The 3 best types of exercise to burn fat - part 2
Now that we understand about the real reasons why we store or burn fat, and we’ve cleaned up our nutrition, established more regular and predictable meal timings, and improved our sleeping and waking routine, it’s time to talk about exercise… if not, re-read The 3 best types of exercise to burn fat - part 1.
The first thing to say about the best types of exercise to burn fat is that this is also about chemicals and messages. “But what about calories?” I hear you ask. And I know: it’s what we’ve been taught, probably by the same people who’ve stuffed up the nutrition advice and made us all fat, sick and tired. So let me release you of the shackles of calorie-burning exercise using this quick example:
Jane wants to lose 20 pounds. She exercises on a cross-trainer for 60mins, five times per week and burns 450 calories in each workout. This equates to 2250 calories per week. One pound of fat contains approximately 3500 calories. Presuming her nutrition is perfect and she’s not exceeding her daily calorie intake, it will take her 7.8 hours to burn each pound of fat. At this rate it will take her 156 hours, or 7.4 months of exercising for 5 hours per week for her to reach her goal.
WTF?!!! …7.4 months of exercising for five hours a week?! No thanks.
So, hopefully that has shed some light on the futility of trying to lose weight by using traditional calorie-burning style exercise.
The aerobic and fat-burning heart rate zones were introduced in the 1970s by sports scientists, seeking to enhance aerobic performance of runners and cyclists. Their research had little or no relevance to people who wanted to lose weight. While fat may well be the predominant fuel burned during low intensity exercise and indeed low level daily activity like walking, breathing and organ function, the amount of fat burned by these low-intensity activities is minimal.
So what type of exercise does burn fat?
The three types of exercise that cause our bodies to burn fat long after we stop training are those that trigger the release of specific anabolic hormones, (namely growth hormone and testosterone) chemical messengers that tell our bodies to burn fat. Testosterone is often known as the “male” hormone, but in women it is produced in the ovaries and is an important hormone for female health. Testosterone helps women maintain lean, strong muscle mass, increase bone density, improve mood, libido, energy levels and reduce body fat. Certain types of exercise also change the way our bodies use food, converting it more into muscle and less into fat.
The effect of these chemical changes can last up to 24 hours, which means that our bodies are burning fat at a higher rate for the whole of the rest of the day. And the workout time required to initiate these chemical changes: usually between 20-45mins. As you can see, this is far more effective than slogging it out on a cross trainer for hours on end. But the key is intensity. Growth hormone and testosterone are only released when we exercise at high intensity.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Sprint Cardio
HIIT has taken on new meanings since the world has become educated by social media experts; however, traditionally (and in almost all the research) HIIT is performed using a single cardiovascular exercise (e.g. running, cycling, rowing). The workout involves short intervals of extremely high intensity sprints or “maximal” exercise followed by slightly longer intervals of rest. This is usually repeated between three and ten times. A study by Phil Campbell (2012) found that when subjects exercised for eight sprint intervals of 30 seconds, followed by 90 seconds rest, their growth hormone levels increased by 771%, in under 20 minutes. Over an eight week period of performing this workout three times per week the subjects’ lost an average of 31% body fat. Read more about Sprint Cardio training
Training with weights is another effective way to encourage your body to burn fat. While the act of lifting weights burns little or no fat itself, the hormonal response from resistance training is significant, and lasts for hours. Growth hormone and testosterone are both elevated after resistance training in men and women. While the effect is greater in the young, it is still apparent in the elderly, causing increased strength and bone density, so everyone can benefit from the effects of strength training. One of the main ways that strength training impacts body fat is the way it causes increases in your lean muscle mass. The more muscle mass you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate, i.e. the more energy your body will burn on a daily basis, whether you’re exercising or just going about your normal daily activities. Ideal.
High Intensity Circuit Training
This is a form of resistance training, basically circuit training with weights, where you perform a series of exercises that target different muscles or body parts, so that you can get more “work” done in a given time. At the point that one muscle group is fatigued, you move onto training another, and so on, usually combining between four and eight exercises in the circuit. This makes for a very “metabolic” training session as well as creating significant hormonal response due to the intensity of the resistance exercises. The key to this type of workout is selecting the right level of resistance or weights. Ideally you should be able to perform each exercise 6-10 times before reaching muscular fatigue. The circuit can then be repeated three to five times.
So there you have it, there three best types of exercise to burn fat. In summary, if your goal is to shed some pounds, tone up and achieve a lean athletic physique, as it is for 90% of the people I see on a regular basis, ditch the steady-state cardio and try one or all of the training methods mentioned above. In just 20-30 minutes of high intensity or strength training three times per week you’ll burn fat faster, and keep it off, than you ever will slogging it away on the treadmill or cross-trainer.
Enjoy the results!
If you enjoyed this article but haven’t yet read Part 1, check out The 3 best types of exercise to burn fat - part 1.
Disclaimer: the types of exercise in this article involve extreme levels of exertion and are not suitable for everybody. This article is for information only, you must check with your doctor before starting, or significantly increasing, any exercise regime.