Why do you work out? Do you want to build muscle? Are you an athlete? Are you a soldier or law enforcement officer where fitness is a tool on your belt? Those are all great and valid reasons but with the current culture of obesity and excessive calories I bet a great majority of you want to increase fat burning!
Seven Fitness Tips to Increase Fat Burning.
Before we start though let’s have a crash course in what fat burning actually is. The body stores fat for a variety of reasons. Fat is actually the main storage vessel within the body when it intakes more calories from carbohydrates and fat than it needs. Protein is usually the exception in that the body does not readily store it. Fat storage, however, is a leftover mechanism from ancient times.
Ancient Break Down
Let’s revisit a made up friend that I used in a previous article, Ug the caveman. During Ug’s days he had to go out to hunt and gather food. This would often involve long travels, getting the best of a beastly Mammoth, and surviving cold winters in a cave. Storage of fat was a survival mechanism because the body did not know when the next Mammoth filet would be coming. There were no 24/7 grocery stores.
The breakdown of fat is called lipolysis. The simple explanation is a release and breakdown of lipids from fat cells where they are burned by the body as an energy source. This is where we get the term Fat Burning.
So what can you do to increase your fat burning?
HIIT the Cardio. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a form of cardio which alternates high bouts of intensity activity with moderate activity. HIIT is of great benefit because not only does it trigger increased fat burning, and spare more muscle tissue, it can also be done in much less time than a traditional steady state cardio session. A study from Florida State University found test subjects burned more calories post intermittent aerobic exercise than those who did steady state aerobic exercise.
Great examples of HIIT workouts are run/walk sprints, boxing, and Tabata.
Train with weights. Resistance training with weights has been proven to burn more calories overall than cardio. I like to use this example…. What requires more energy? Running up a hill or pushing a car up the same hill?
Reduce starchy carbs. Carbs are an energy source for the body. When we eat too many calories from starchy foods (bread, rice, potato) that’s more calories the body has to use or store. Save heavy starch for early morning meals when your body will need more energy and resort to fibrous carbs (broccoli, greens, asparagus) as the day winds down. Limiting high starch intake helps keep glucose levels in check and requires the body to burn more fat for fuel. Aim to get about 30% of your daily calories from mono and poly unsaturated fat. Even some saturated fat is helpful as long as it is not a modified or Transfat.
Go green. No, not the environment. Green tea is one of the most studied and validly proven health food supplements in the world. Epigallocatechin gallate is the main catechin in green tea that increases thermogenic effects, aka increased fat burning. EGCG blocks an enzyme that slows production of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that regulates fat burning.
Green tea extract is optimal over brewed green tea. Effective dosages are 500 mg, 2-3 times daily. Look for a product that offers a polyphenol content over 90% and 45% EGCG (check the label).
Go pro, eat more protein. The American diet is void of quality clean protein. That said, so are many of the fad diets. As I stated before the body does readily store protein. The key is to consume clean protein sources that are low in fat or contain high levels of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Great choices are Chicken breast, fish, lean beef (grass fed sirloin), low fat dairy, and whey protein powder. As a rule, aim to eat .75 to 1 gram of protein per pound bodyweight or about 20-40 grams per major meal. All meals (even snacks) should contain protein.
You can increase fat burning by accelerating your rest periods. Traditional workouts have you lift a set of reps then sit around for a 30-90 second rest. Instead of standing around why not try Cardio-acceleration? This is effectively an active rest method made popular by world renowned fitness authority Jim Stoppani PhD. Instead of standing around you will finish a set then immediately jump into a moderate to high intensity aerobic activity like running in place, jumping jacks, shadowboxing, etc. Resistance training combined with low impact aerobic activity is in essence a HIIT workout. The best part is, after you complete your workout you already have done an average 15-30 minutes cardio.
Cheat to increase fat burning. Enjoying a burger, pizza, or bowl of ice cream sounds counterproductive to increasing fat burning. However, if you follow a regular calorie restrictive diet then your metabolism can and will plateau. Think of it like a camp fire. You can keep fueling the fire with small sticks to keep it at a steady burn. Throw on a big log or a shot of lighter fluid and the flames rage up. This is how a cheat meal works, the intake of a large number of calories tells your metabolic rate to increase. The effects are also psychological as you don’t feel deprived knowing that meal is around the corner each week and you’re not deprived of your favorite foods. Just be sure to reserve this for once a week and not on a regular basis.
You can also “Cheat clean,” by increasing your calorie intake 300-500 calories once a week. You can opt for clean foods just in a slightly higher amount.
These fitness tips are great ways to keep the fire burning hot and the plateaus at bay while you work your way to a leaner physique.