to decreases in nerve and brain function, hormonal imbalances, higher risks of depressions and anxiety, higher insulin resistance and ironically it can result in weight gain. So now we know fat isn’t as scary as first thought, let’s get to how we go about reducing and controlling it!
Your best friend in the fight against excess fat, it is all about keeping your metabolism working efficiently and for as long as possible. Erratic eating and lifestyle patterns all spell doom for the unsuspecting metabolism. To get the most out of yours, exercise and a good approach to nutrition will help skyrocket your bodies efficiency leading to increased performance and fat burning potential! When asked about this, the analogy I use is to imagine you are burning a fire. To keep a fire going and burning its hottest, it requires regular stoking and kindling. This is very similar to your metabolism and to keep it working at its best, it needs regular sources of food to keep it fuelled.
This can be achieved by swapping out different sources of nutrition. Opting for a slower release source of carbohydrate such as oats, wholegrains and sweet potatoes will prolong your digestion and keep your metabolism fired up. Also including more protein in your diet can help immensely when it comes to burning fat as well as muscle growth. To put this into perspective, your metabolism burns roughly 15% of the calories you intake from carbohydrate but for protein, it is roughly around 30%! What does this mean? You are burning roughly twice as many calories just by changing what you put on your plate purely through digestion!
How many calories do I need?
While are many daily calorie calculators that can be found online that will help you, I would recommend consulting with a medical professional or nutritionist first in order to get the most accurate number for you!
Lifestyle and fat loss
Perhaps the most important factor in your fat loss journey, sleep is the key to optimising your body. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that normal sleeper’s resting energy expenditure – the number of calories burnt when not moving – was five percent higher than their tired counterparts. They also burned 20% more calories after a meal in comparison. During sleep is also when your body repairs and heals so you will be more refreshed leading to harder work during exercise, faster muscle growth and more calories burnt! Get those 8 hours!
Drinking water is a key part in helping shed excess fat. A study conducted in 2010 found that out of two groups that followed the same low-calorie diet over a 12-week period found that the group that drank 500ml of water before breakfast, lunch and dinner lost on average 5 more pounds then those who didn’t. Water retention also has a very similar look and feel as fat!
Cortisol. A stress hormone which if left unchecked can cause untold problems for the aspiring exerciser. In normal function increases glucose levels in the blood during stressful times to help boost energy to help fight illness and infection. However, it is also responsible for suppressing immune system response and digestive function. Too much of it over time can lead to tissue breakdown, reduced muscle mass, increases in abdominal fat storage and sugar cravings amongst other things. Stretching, meditation or just taking a walk or bath can help bring Cortisol levels down.
Just as undertraining can lead to fat gain, working out and exerting yourself too much can also have similar effects. Symptoms of overtraining include increased illness, increased resting heart rate, increased incidences of injury and insomnia to name a few. It also can lead to muscle loss which in turn will increase your bodyfat percentage! This is far less common but if you find yourself with these symptoms, time to take a break!
Fat loss and cardio
Cardio is your fast track ticket to shedding fat and increasing your cardiovascular fitness all in one. There are many ways to go about this and it is easy to get lost in amongst all the different approaches but let’s break it down and go through the basics.
Steady state/ Continuous training
A place to start when it comes to fat loss and cardiovascular training. This form of cardio utilised continuous exercise without fluctuation of intensity. Examples of this would be incline walking, moderate intensity cycling or jogging. This keeps you burning and is also great to use on recovery days or to finish off a weight training session.
Not to be confused with just high intensity interval training (HIIT). Interval training has the capacity to be both high and moderate intensity depending on the types of intervals used. Recognised as being one of most effective ways to optimise fat burning, it is a great way to spike your metabolism and increased cardiovascular performance simultaneously.
Example intervals: 30 seconds at 80-90% capacity followed by 90 second at 50-60% capacity for 30-45 minutes.
Fat loss and weight training
If cardio is your fast track ticket, muscle mass and weight training is your loyalty card. The more muscle mass you have, the more energy you need to fuel it and the more calories you will burn using it. Where cardio gets the initial fat off, your muscle mass will keep it off and as muscle is denser and heavier then fat, it will give you the slim and toned look that we all strive for even if the scales say otherwise!
To get the quickest results, the best movements to perform should be ones that involve multiple muscle groups as these burn the most calories performing and build muscle fastest! Consult an exercise professional about technique before doing these movements and always exercise responsibly!
Harrison is a Freelance trainer and certified corrective exercise and movement specialist.