If you want to work off body fat, do you know which exercise is best for the job? Exercise physiologist and nutritionist Kathleen Alleaume reveals the types of exercise that top the fat-busting list.
How does fat ‘burn’?
To reduce your overall body fat, you need to burn more kilojoules than you eat over the day, week or month. During exercise, your body uses carbs, fat and protein for fuel. During low-intensity exercise, fat is the main fuel source, but as the intensity increases, your body will start to use carbs as well. Protein is used as a last resort.
So does this mean you should exercise at a lower intensity to lose fat? The answer is actually ‘no’. This is because when you exercise at a low intensity (mainly using fat as fuel), the total amount of kilojoules burned is less than exercising at a higher intensity for the same amount of time (using both fat and carbs as fuel). So you are better off exercising at a higher intensity to burn more kilojoules, which will ultimately reduce your body fat.
Power walking burns kilojoules more effectively than regular walking, and adds variety to your walking regime by mixing up the intensity and duration of your workout. These bursts of speed boost the total amount of kilojoules burned and, if you maintain a faster pace overall, you’ll burn even more kilojoules.
For body fat loss, build up to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity walking – adding several speed intervals – on most days of the week. Moderate-intensity means walking at a pace where there is a slight, but noticeable, increase in your breathing and heart rate. Speed intervals should see you huffing and puffing.
Jogging is by far the best fat-busting activity because it’s quick to elevate your heart rate, which aids in rapid kilojoule burning.
If you haven’t jogged before (or haven’t done it in a while), it’s a good idea to start off with walking and power walking for the first few weeks. As you build up your stamina, insert short bursts of jogging for a few minutes at a time. Gradually reduce the amount of time you spend walking until you are jogging for the complete workout. For fat-busting, aim to jog for 30 minutes at least three times a week.
When you have limited time – but want maximum results from your workout – look no further than circuit training, which is a combination of cardiovascular exercise and resistance training.
The key to boosting the amount of kilojoules you burn is to make sure you move quickly from one exercise to the next, with little or no rest between. The constant change of pace and mental engagement helps you stay focused and keep boredom at bay. By adding resistance exercises to your usual cardio routine, you build lean muscle mass, which raises your resting metabolic rate and burns more kilojoules over the course of the day, even when you’re not exercising.
You can easily build a circuit training routine at home with basic exercises and minimal equipment. Think push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, star jumps, dumbbells and resistance bands.
For optimal fat busting, aim to do two to three sessions a week for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Treadmill, elliptical, stairmaster, rower, stationary bikes – there’s endless variety when it comes to exercise machines. Mix it up with a little cross-training by rotating between different cardio machines. Cross-training is an effective way to exercise different muscle groups, and it prevents the body from adapting to one type of exercise too quickly – the perfect solution to overcoming weight-loss plateaus.
Spend no more than 10 minutes on each machine before moving to the next one. Start with three machines for a total workout of 30 minutes. As you get fitter, vary the intensity and duration on each machine until you build up to three 60-minute sessions a week.
Four good post-exercise foods
After an intense workout, your body needs fuel to recover. If your next meal isn’t within half an hour of exercising, try:
A glass of milk or a tub of reduced-fat yoghurt
A piece of wholegrain toast with light peanut butter
A small bowl of cereal with reduced-fat milk
A handful of dried fruit and nut mix
Find opportunities to move more
Never underestimate the power of ’incidental activity’. You have probably heard these suggestions before, but that’s because they work! Park the car further away from where you need to be; take the stairs instead of the lift; walk to a colleague’s desk instead of sending an email; stand up instead of sitting down; or go for a walk instead of taking a sit-down coffee break. This is when a pedometer comes in handy. Pedometers are a great way to monitor your activity levels and will make you more conscious of how much you’re moving. Set yourself a daily goal of at least 10,000 steps – it all adds up to more burned kilojoules.