Many men and women desire to shed pounds and lose body fat. While there are endless fad diets out there that claim to shed your body of fat with little to no effort, we all know that this is not the case. If there was a magic pill that did the trick, we would all be using it.
In order to win the weight loss battle and truly burn fat as opposed to simply shedding water weight, it is necessary to take a proactive approach with your fitness routine. You’ll need to set realistic goals, make changes to your workout routine, and tweak your diet in order to maximize your metabolism and get your fat burning machine started.
Setting Realistic Goals
Most dieters want to see results almost immediately and this usually means losing a substantial amount of weight in a short amount of time. For most dieters, this is not a realistic goal. Ideally, in order to burn body fat, the body needs to lose weight at a slow to moderate pace with the right exercise program and nutritional plan. Establishing mini-goals and incorporating them into your diet and exercise plan will ensure that you achieve the lean physique you’ve been striving for and burn fat effectively.
If your long term goal is to lose 20 lbs., you should set smaller, more easily attainable goals such as losing one to two pounds a week. In this manner, you’ll slowly increase lean body mass and burn fat as opposed to losing muscle, as well.
Nutrition is the key in dropping body fat and increasing your lean muscle. In order to get your fat burning machine started and working all day long, you’ll need to set a goal to eat breakfast daily. This will kick start your metabolism and keep it working all day long.
In order to lose fat a caloric deficit will have to be present. You will have to burn more calories than you are ingesting. You can use our daily calorie estimator to get an idea of how many calories you should be eating per day.
However, a calorie deficit is not always enough on it’s own. For your body to burn fat your insulin levels need to be low. You need to keep your blood sugar in check. Stay away from processed sugars and white flour. Eating smaller meals more frequently can also help you maintain a stable blood sugar level instead of the standard 3 meal a day approach.
Another advantage to eating smaller meals throughout the day is that you’re less likely to fall victim to unhealthy, fatty snacks that may come across your work desk. If you plan your meals and have healthy meal options with you, you’re less likely to reach for the candy, chips or cookies in the vending machine when you’re craving a snack mid-afternoon. If you’re already packing a lunch for work, all you have to do is add a few extra healthy snacks to eat before and after lunch, and your mini meals for the day are taken care of.
Breakfast should include plenty of fiber and protein to keep you satiated until lunch. Many use the excuse that they simply don’t have time to eat breakfast in the mornings, but where there’s a will there’s a way. I’m one of those people, so I drink a smoothie in the morning that I made the night before.
In addition to making nutritional goals, you’ll also have to set goals to make sure you fit workouts into your busy schedule. Good eating habits help burn fat but, without a regular workout regimen, fat burning will be minimal. If you can’t get into the gym to exercise, set a goal to fit your workout in no matter what. This may be using an exercise DVD, going out for a morning run or hitting the pool for some lap swimming.
Improve Your Workout Routine
Most people believe that cardio is the key to burning fat. While this bears some truth, cardio alone will not do the trick. The right cardio exercises at varied intensities combined with a strength training program are necessary to burn fat and allow lean muscle to increase.
Low intensity exercises alternated with high intensity cardio workouts allow the body to use different muscles each day and continue the fat burning process. Some examples of low intensity exercises are yoga, pilates, walking and swimming. These activities incorporate cardio and strength training into one, saving time for someone that is in a rush before or after work. Higher intensity cardio, such as running, Zumba and Spin classes, alternated with low intensity activities make for the perfect combination of workouts to give your muscles the rest they need and will keep your metabolism going.
Many women believe the misconception that strength training will make them bulk up and get big. This is not the case and, in reality, it is essentially the opposite. The more lean muscle you have, the more fat your body will burn throughout the day as you expend energy. Increase lean muscle and you’ll increase your metabolism while you’re sitting down or while sleeping.
Weight training also provides the added benefit by continuing to burn fat even after you’ve finished your workout, sometimes for up to several hours. This leads to added weight loss and increased lean muscle without needing to add extra time to your workout. If you typically do an hour of cardio a day, cut the cardio to 40 minutes and incorporate 20 minutes of strength training before your cardio routine. You’ll get a more varied workout in the same amount of time and continue to spark your metabolism long after you’ve left the gym.
Nutrition is Key
While exercise is an essential component of losing weight and burning fat, nutrition is just as important, if not more. If you’re exercising every day, but you come home to a fried, greasy dinner, you’re undoing the benefits of your workout, and you’re not likely to see results.
Nutrition begins with breakfast and ends with a healthy dinner before bed. The misconception that you should not eat after 6pm is just that, a misconception. The total calories consumed daily are what’s important, along with ensuring that you’re eating the right foods.
A good nutrient breakdown that I usually recommend is that your diet should be 40% protein, 40% carbohydrates and 20% fat. Less than 10% of your fat intake should be saturated fat. While saturated fat in excess can be a bad thing it is important to have saturated fat in your diet in moderation.
For the last few years, there has also been somewhat of a fear of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are not bad, and they should not be avoided. The key is to eat the right types of low glycemic, complex carbohydrates and minimize your intake of simple carbs. Complex carbohydrates include whole grains, beans, legumes and vegetables. Quinoa, lentils, kidney beans, squash and whole oats are excellent examples of complex carbs with fiber to aid in fat burning. Simple carbohydrates that should be avoided are processed sugars such as cakes, cookies, white bread and chips.
Do not be afraid of dietary fat! Dietary fat that you eat doesn’t just turn into body fat. Fat is an absolutely necessary nutrient and gives food flavor. Fats that you want to watch out for are anything with hydrogenated oils or trans fat. Quality fat sources contain unsaturated fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). A few examples of healthy high quality fats are olive oil, natural peanut butter, salmon, avocados and nuts.
One of the key ways to improve your diet is to start the day off with the right breakfast. As previously stated, breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it kick starts the metabolism and keeps you fueled until lunch time. A protein packed breakfast with some low glycemic carbs and fiber such as a protein bar, an apple, a handful of almonds or a banana to keep you full through lunch and are easy to eat on the go. If you have time, whole oats, yogurt and whole grain toast with peanut butter also makes for a nutritious, protein packed morning meal.
One of the key ingredients in your diet, however, is one that most people take for granted. It’s free, and it’s available everywhere. Water! In order to efficiently burn fat and flush your body of toxins, you’ll need to take in at least 8 full glasses of water a day. That’s 64 oz. of water. You’ll need more if you’re working out and sweating out much of your hydration. If you are not a fan of the taste of water, try adding no sugar added flavors such as Crystal Light or pieces of fruit. Adding lemon to your water has long been said to aid in the fat burning process and, while it may or may not be true, it gives water a more pleasant taste.
For years, there have been countless methods touted by fitness gurus everywhere on the best way to burn body fat and lose weight. In reality, it all comes down to the basics. You need to eat right, exercise on a regular basis and, most of all, have patience. Results do not happen overnight, just as weight does not all of a sudden appear on your body from one day to the next. Burning body fat and achieving a meaner, leaner you requires you to set goals, be diligent about your workouts and improve what you take in during your meals.