The Right Way to Lose Fat: How to Exercise


In a past article, The Right Way To Lose Fat: What To Eat, we addressed the nutrition component of sensible fat loss. A lot was presented such as low carb/high protein, high carb/low fat, micronutrient values, and glycemic levels, but all signs pointed to creating a caloric deficit to optimally burn body fat. This article will highlight how exercise should be implemented to maximize fat-burning potential. That stated, please heed the following statement (imagine me yelling it to you through a megaphone with the volume maxed-out):

80% of the Battle Against Body Fat Is Diet

Exercise itself does not burn a significant number of calories, relatively speaking. Not to discount its value, but if you rely solely on exercise and pay zero attention to your dietary habits (READ: you eat like crap), you will not make it far. As I always say, “A good forty-minute workout can be ruined by five minutes of bad eating.” Amen.

Let’s take a look at the estimated caloric expenditure of several exercises/activities. There are a gazillion “calories burned from exercisecalculators all over the Inter-web (there…I just gave you access to three of them). Are they accurate? I don’t know. Remember, they are only estimates, but they will at the least get you close. Using my body weight (190 pounds) as an example, here are the estimates of three different calculators:

Running/working at 5 miles per hour pace for 30 minutes:

Calories burned = 344, 364, and 345.

Running/working at 10 miles per hour pace for 30 minutes:

Calories burned = 713, 775, and 689.

Two points can be gleaned from the above:

  1. Estimates vary
  2. Greater effort burns more calories

I would like to emphasize that second point with my megaphone again:

Greater Effort Burns More Calories

Other exercises/activities and the estimated calories burned in 30 minutes (150 pound person):

  • Dancing (casual) = 197
  • Dancing (gettin’ down!) = 274
  • Walking @ three miles per hour = 150
  • Walking @ 4.5 miles per hour = 233
  • Rollerblading (casual) = 270
  • Rollerblading (fast) = 319
  • Martial Arts = 401
  • Frisbee = 206

Some of the most disheartening moments I often see are well-intended but misguided people who make a bee line to the treadmill to “do their cardio.” It usually goes like this:

  • Ear buds in.
  • iPod tethered to the arm.
  • Maury Povich tuned in on the tube.
  • Treadmill set to three miles per hour.
  • The plodding away begins.
  • 45 minutes elapses and a whopping 270 calories are incinerated.
  • Whew, what a session!

Now it’s time to get back to the crib and inhale a three-ounce bag of nacho cheese tortilla chips and deposit approximately 450 calories back to the tank.

If the significance of bad eating and relatively low value of exercise is not evident by now, let’s look at some more depressing factoids. Go to one of my favorite web sites, Type in your favorite “cheat” food and portion size (those nacho cheese tortilla chips are sounding quite delicious right now). The web site offers examples on how to burn the number of calories in the food choice entered.

To expunge the 450 calorie tortilla chips would require any one of these:

  • 125 minutes of walking.
  • 51 minutes of jogging.
  • 37 minutes of swimming.
  • 69 minutes of cycling.

Is it worth eating poorly knowing it will take some major effort to counter it with exercise? I know the phrase has been beaten to death, but it surely applies: “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.”

All right, time to cut to the quick. If you want to maximize the exercise component in the attempt to shed body fat, do this: Choose exercise modes that are physically demanding. Yes, they’re more discomforting, but they use more energy. In place of a low-effort, 45-minute treadmill walk, do 20 minutes of high effort intervals. Try a circuit training workout, do a half-hour boot camp, run hills, whatever – just WORK HARDER.

Will you be out of the “fat burning zone” by working harder? Yes, but you’ll be depleting your glycogen stores with the higher-effort training. You could even add a lower carbohydrate diet. The glycogen depletion forces your body to tap stored adipose fat and use it as energy, both in workouts and post-workout during recovery.

Regarding the infamous fat burning zone, it was once thought that you had to “go slow” to solely burn fat. Going faster would shift to glycogen. True, but understand these facts:

  • We possess an almost unlimited supply of energy in the form of stored fat. Marathoners fatigue due to glycogen depletion, not fat.
  • If you want to get into the purest fat burning zone, take a nap. Sleeping is purely aerobic (unless you have violent nightmares – those will require immediate energy).
  • As previously noted, you will burn more fat post-workout during the recovery process if you engage in high-effort training, all other factors being equal.

Last but not least, STRENGTH TRAIN. Yes gals, that means you, too. Possessing more muscle means possessing less fat. The process of building strength and more muscle is intense. Intense workouts deplete glycogen. And as you know, depleted glycogen can lead to fat being used as energy.

I’ll end with this tidbit of info:

  • Yummy = a 12-ounce cola and 3 pieces of pepperoni pizza.
  • Ugh = a 90-minute jog to burn them off.

Now that you know how to train for fat loss, learn how to eat for fat loss, too.

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