BURNING FAT 24/7 TO REDUCE BELLY FAT
Before I start getting into details on how to maximise fat burn, we must comprehend the importance of ‘FATS’. They are an essential macronutrient as they are necessary for the production of hormones and enzymes. They help preserve lean muscle mass, maintain a healthy immune function and are essential for the absorption of many vitamins.
So, fat plays a vital role in our bodies, but how do we burn the excess fat we carry around our midriff. The experts state that there are around 3,500 calories in 0.5kg of fat, therefore, if we create a deficit of 500 calories per day, in theory you should drop 0.5kg in a week. In simple terms, we must burn more than we consume. This takes us to the epidemic of counting calories. You end up counting calories after each meal you eat, and after each workout you complete. You feel in control of what is going in and what is going out. Then you hit a brick wall. You come to the end of your workout and the treadmill flashes “you’ve burnt 300 calories”. Great! You now feel you are one step closer to your goal. This soon ends when you punch into your calorie counter app the calories in your post-workout meal or shake. However healthy you were, it still equates to 300 calories. You think to yourself “I’ve just burnt 300 calories in 30mins and now I’ve consumed 300 calories in 30secs. I’m fighting a losing battle here” and what’s worse, you see no changes in your body-shape after weeks of exercising and dieting.
I’m going to take you through three key points and overlooked determining factors that will drastically help you burn fat efficiently.
Key point number one:
#1 The after-burn effect from training. Technically speaking we refer this to the Excess Post-Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). After exercise, especially high intensity exercise, the rate of oxygen intake is elevated. The process of the body to bring the physiological variables back down to baseline levels requires energy, in this case ‘calories’. So when we exercise you will produce an “after-burn effect” relative to the intensity of your workout. For instance, If I chose a low intensity workout such as jogging for 30mins, the total number of calories burnt will occur only during the duration of that workout. In contrast, if I chose to do a shorter yet more intense workout, such as sprint intervals, the total number of calories burnt would be lower during the workout itself but greater during a 24hr window. Essentially this is due to an elevated metabolic rate. I don’t know about you, but I would rather give it my all in short bursts over a long slow steady-state style of workout. Great examples of training protocols to maximise ‘The after-burn effect’ are TABATA workouts and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). In terms of cardiovascular exercise these styles are number-one in terms of creating the greatest after-burn effect and boosting your fitness levels to superhero fit. Research has even gone to prove that you can burn calories up to 38hr post-exercise when you perform high-intensity exercise. The one problem here, is if you are new to exercise, it is very hard to hit high intensities as your pain threshold and fitness level will be relatively low. So, like I tell many of my clients the first phase of training is to educate, practise good technique and train you to train. As you get fitter you’ll be able to train at higher intensities and therefore create higher EPOC levels.
When it comes to fat loss, a lot of people are inclined to doing lots of cardio and dieting. At first, of course, you will achieve results as any form of higher activity level would, but sooner or later, your body will adapt to this increase in activity and will hit a plateau. At this point, weights come into play. Strength-training is overlooked, especially by women who think they will get bulky and men who are intimidated or simply haven’t got a clue what to do with a dumbbell. If that’s the case, invest in a trainer. A programme which incorporates weight training with cardio and good nutrition is a gold standard for success. As well as HIIT, as mentioned before, strength-training also creates your metabolism to elevate post-workout. Regardless of the protocol used, training with weights induces the release of growth hormone (GH) in the body. This is a very powerful hormone which aids in the meltdown of fat. I can go on forever talking about the benefits of strength training but for the purpose of this topic I will leave them out. However, I would like to point out that to truly shape your body and maintain a good lifetime physique you cannot shy away from the weights room – “Get lifting!”
So now you’ve embarked on a new fitness programme and increased your exercise and activity level, the way you feed your body is going to make a big impact on the ability of your body to burn fat. When we train, and when you do so properly, the aim is to put our bodies under stress and to produce tears in our muscle fibres. Post-workout, the process of recovery and physiological adaptations will demand the body to work harder, burn more calories to heal itself and become stronger and fitter. Of course, this recovery process will not happen if you do not refuel the body in the right way. 10-30% of the calories we burn in a day happen through the simple act of eating and digesting. This leads to my second point on how to maximise fat burning.
#2 The thermogenic effect of eating. The body requires energy to break down foods but not all foods are created equal. In this case, protein takes the number one spot as it is the most thermogenic macro-nutrient compared to carbohydrates and fats. When you eat protein 20-30% of the total calories are used for digestion. That means if you ate 200 calories of protein 60 of those calories will be used to digest them. The powers of protein don’t end there; as well as cranking up your thermic effect of digestion it also helps in feeding, building and repairing calorie-burning muscle. Now, that’s a double whammy!. There are plenty of foods out there which are great for burning fat, with great health benefits and nutritional value. I am going to pick my top 6. This decision is solely made up by the fact that I absolutely love these foods and they are great super-foods in terms of their thermogenic effect, muscle building and fat-burning qualities. The list of foods can be endless but I’m going to cut it down to the following 6:
#1, Raw unsalted almonds – this power-nut helps to build muscle and fight sugary cravings. They are a good source of protein and fibre and are rich in vitamin E and so are great for youthful-looking skin.
#2, Free range eggs – again, great for building muscle and burning fat and rich in B12 and A vitamins which are important for fat breakdown.
#3, Blueberries – a powerhouse of a fruit. These blue gems are one of the most healthy foods you can eat. Rich in antioxidants and high in fibre they help reduce belly fat.
#4, Coconut oil – one of my favourite tasting fats and great for burning fat. They are mainly made of medium-chained fatty acids which have shown to ignite thermogenesis and fat-burning.
#5, Lean green machines, my top green: Broccoli, although, spinach comes close second – all greens are great but I’ve chosen broccoli as one of the healthiest foods in the world. They have a great impact on our body’s detoxifying system and have numerous anti-cancer properties. Rich in K and C vitamins and its high fibre content, this veggie can help transform your body into a fat-burning machine. Above all, and my top favourite food that may surprise you to burn fat, which is great because I probably couldn’t live without it is:
#6 Peanut Butter, all-natural and sugar free. This bad boy, packed with nutrients helps to boost testosterone, build muscle and burn fat. It is a good source of protein, fibre and monounsaturated fats and is rich in vitamin E, niacin and magnesium. Also, in two studies, peanuts have shown to be the only nut that statistically makes a difference in increasing resting energy expenditure. Not only that, peanut butter goes with absolutely, if not everything: apples, celery, chicken, eggs the list is endless. Just make sure to watch your portion size as it’s high in calories and avoid its evil twin, found in all supermarkets, the mass-produced high-in-sugar and trans-fatty peanut butters.
Although not listed in my top foods, spices need to have a mention here. They can be added to your foods for extra taste and as a booster to strip belly fat. They are regarded as number-one in terms of thermic effect by elevating energy expenditure. These include: chilli peppers, horseradish, mustard, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, ginseng, guarana, and turmeric. So go ahead and spice things up.
Heading away from foods and nutrition and back to training, the fun part, a very important benefit from strength-training, is that it raises your Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This takes me to my most important point on burning fat.
#3 Your Basal Metabolic Rate, basically means the amount of calories you burn when at rest. We may also refer to this as your metabolism. The reason your BMR is so important is because 60-80% of the calories your body burns in a day is determined by your BMR. This is the best part; your body is constantly working and using energy to keep you alive. So in actual fact, exercise alone doesn’t have such a great impact on the amount of calories you burn in a day therefore, instead of counting calories after your workouts, focus on turning your body into a ‘fat-burning machine’ by; training to build lean muscle, doing workouts that generate the EPOC effect and, eating to maximise calories burnt through digestion and meal-timing. In other words, work towards improving and altering your BMR. Understanding this, it is very important to never eat below your BMR, and if you happen to do so, avoid doing it over prolonged periods. I always like to use the analogy of the body’s metabolism and ability to burn fat with that of burning wood. Think of it this way; imagine your metabolism is a fire. To maintain a fire burning at full throttle, you need to add small pieces of wood to keep it burning. The small pieces of wood represent your food and the fire is your metabolism. What happens when you stop fuelling the fire with wood? It starts to dwindle down, which is like your metabolism slowing down when it is not fed enough calories. A similar effect occurs when you throw a load of wood into the the fire but you’ve left it so long only ashes remain. What happens? The wood doesn’t burn. It’s the same with your metabolism. When you eat a monstrous calorific meal after a large gap since having your previous meal, your body’s metabolism slows down and finds it hard to digest foods efficiently. These large meals can cause insulin to spike and inhibit fat-metabolism. In other words, you are more likely to store those calories as fat, as opposed to burning them.
So, the food choices you make will determine the calories you burn by simply eating and digesting. How hard and smart you train will also determine the calories you burn and help to shape your body. Now that you are slightly more clued-up, if you didn’t know already, convert this theory into action. Get up and do it! One thing you must always take into consideration is that body transformations take time. It takes dedication and consistency in your training and eating habits. There are 101 ways of exercising to achieve your goals, some are more efficient than others, yet whatever activity you choose, or programme your trainer puts you through, you must stay loyal to that programme and believe in the process. Remember, “your body is a by-product of your lifestyle”.