The Best Exercise For Fat Loss
It’s the biggest problem for the modern fitness customer. “I want to lose fat, but I don’t have much time available to commit to exercise”. So what type of exercise is going to give me more bang for my buck? Or, in some cases, should I even bother trying?
Given that an energy deficit is required to lose fat, many assume that cardio is the way to go about things. As you can clearly feel and see your output, as shown on your watch. “If I increase my daily energy expenditure by 300-500 calories during an after work exercise session, then I should lose weight”.
It’s an easy assumption to make. You may have seen your friends lose weight this way, you may know someone who runs a lot and maintains a small physique, or you may have done it yourself before – but there are many variables that play into this scenario:
- Amount of time spent exercising
- Eating habits
- Body composition
Time: when comparing your results or considering choosing exercise for fat loss based on past experience, or what your friends are doing, ask yourself really honestly – can I commit the amount of time required to increase the calorie output via time spent exercising alone? Can I do it ongoing? It’s widely believed and observed that over time, we become more efficient at cardio based exercises, and start using less energy during these bouts of exercise. This would mean that to continue to get a large energy output from your sessions, you would need to keep doing more. Longer sessions, more often. There’s a direct link between hours spent running, and impact injuries in marathon runners. Another consideration.
I have personally in the past, spent hours running up to 50kms per week to burn more calories, only to be dissatisfied with my soft and flabby physique. I still remember wearing suck me in pants to the races, despite hitting my “goal weight” after weeks of running and 1200 calorie days.
Nutrition: Sorry to be the “bad news coach here” (I love that term, coined by my fellow Coach Shenk), but if you think that you will create the energy deficit required for fat loss via exercise alone, you’re either going to a) spend hours working out meaning that you eat less anyway by default, or b) be sorely disappointed. Whether or not your exercise session is fat burning depends entirely on your energy intake. If you do a hard out cardio session/s, and then eat to a calorie surplus over the day, week, month or year, you will still gain fat, despite the sweat (and maybe tears).
It’s definitely still worth working out for the physical and mental benefits alone, but again, this post refers to exercise from a fat loss perspective.
Body composition: This refers to the percentages of lean and adipose (fat) tissue in a body. Lean mass includes muscle, connective tissue and organs. We’re interested in increasing muscle via training, and decreasing fat mass a little. Why? Lean muscle is more densely packed (toned), and costs more energy to run each day – it’s more “metabolically active” than fat mass, which is storage. If you’ve ever seen someone lose weight via calorie restriction only, and no training, you may have also noticed a drawn look, bad posture, and flat bum (skinny fat). Lean muscle is responsible for perkier bums, toned arms and strong defined legs.
Visualise the body of a marathon runner vs a sprinter. One spends hours running continuously, the other performs short bursts of maximum effort with rest between.
So how does this apply to you?
Considering training amount (volume), outside of a simplistic view of time spent exercising can transform the way you train, your body, and your schedule!
Enter resistance training. The good news is, with this style of training, although difficult to pick up on your fitness tracker (and not necessary), you can pull multiple levers that will increase the effectiveness of your sessions, without having to add hours and hours in the gym.
Not only will training with weights improve your body composition by preventing loss of muscle during diet phases, but you’ll increase your strength, flexibility and joint health too. You cannot gain strength, without gaining muscle, so as you increase the weight on the bar over time you know that you are increasing your muscle.
As your body adapts and becomes stronger, you can play around with different variations of: exercise selection, load (weight), reps and sets schemes and equipment – without the need to increase time spent training, although most of us that fall in love with lifting, want to spend more time doing it!
One of my favourite things about coaching strength training is that it is so customisable to the individual, and I just love seeing the shock when newbies lift a weight they never would have imagined, in a matter of weeks of strength training. This confidence almost always transfers across into other aspects of their lives.
Maintenance: From a fat loss perspective, I have found over the years that resistance training is a more sustainable way of training for most clients – meaning that the benefits of an improved body composition pay off over time. In my experience, most people who go hard out on the cardio for short periods, or “challenges” tend to stop after they reach their goal, or give up prior as they cannot sustain it, or become overtrained. This results in regaining weight, and starting the process again.
That’s not to say cardio doesn’t have a place in a fat loss training plan, it absolutely does – but the key is the correct dosage, and type, that doesn’t interfere with strength training. My preference is for my clients to do “resisted” cardio in short bursts of maximum effort in Metafit classes or on our equipment which promotes muscle development, rather than pounding the pavement for hours and breaking down lean tissue.
I get that cardio workouts seem to require “less thinking” from a participant standpoint, but training effectively is a skill, and once you’ve mastered the basics (with the help of your coach), you should be puffing like you just did a hard out sprint after a set of 4-8 squats. Not only that, but you’ll have a skill for life, and no longer rely on the next fitness fad, or trying to find enough hours in the day.
Contact me at [email protected] to learn more about our introductory programmes.