As a trainer I get asked this a lot – how do you design a training program with fat loss in mind?
When it comes to fat loss, there are a lot of weight loss fads out there – lose weight by eating a certain food, eating a certain way (crash diet) or even doing a certain exercise only.
Truth to be told, the key to understanding weight loss lies simply in energy consumption and energy expenditure. In another words, how much energy you consume, and how much energy you use through physical activity (regardless whether it is a conscious effort to exercise or just walking at the shopping mall).
In order for the body to burn fat more effectively during exercise, we need to understand how it works. Understand this, and you’ll have an efficient workout rather than just running like a headless chicken.
During the exercise process, our bodies use carbohydrates or fat as an energy source. Exactly which energy source is chosen depends on exercise intensity. The easiest source of energy is stored carbohydrate in our muscles (glycogen). However, stored glycogen is limited and will quickly be depleted after prolonged or high intensity exercise. At this point, the body switches to fat as an energy source.
To get your body to tap into fat as its energy source during exercise, here are some suggestions:
Interval Training or “Go Hard, but Short”
Interval training an exercise program that engages in bursts of high intensity level exercises followed by a period of recovery – either complete rest or active recovery (low intensity level exercise).
Here are some examples of an interval-training workout:
- 30 kettlebell swings followed by 30 bodyweight squats (active recovery) – do at least 5 rounds.
- 30 bodyweight squats followed by a 30 second isometric plank (active recovery) – do at least 5 rounds.
- A 100-metre sprint followed by a walk back to starting line (active recovery) – repeat this 8 times.
Usually these exercises are completed in less than an hour, which is ideal for time-challenged exercisers.
Steady State Training, or “Go Soft, but Long”
Steady state exercises are performed at a lower intensity over a longer period of time. Some examples are cycling and running for 60 minutes or more.
I am not fan of steady state training as the body adapts to repeated movements, and a plateau quickly results. Often, the only way to break from this plateau is to increase the duration of exercise, which is time consuming and boring. In addition, studies have also shown that interval training is far more effective than steady state training.
* Workouts suggested above are for illustrative purposes and may not be suitable for everyone. For assistance in designing effective, safe workouts, consult a certified personal trainer.