FAT LOSS – FITNESS AND HEALTHY EATING
If you are looking to tone up, lose a few pounds around your midsection, or even lose 100 pounds, your primary fitness goal is going to be fat loss. Before you even think of starting a fat burning workout plan you need to realise that fat loss does not occur quickly.
Everyone wants to lose fat fast and go from “flab to fab” overnight, but it is just not possible. Before you start an exercise programme and modify your diet, it is important to do some simple math to get a general idea of how long it will take to achieve your goal so you can go into your new programme with realistic expectations
Know What You’re Getting Yourself Into
To get a general idea of how long it will take to achieve your fat loss goal, you can simply multiply how many pounds you would like to lose by 3500. The reason behind this is because one pound of body fat amounts to approximately 3500 calories.
For example, if you are looking to lose 20 pounds of fat, you need to expend 70,000 more calories than you consume! You can estimate how long it will take to burn a desired amount of body fat better if you know your body fat percentage.
Creating a 70,000 calorie deficit is not something you can do in a day, a week, or even a month. Most fitness experts, dieticians and personal trainers recommend consuming somewhere around 500 calories less than your maintenance levels (how many calories it takes to maintain your current weight) per day. Using this example, it would take a person a little over 4 and 1/2 months (140 days) to healthily lose those unwanted 20 pounds of body fat!
Fat Burning Workout Plan: General Tips
Before you even think about starting a fat burning workout plan, it is very important to familiarize yourself with the basic science behind fat loss. Once you have a firm grasp of the basic science behind fat loss and are able to think realistically, you will have a far greater chance of success. Use these general tips based on the experience of personal trainers and dieticians as the basis of your fat loss exercise programme.
Know Simple Fat Loss Science
You do not need a kinesiology degree to know how fat loss works. Your body stores body fat as an energy reserve.
In order for your body to use the fat as fuel (burn fat), you must consume (eat & drink) less calories than you burn during your daily activities and exercise programme. That way, your body will start dipping into fat supplies for energy.
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of body fat is not burned during exercise. Only a very small amount of body fat is used for fuel during most exercise sessions.
The bulk of body fat calories are burned by your metabolism, which includes the basic bodily processes such as respiration, organ function, and digestion. In addition to your daily physical activity (exercise sessions and activities of daily living), the thermic effect of food also contributes a small amount to your overall calories burned.
Fat Burning Exercise and Nutritional Tips
The best fat burning exercise programme will differ for most individuals. Following a specific programme from a fitness magazine is likely going to lead you nowhere.
It is always going to be better if you find what works for you and eliminate what doesn’t to develop the most efficient regimen for fat loss.
Here is my favourite workout which will help the majority of people develop an efficient fat burning workout plan.
Perform High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
While it certainly is possible to lose weight and burn fat with low intensity, long duration cardio, the most efficient way to burn calories is with high intensity interval cardio. High intensity cardio involves continuous cardiovascular exercise sessions which alternate low and high intensity periods. This enables you to use very high intensities which burn more calories and train more metabolic pathways. High intensity interval cardio does not have to be your sole form of cardio, but it should be performed periodically.
Eat Small Meals
The most important aspect of any fat burning workout plan is proper nutrition. Without consuming a hypo-caloric diet (consuming less calories than are burned), burning fat is scientifically impossible. If counting calories is feasible, by all means do it, but for the many people who for whatever reason cannot count calories, eating small meals is the most important part of a fat loss nutrition programme.
Eating small meals not only helps you consume less calories, it can work wonders to increase your metabolism. Eating large meals can slow digestion and cause your body to be less efficient at processing the nutrients from meals in addition to preventing you from exercising at the proper intensity for the workouts in your fat burning exercise programme.
Avoid Consuming Empty Calories
While consuming excess calories from healthy foods can increase your fat stores just as easily as over consuming junk foods, it is the empty calories which promote overeating (think bag of crisps vs. a baked potato).
If you are doing a fat burning workout plan, empty calories such as almost all sugary beverages including juices should be avoided, in addition to all processed foods which have been stripped of most of their nutrition.
Eat Before Exercise
Contrary to the popular belief that exercising on an empty stomach burns fat for optimal results during a fat burning workout plan, it is very important to consume a low GI food usually around 60-90 minutes before exercise. The timing of the meal is different for everyone but the reasoning is the same.
The importance of the overall programme (long term goal) is more important for the vast majority (exception being those looking to lose very small amounts of fat). While more fat is burned while exercising on an empty stomach, those who have eaten will have more efficient workouts, burn more calories, recover and accomplish their fat loss goals faster than those who exercise in a depleted state. Consuming a low GI food will release energy at a slower rate thus allowing you to have more energy whilst training.
Eat After Exercise
Consuming calories immediately after exercise is very important for recovery. Eat a small meal or consuming a pre-prepared post-workout concoction (i.e. carbohydrate-protein shake) especially after weight training.
Even when consuming a fat burning hypo-caloric diet, consuming calories after exercise is important because it will affect every subsequent workout. In a long term fat loss exercise programme, if you properly replenish your body’s energy stores, each workout will be optimally efficient. This will allow you to achieve your fat loss goals as quickly as possible.
Note about Pre- & Post- Workout Meal Timing
What you consume for your pre- and post- workout meals depends mostly on your daily caloric intake and the timing of your other meals. For example, if you finish your fat burning workout at 5pm and plan to have dinner at 5:30, there is very little point to consuming a meal after your workout. Another example would be if you just had a huge holiday dinner the night before. Eating a meal before an early morning workout could be detrimental as it could overload your digestive system and not allow your working muscles to perform optimally.
EAT CLEAN, KEEP ACTIVE LOSE UNWANTED FAT
Tiredness is the most common complaint cited in doctors’ surgeries today. A shocking 50 per cent of all UK adults are overweight and the number of seriously obese adults has trebled in the last 20 years. The amount of adults diagnosed with diabetes has doubled in the past 20 years and those developing heart disease has increased by 25 per cent since the late 1980s, resulting in 2.65 million people now living with this crippling condition. These are frightening statistics but perhaps even more frightening is the fact that we are not alone. Take a close look at almost any Western country and you will find a similar picture emerging.
WHERE ARE WE GOING WRONG?
The real key to understanding why so many of us are experiencing such health problems lies in our past. The diet and lifestyle of Westerners have changed almost beyond recognition over the past century. This in itself wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that our basic physiology and biochemistry remain almost exactly the same as those of our ancestors 1,000 years ago. Consequently, there is a mismatch between the foods that we eat and the foods that our bodies really need.
Although our ancestors ate the same amount of calories as we do today, if not more, they were much more active than we are and obtained considerably fewer of their calories from carbohydrates. The carbohydrates they did eat came in the form of beans, vegetables, wholegrain cereals, fibrous fruits and berries. Lack of refrigeration and little knowledge of food processing meant that much of this food remained relatively unchanged from the field to the plate. Consequently, most of the processing of their food was done by the body after they had eaten it. This took the body a long time, resulting in a gradual, sustained release of sugars into the bloodstream, leaving them feeling full and satisfied for longer.
By contrast, today flour is ground as thin as talcum powder to enable us to bake the lightest, fluffiest cakes and breads. Preferred fruit varieties are those that are high in sugar and low in fibre because they taste better. Cereals are so highly processed that they become unrecognizable, then refined sugars are added to them to make many of the foods we see on our supermarket shelves. Fibre-filled pulses are often absent from our food cupboards. Instead they have been replaced by highly refined, fatty, fast foods that take little time to prepare and even less time to digest
As a result, almost every meal we eat contains the sorts of carbohydrates that break down quickly and release their sugars rapidly into the bloodstream, such as baked potatoes, chips, easy-cook rice, biscuits, cereals, cakes, breads and fast foods. And it is these foods that are contributing too many of our health problems. While it may not be possible or even desirable to return to eating habits of old, thanks to extensive testing of carbohydrate foods by leading researchers, we can now monitor the sorts of carbs we eat by referring to something called the ‘glycaemic index’.
What is Glycaemic Index?
The glycaemic index (GI) is a scientific ranking of foods based on their immediate effect on blood sugar levels. Many everyday carbohydrate-based foods have been tested and given a ranking between 1 and 100, depending on the speed at which they release their sugars into the bloodstream. Carbohydrate foods that break down quickly during digestion have the highest glycaemic indices (GIs of 70 or above). Their blood sugar response is fast and high. Carbohydrates that break down slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the bloodstream, have low glycaemic indices (GIs of less than 55).
Up until recently, it was believed that carbohydrates could be divided into two main categories simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates consisted of sweet, sugary foods, such as cakes, biscuits, sweets, chocolate, jam and honey. Complex carbohydrates consisted of the more starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes, rice, pasta and cereals. It was commonly thought that the sweet, simple carbohydrates caused our blood sugar levels to rise far more rapidly and give us a quicker energy burst than the starchy, complex ones. Now however, thanks to the creation of the glycaemic index, we know this not to be the case and foods such as baked potatoes and some types of bread tend to have a far higher GI and cause a far greater surge in blood sugar levels than many sweeter, more sugary foods.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH EATING HIGH-GI FOODS?
The sugars in high-GI foods are broken down quickly so they do not supply a sustained source of energy. Instead, they cause our blood sugar levels to rise rapidly. The body has to respond to this by making large quantities of the blood sugar-lowering hormone, insulin, and releasing it into the blood. Unfortunately, insulin is often too good at its job and instead of just reducing blood sugar levels to a desirable level, it sends them plummeting to levels lower than they were originally. This sets up a yo-yo effect as the body then responds by making us crave fatty, sugary foods in an attempt to make our blood sugar levels rise once more. Many of the symptoms listed on page 8 can be linked to fluctuating blood sugar levels caused by eating too many carbohydrate foods that score high on the glycaemic index.
Food cravings and lethargy
Many of us experience this yo-yo effect as the ‘mid-afternoon lull’. We eat a high-GI lunch – sandwiches or a baked potato, for example – and by 3.30pm we are not only feeling tired, lethargic and lacking in concentration, but we are positively craving something sweet to give us that much needed energy boost. This often happens again after the evening meal when we find ourselves heading back to the kitchen for a dessert, some chocolate biscuits or a glass of wine just a short while after having eaten.
A diet rich in high-GI foods can cause you to eat more calories (and therefore gain weight) for two reasons. The first is that high-GI foods are quick to break down. The quicker a food breaks down, the sooner you will become hungry and the more likely you will be to want to eat again. Secondly, high-GI foods will cause your blood sugar levels to rapidly rise and then fall, which in turn will result in strong urges to eat fatty, sugary foods shortly after a meal. Both points are compounded by the fact that another of insulin’s main roles is to promote fat storage, so the more insulin you have in your blood the more likely you are to store any excess calories you eat as fat.
Lack of concentration and mood swings
The brain is entirely fuelled by blood sugar. Therefore when levels drop as a result of the excessive production of insulin, it becomes more difficult to concentrate. Research has also found that low blood sugar levels are often linked to mood swings, reduced reaction times and even depression.
Diabetes is one of the most common health problems in the world, but it is most prevalent in Western cultures where we tend to eat a diet rich in highly processed, refined foods. It is thought that the stress that high-GI foods place on the body to keep blood sugar levels constant can result in either the insulin not working properly or the pancreas, the manufacturing site of insulin, becoming less efficient at producing it, sometimes giving up altogether.
As we have already seen, a diet rich in high-GI foods can result in people becoming overweight or developing diabetes. Obesity and diabetes are two of the principal risk factors that can lead to heart disease. In addition, high levels of insulin, which are brought about as a result of eating high-GI foods, are strongly linked to increased blood pressure and cholesterol (along with other blood fats), both of which are also major contributing factors to heart disease.