One of the most common reasons people give up exercising is because they aren't seeing the results they want, and to be honest, I don't blame them.
The majority of people who exercise are looking to lose weight, but in actual fact, they are trying to reduce stored body fat that leads to those unwanted muffin tops. There is a huge difference between losing weight and reducing body fat and I will go into this later on.
Cardio is a great way to burn fat, but... only if you are training in the right way!
Everyday when I walk into the gym, I see people running with the aim to reduce body fat and by all means that is a great start and is far better than doing nothing at all; however, the way they are going about it isn't going to maximise fat loss. It's really no wonder people are running out of patience.
Here is the biggest mistake that people trying to lose weight (reduce body-fat) make...
You're running at an all-out pace for as long as you can, a good 30-60 minutes, you're getting really hot, dripping in sweat and out of breath, you're watching the calories rack up and thinking to yourself 'yes, I'm going to lose so much weight if I do this everyday.' Sound about right?
Ok, you are right in some respects, you will lose weight if you create a calorie deficit (less calories going in from food than going out from energy expenditure) but it isn't the weight you want to be losing.
If you think logically about this then it will make complete sense as to why you are losing weight, but you aren't losing the weight you want and reducing body fat.
If you are getting out of breath as a result of prolonged cardio then you are simply working your aerobic system which is only going to improve your blood circulation, aerobic power, aerobic endurance and in layman's terms, make you more efficient at running faster for longer. It isn't going to help you burn fat! So the first thing to remember, if you are getting out of breath from running, then you are not likely working in your optimal fat burn zone.
Secondly, if you are exercising at over 70% of your resting heart rate, then your body simply can't convert body-fat quickly enough into energy to sustain this intensity of exercise. Therefore, your body will require another readily available energy source - the bodies fuel of choice firstly being recently ingested or stored carbohydrates which will likely support around 15 minutes of exercise at 70%+ of your resting heart rate; secondly are proteins, which means your body will be breaking down your muscles to sustain this level of intensity.
It is a bit of a vicious circle to be honest, because if you are burning protein (muscle) as an energy source then you're reducing your body's natural efficiency to burn body-fat as energy; the more lean muscle your body has, the more effective it is at using stored body fat as energy.
Adding to this, muscle weighs more than fat, so as I previously mentioned, just because you are losing weight, doesn't mean you are reducing your body-fat which is the common aim. As a result, you can actually look worse for wear, as lean muscle will give you that nice toned and curvy shape that is most commonly desired.
So, what do I suggest for optimal fat-burn?
I would recommend completing 30-45 minutes of LISS cardio (low-intensity steady state) working at 60-70% of your resting heart rate, 3-5 times per week. The best times to do this are either fasted (upon awakening and before eating) or immediately after a resistance workout, the reason for training at both these times is that in both a fasted and pre-resistance workout state, you will have very few carbohydrates available for energy use and this will promote fat being burned as energy providing you are exercising at 60-70% of your resting heart rate.
A great way to achieve this 60-70% intensity would be to power walk on a treadmill with a slight incline and regularly check your heart rate.
Other reasons you should be doing more LISS and less endurance and HIIT.
1. LISS cardio is far less demanding on your tendons and joints.
2. If you are completing resistance training, then LISS cardio will enable you to recover faster in comparison to endurance and HIIT cardio. LISS cardio is a much lower intensity, requires less muscular energy to complete, doesn't tax the central nervous system and will allow you to burn additional fat without compromising your resistance workout results.
3. LISS cardio is often preferred when in a calorie deficit as again it requires far less effort to complete and won't require excess calories for recovery compared to endurance and HIIT cardio. The harder you workout, the more glycogen you burn (glycogen is stored in the muscles as workout fuel) and therefore that glycogen needs to be replenished which means you need to eat more. HIIT training is so taxing on the body that often you can crave starchy foods to restore muscle glycogen and actually go into a calorie surplus which means you won't lose the weight you want to.
4. Anybody can do LISS cardio, where as endurance & HIIT cardio can be limited by a number of factors such as injuries, body composition or age due to the amount of effort needed to complete this type of training and the stress it puts on the entire body from the heart, to the lungs, to the muscles to the joints.
5. You will burn more calories by doing as little as 30 minutes of LISS cardio a week. On average, 30 minutes of LISS cardio at 60-70% of your resting heart rate will burn approx. 300 calories, do that 5 times a week for a month and you could lose almost two extra pounds.
6. LISS cardio will improve your aerobic fitness level and cardiovascular endurance.
7. People are far more likely to stick to LISS cardio because it's easier, but that doesn't make it any less effective at burning fat when done properly. So perhaps you should ditch the heels and pop on your trainers, accidentally miss the bus or tube home and get power walking to a healthier, more active and happier you.
By Callum Melly.
Callum Melly, one of the UK's leading Personal Trainers, is set to un-leash BodyIn8 - personal training with a difference! You can find out more information on Callum by visiting his Official Website: http://bodyin8.com