Would you like to know the secret to blasting stubborn fat?
First, a riddle. Which came first – the chicken or the egg?
Did you ever figure that one out?
Arguing about whether nutrition or diet is more important to your weight loss is almost as impossible to answer. My mother has been heard to say that she could never be as thin as I am because she can’t run a marathon. Well, I don’t like to argue with my mother but her lack of running isn’t the issue. As a Sports Dietitian with a Masters Degree in Nutrition, I know the key to ensure my client’s weight loss is to boost their metabolism. It’s all about choosing metabolically activating foods. In fact, I called the program I created “Metabolic Boost”. So yes I am all about what you eat and when you eat it. However…
Losing fat isn’t ALL about diet
Nutrition is not the only factor in fat loss. While food intake plays a bigger role than most of us would like to admit, exercise will dramatically speed up your weight loss. The right exercise, that is. Not those hours on the treadmill.
In this article, I’ll explain how fat burning workouts work and then show you where you can find specific fat burning workouts to follow at your gym or at home. Some of this might sound like science class but bear with me; you’ll be glad you did.
How these workouts burn stubborn fat
Unfortunately, your body is designed to store fat. Back in the hunter / gatherer days, our ancestors didn’t have a steady supply of McDonalds drive-throughs. Their next meal was never assured. When there was food, they ate plenty. Whatever wasn’t used immediately by the body was stored as fat. And that was a good thing.
But now we have too much of a good thing and we need to cut back.
When you cut back on your calorie intake your body compensates by slowing it’s production of the hormones related to your thyroid function and your metabolic rate. Your body produces more of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase which conserves energy by storing calories as fat. If you reduce your calorie intake too far you actually encourage your body to store food as fat rather than use it for functions such as hair and nail growth.
This doesn’t happen immediately; in the short term you lose weight when you cut back on calories. But eventually you hit that plateau.
Your body loves it’s fat
To your body fat is golden. Fat is key to survival. Your body is not going to let go of fat very easily. You need to make holding on to that fat more painful than letting go of it. And that is where our fat burning workouts come into play.
(science alert: stay awake through the next two paragraphs)
What these workouts do is convince your body to let go of the fat by overcoming your body’s lipolytic resistance (in layman’s terms, fat storage mode). Studies have shown that the more intense the workout the more likely the body’s physiological response is to override it’s lipolytic resistance and let go of the fat.
Your body’s lipolytic resistance has to do with how different hormones bind to either alpha or beta receptors. Fat cells have both B1 (beta 1) and A2 (alpha 2) adrenoreceptors. In simple terms, B1 receptors release fat: they activate lipase, which causes the fat cell to break down from a triglyceride to a free fatty acid (which can then be used as energy).
Noreadrenaline is a stress hormone and is used to “trigger” the B1 receptors. For example, when you engage in high intensity exercise (a stress to the body), noreadrenaline is released, and it seeks out B1 receptors to break down fat.
Don’t be fooled with what you have heard about “fat burning zones”. To burn stubborn fat you need to engage in high intensity exercise, trudging along on the treadmill is not a stressor.
So if high intensity exercise is the answer, does that mean my workouts should consist of all-out sprints?
Well no, it isn’t that simple. Mainly because you can’t sprint long enough to trigger the response you want to kick the fat to the curb. That’s where interval training comes in. An interval workout means you switch between high intensity and low intensity exercise several times DURING EACH workout session. Switching between high and low intensity creates that magic bullet.
What an interval workout looks like:
Basic Interval Training – this can be done on a treadmill, stairmaster or stationary bicycle.
30 minute work out.
Whichever piece of equipment you choose, figure out what is a high zone for yourself. A high zone is a level where you can barely complete the 2 minutes. e.g. For your “high” intervals, set the treadmill on 8 minutes/ mile if you normally run 9:30 /mile. If you have already had your heart rate test done, use zone 1 to 2 as the “off” time, and zones 4 and 5 as the “on” time.
- Mins 0 – 4: warm up (zone 1) easy intensity of about 2 out of 10
- Mins 4 – 5: moderate intensity : zone 3 (jogging, can hold a conversation)
- Mins 5 – 8: low intensity, easy jogging, zone 1 to 2
- Mins 8 – 9: high intensity zone 4 to 5 (cannot hold a conversation, all out work)
- Mins 9 – 10 : low intensity
- Mins 10 – 13 high intensity
- Mins 12 – 14 low intensity
- Mins 14 – 15 high intensity
- Mins 15 – 18 low intensity
- Mins 18 – 19 high intensity
- Mins 19 – 20 low intensity
- Mins 20 – 23 high intensity
- Mins 23 – 25 low intensity
- Mins 25 – 28 high intensity
- Mins 28 – 30 lowest, cool down (back to walking comfortably)
CAUTION: Do not be tempted to do the low intensity a little harder. KEY to this workout is for your heart rate to DROP during the low intensity sections.
Here are two reasons you want to do interval training:
- High intensity exercise does not burn fat as a fuel, it burns carbohydrates. (That is the basis of the “fat burning zone” myth.) To overcome this, you use interval workouts. The high intensity section stresses the body to trigger the fat hormone release and the lower intensity lets you rest enough to tackle the next high intensity repetition.
- If you sprint as fast as you can, perhaps you can sprint for 5 minutes. That is 5 minutes of high intensity workouts. If you do intervals of 2 minutes hard, then 3 minutes easy – and you do this for 30 minutes, you will complete 12 minutes of intervals, and as far as I know, 12 is more than 5.
There you have it. A scientific explanation of why that stubborn fat is hanging around and a workout (intervals) to get rid of the stubborn fat.