Now it’s time to look at some great exercises you can add into your regime and are perfect for a fat adapted lifestyle.
It used to be that the general rule of thumb to lose weight was to exercise longer. After all, if you exercise for an hour, you’ll burn more calories, right? We’ll not exactly. It’s true that you can run for hours and burn a lot of calories but unless you’re running in the “fat burning” zone and you have really great nutrition, you’re going to have to replace some of those calories as you run. You can’t run for hours and not expect to have to refuel.
And let’s face it; few people have the freedom to exercise for several hours a day. So if exercising more isn’t the answer, then what is? Exercising harder is actually the secret to burning fat. So you have a choice; you can exercise for hours in the fat burning zone, or you can exercise really hard for 20-ish minutes and burn tons of fat.
Intensity, or how hard you work out, changes how your body needs energy. Let’s say that you’re sprinting, which is different than running or jogging, right? When you sprint you’re running as fast as you can – like a bear is literally chasing you and you’re running for your life. It’s intense.
For the first few seconds your body is going to turn to the sugar in your cells to make energy. But that energy isn’t going to last long, right? Even if you were eating jelly beans as you run, you’re still not going to be able to replace that glucose fast enough. So you’re sprinting and your body needs energy to keep up the intensity – what does it do?
It turns to your other energy systems. In short, it starts converting fat to glucose and using that for energy. It happens almost instantly with intense efforts. Your body needs to keep going and your fat stores are the answer.
So the next question is, “how do I exercise to burn fat?” You might wonder if sprinting is the only sport or exercise that is intense enough to burn fat. The answer is no. There are a few different formats to consider, and then within those formats there are almost limitless options.
Interval training is one approach to fat burning exercise. It’s a method that trains your body to become fat adapted. You’re able to exercise almost every day (rest days are always good) and you don’t have to exercise for a long time. Interval training usually lasts for 60 or fewer minutes.
Interval training is a simple and straightforward approach to helping someone shift their exercise routine, fitness, and energy systems. Here’s a simple example of an interval workout:
Elliptical Machine – 5 minute warm up, 3 minute rolling hills, 1 minute mountain, 3 minute rolling hills, 1 minute mountain, 3 minute rolling hills, 1 minute mountain, 3 minute cool down.
That’s a 20-minute interval workout. If your elliptical programs extend beyond the fundamental resistance/incline descriptions and you can choose your resistance, then you can shift from rolling hills to a level 6 resistance, and from mountain to a level 10 resistance.
When you’re working out at the 1 minute of maximum resistance, you’re also moving as quickly as you can. You’re pushing yourself and working out at about 90 percent of your maximum capacity. It’s hard, but it’s only for a minute.
You can apply intervals to just about any activity you can think of. You can do interval burpees, jump rope, dance, bicycle, row, run, climb stairs, and roller skate. You can also shift how you do the intervals. For example, we talked about time as an interval. You can also use distance as an interval. For example, you might run a 200 meter sprint and then jog 200 meters. If you like gym classes – Spin classes are excellent for interval style training.
Another type of interval approach is called the Tabata. Let’s look at that next.
Tabata was named after Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese physician and researcher. To see if athletes would benefit from an interval-based training approach, he began to conduct various exercise research studies. One of those studies used a 20/10 session repeated eight times. The athlete performed 20 seconds (yes, seconds, that’s not a typo) of all out effort followed by 10 seconds of rest. Add it up and you have four minutes of exercise. It sounds easy, but it’s not. It is, however, extremely effective.
Dr. Tabata had two groups, an experimental group and a control group. The control group was on a traditional exercise program. They did an hour of moderate intensity exercise five days a week. That’s 1,800 minutes of training. The experimental group did his 20/10 program. That added up to 120 minutes over their six-week experiment.
The results were pretty interesting. The Tabata group improved both its aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels. The anaerobic fitness level increased 28%. That’s fat burning, remember? The athletes became better fat burners, they became more fat adapted and they worked out less.
A Tabata workout can be applied to a tremendous number of movements and exercises. You can sprint for 20 seconds and rest for 10. Give it a try. You can do 20 seconds of pushups and rest for 10. Sit ups, jump rope, lift light weights, do squats, you name it you can apply it to this method and it’s physically challenging. But it works. Try it today, if you dare. Do 20 seconds of air squats followed by 10 seconds of rest and repeat it eight times. That may be the most difficult four minutes of your exercise life.
HIIT is another term that you may be familiar with. It stands for high intensity interval training. With HIIT you can approach it with a few complementary exercises. For example, you might alternate from running intervals to squat Tabata, to jumping rope. It’s generally more varied, and works well for those who want to focus on more than one exercise or movement in their workout. It leads nicely into a quick talk about CrossFit, which embraces intensity and variety in their philosophy of fitness and health.
CrossFit’s methodology and practice embraces the following sentence, “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.” It embraces gymnastics, strength/weightlifting, and cardio exercises in a manner that requires athletes to perform as many reps as they can in a specific amount of time or to complete a predetermined workout as fast as possible. For example:
AMRAP (As many reps, or rounds, as possible)
Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of:
10 burpee pullovers
60 seconds of handstand hold (Crossfit.com)
21-15-9 reps for time of:
Overhead walking-lunge steps
Burpees, jumping over the barbell (Crossfit.com)
CrossFit has a reputation of being a fitness approach that burns fat. While intensity is definitely one of the reasons for these results, strength training is also another component of fat burning. When you strength train, your body uses anaerobic systems for energy. Let’s take a look at strength in a bit more detail.
Strength training turns to your anaerobic energy stores from the get go. You burn fat as you build muscle. And there’s an added benefit with strength training. After you work out, your muscles require repair; this is how they get stronger. As they repair, they require a ton of energy. This energy burns calories – often for up to 24 hours after you have worked out.
Now you can do your own strength training program. You can work with a fitness trainer at a gym. You can CrossFit as well. There are many options. One of the best strength training approaches that you can embrace is what’s called “Functional movements.”
Functional movements are a phrase that’s a bit overused by the fitness industry. Now everything is a functional movement. It’s really not. A functional movement is an exercise that replicates movements in everyday life that uses a number of major muscle groups. For example, a biceps curl is not a functional movement.
People generally don’t isolate their biceps when they do something in the real world. A deadlift, on the other hand, is extremely functional. Every time you pick something up off the ground, you’re doing some form of deadlift. You’re also using several major muscle groups, including your core and leg muscles. A squat is also a functional movement. Every time you sit down, you squat.
Functional movements are strength training movements. To get the most from your strength training efforts, and to burn the most fat, consider making sure they’re functional. Skip the hamstring curls and triceps extension, and go for a squat and a shoulder press instead.
Finally, they’re generally safe movements because they don’t isolate a muscle and ask it to move in a manner that it’s not accustomed to, or to move more weight than it’s accustomed to.
Don’t forget if you are new to this – start out slowly, set yourself some goals, be kind to yourself and above all – have fun!
And if you are a bit of a beast? Then you can go hard, go fast, go heavy…and you are probably still having fun! (Not my cup of tea – but hey….)