The Ultimate Guide to Burning Fat
We get it! You’re sick of the constant updates, reboots of fad diets and “killer” workout methods that claim to burn fat faster than ever. We’re just as sick of it as you are, and we’re actually in the fitness industry.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Really.
Your body is designed to be healthy and fit. A big reason fad diets and trending workout ‘Hacks’ fail for so many people is that they’re not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle and a strong understanding of the fundamentals of nutrition and exercise - they can be excellent short-term additions, but you can’t bypass your body’s natural composition.
In this article, we’re going to break down how fat loss actually happens and what you can do to start making real progress immediately.
How uncomplicated is healthy fat loss? It’s just Nutrition and Exercise.
Ugh, right? You KNOW this - you’ve heard it a hundred times before. So, why do you still struggle to burn off that extra fat? Let’s start with understanding what Fat is.
What Is Fat?
Fat is one of three types of macronutrients you consume on a daily basis. We’ll get into this below, but you need to understand that you need to eat fats and that they do not inherently contribute to you gaining weight. In fact, eating healthy fats can actually help you lose weight.
However, Body Fat is a slightly different story.
Most of us know that the foods we eat have a caloric value, and that if we eat too many calories we will gain weight. Because of this, people trying to lose weight tend to become almost fearful of “Calories”.
A Calorie is a measurement of Energy. Your body needs this energy to function. In terms of nutrition, Fats contain more energy than Protein and Carbohydrates, which can be a huge benefit to athletes.
Body Fat is your body’s healthy and normal way of storing the energy you don’t use for a later time.
The trouble is, as we’ll learn about in this article, your body does not use stored Body Fat for energy unless it really has to. If you think about it in a primal way, it makes perfect sense - your body’s main concern is to protect itself. This is why stress is a huge contributor to weight gain. Your body doesn’t know you’re having a bad time at work, it thinks you’re in trouble and needs to prepare for survival.
How to Lose Fat
Targeting fat loss is more than starving your calorie intake or going for 10K runs every day. Those changes encourage your body to lose weight, burning off muscle as well as fat.
Fat loss comes from balanced nutrition, consuming just enough calories for your needs, and an exercise plan that is designed to tell your body to target stored fat energy.
Your Calorie Ratio Matters
How many calories you need to function normally is determined by your Basal Metabolic Rate. Use a calculator like this one to identify what your daily needs are.
Break down the number of calories you need into the 3 macronutrient groups: Proteins, Carbs, and Fats, using a ratio designed for your body type.
This example is based on a balanced ratio:
Protein | 4 calories per gram
Ratio | 25-35% Total Daily Calories
Golden Rule | 0.75g Protein per Kilo of body weight
This is commonly known as the the magic macro - and, next to water, is the most abundant substance in your body.
When you eat protein, your body breaks it down (metabolises it) into Amino Acids, which are the building blocks for the protein you need for almost every function that occurs in your body, from mental stabilisation to repairing and building muscle.
This is the only way you can build muscle, and more muscle means burning more calories at rest.
- White-Meat Poultry
- Milk, Yogurt, Cheese
- Lean Beef
Learn more about protein here.
Carbohydrate | 4 calories per gram
Ratio: 25-55% Total Daily Calories
Carbs are your body’s primary source of fuel.
Depending on your body type and your exercise goals, you should aim to have 25-55% of your daily food intake as some form of carbohydrate.
You break down carbs into sugar (glucose) your body can use for energy. To promote fat loss, avoid simple carbohydrates. These are refined or processed sugars and are broken down too quickly and result in a spike in blood sugar - when this happens, it causes spike in insulin, which stores these sugars as body fat.
Complex Carbohydrates, categorised as either fibrous or starchy, metabolise slower which have the added benefit of making you feel full for longer and can help with managing your appetite.
Complex Carb Sources:
- Whole Grains
- Green Vegetables
- Starchy Vegetables
Learn more about carbohydrates here.
Fats | 9 calories per gram
Ratio: 20-40% Total Daily Calories
Being higher in calories, the higher daily total does not mean it’s the largest quantity of food on your plate. Fat is an extremely important part of your diet and helps with everything from brain function, to supporting your immune system, heart health and the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Healthy, Unsaturated Fats, are the best for you. Saturated fats should be limited, while Trans Fats are best to be avoided.
Learn more about fats here.
How Are Calories Used?
All 3 types of macronutrients provide energy for your body when they are metabolised. Carbs are your body’s first source of energy which is why many bodybuilders will eat carbs about an hour before they workout, and then afterwards as well to replenish themselves.
These glycogen stores that your body turns to first is enough power to allow you to lift huge weights and build muscle mass. However, they can deplete rather quickly - it’s at this point that your body turns to alternative fuel sources.
Tip: You don’t need a great deal of power to run. Taking a run on the treadmill after a workout is a great way to target stored fat energy.
Your BMR is how many calories you need to maintain your current state. In other words, this is the amount of calories you naturally burn throughout the course of a day. Therefore, the more active you become, the more calories you need to maintain your body weight.
To promote fat loss, you will want to create a calorie deficit. Remember, you still need those calories - reducing your caloric intake by about 500 calories is a safe limit. Your fat loss will come from many other factors than simply eating less.
When you don’t eat enough, your metabolism crashes as your body prepares for sustaining itself without food. It does so by looking for what it needs in other areas, like breaking down your muscle tissue.
To lose fat, you need to boost your metabolism. This is your body’s ability to burn calories more efficiently.
Ways To Boost Your Metabolism:
- Eat Enough Food
- Build Muscle Mass
- High Intensity Training
- Eat Breakfast
- Get Enough Sleep
- Drink Plenty of Water
- Get Enough Protein and Fibre
Exercise for Fat Loss and Muscle Growth
Not only do larger muscles create sustained and powerful metabolic rates, they also tell your body to burn stored energy from fat cells, NOT muscle tissue - so long as you’re eating enough protein.
Muscle don’t grow from exercise. That soreness you feel the next day is a result of the damage you’ve caused to your muscle tissue. This tells your body that your muscles need more protein to adapt to be stronger for your survival. Muscle growth happens during your recovery time.
There are different types of exercise that can benefit your muscle growth. However, since your first source of fuel comes from carbs (glycogen), training specifically for muscle mass will deplete your glycogen stores and have very little immediate effect on targeting your fat stores for fuel.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT is a quick exercise routine, sometimes as little as 7-10 minutes, that pushes your heart rate close to maximum output for short bursts of time. You work out for 30 seconds with a burst of high energy, rest for 60 seconds, and then repeat.
Those short bursts of maximum effort create a sustained afterburn effect that continues to burn calories several hours after your workout. Compare that with jogging where the afterburn drops off almost immediately.
Another effective way to burn fat is creating a circuit. A circuit training routine that incorporates cardiovascular with resistance training is useful for both muscle gain and burning fat.
It works because you spend time alternating different parts of your body, working your arms, legs, chest, shoulders with cardio exercise like running or rowing.
Also, circuit training routines offer you a chance to escape boredom at the gym. It’s a big problem when your mind loses focus with one training routine. You lose good form, you put yourself at risk of injury, and your body adapts to the training routine, effectively reducing its impact on your fat loss and muscle growth.
Low Intensity, High Duration Exercise
Since we know that your body needs to use up it’s glycogen stores before pulling energy from body fat, longer workouts with low intensity will help get you there and are a great way to burn fat, although they are not as likely going to do much for muscle gain.
This can take the form of any long duration type of Cardio that keeps your heart pumping around your 60-70% max heart rate for about 30-45 minutes.
It’s good to do this type of workout 2-3 times per week. Mix it up with some other workout types to improve your overall body composition and keep your metabolism up.
Putting It All Together
Fat loss really isn’t complicated. If you follow the simple rules of eating good quality, balanced nutrition, combined with a metabolism boosting workout regimen and a slight calorie deficit, your body will burn fat and you will not only lose weight, but your overall body composition will improve - meaning that your burn fat specifically, and build and tone your muscles in the process.
Take some time to get a deeper understanding of what types of foods fall into which macronutrient category, and which foods should be avoided altogether. Any number of free calorie tracking apps can help you keep an eye on how much you’re eating.
As you become more accustomed to your new lifestyle, you will learn to listen to your body and what it’s craving. The healthier you eat, the less likely those cravings are going to involve unhealthy foods.
To your success!