Steps Toward Maximizing Fat Loss and Controlling Your Weight

Most of us have tried losing weight and body fat only to gain it back–and then some. We’ve tried dieting, spot reducing, melting and dissolving.

Dieting is the most popular way people try to lose fat/weight, but as we all have learned, diets rarely work on a long-term basis. There’s the Atkins Diet, the only carrot juice diet, the Zone diet, the grapefruit diet, Oprah’s diet, Slim Drink diets. You name it, it’s out there.

Spot reducing is another way people try to lose body fat. Spot reducing is attempting to lose fat in isolated areas of the body by doing tons of exercises targeted to those specific areas. These areas usually include: the buttocks, mid-section or gut area, thighs and abdominals—hence, we do butt blasters, inner and outer thigh exercises, and sit-ups, until we are blue in the face. Muscles do not own the fat that surrounds them. Fatty acids are liberated from the areas of the body that have the most fat to spare, not from those areas that you feel are untidy.

Many of us have also attempted to lose fat by melting, sweating, or dissolving it away, spending hours in steam rooms, baths, and saunas, or even getting massages in an attempt to have fat rolled off us. Or how about those of us who actually get tricked into trying to lose cellulite by using fat-dissolving creams?

Losing body fat and controlling your weight is not easy, but it can be done if you follow this 4-step lifestyle-changing approach. The 4-step approach includes:

1) doing between 20-60 minutes of aerobic exercise at least three times per week,
2) doing some form of strength training at least twice per week,
3) keeping flexible and limber by stretching, and
4) following a low fat, high protein, balanced diet…….for life!

The 4-step approach takes work, I know, but if you truly want to live a quality, healthy, energetic and happy life, then you must implement these steps into your life forever!

1) Aerobic exercise is any of various sustained exercises that use large muscle groups in the presence of oxygen to stimulate and strengthen the heart. Aerobic exercises train the cardiovascular (heart) and respiratory (lungs) systems to exchange and deliver oxygen efficiently to every part of the body being used. As the heart muscle becomes stronger and more efficient, a larger volume of blood may be pumped with each stroke and with fewer strokes, facilitating the rapid transport of oxygen to all parts of the body with less stress on the heart. An aerobically fit individual, therefore, will be able to work longer, at a more vigorous pace, and with a quicker recovery. Examples of aerobic exercise include: brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, jump roping, cross-country skiing, cardio-karate and dance.

To most efficiently burn body fat during exercise, follow these important rules:

  • Exercise duration: should be at least 20 minutes per day, preferably between 30-60 minutes per day.
  • Exercise frequency: should be between three and five times per week.
  • Exercise intensity: also referred to as your training heart rate range (THRR), should meet individual needs. Most studies have shown that moderate levels of exercise intensity (60% to 75% of your maximum heart rate) tends to be more fat burning than sugar burning. High intensity exercise (more than 80% of your maximum heart rate) tends to be more sugar burning than fat burning. With high-intensity exercise, muscle exertion becomes so great that the demand for oxygen within the muscle cells exceeds that which is being supplied by the blood. The muscles can no longer rely on aerobic metabolism (energy from fat) to meet their needs and must draw on your body’s limited supply of glucose (the brain’s only source of energy), since glucose can be partially broken down to provide an immediate source of energy, even in the absence of oxygen. This is referred to as anaerobic metabolism (energy from sugar). To most efficiently burn body fat, throw 30 second to 2 minute high-intensity “bursts” or “intervals” into your sustained program every 5-10 minutes.

Calculate your THRR using Karvonen’s Formula, which the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends using, since it accounts for people’s individual resting heart rates and is therefore, the most accurate.

Karvonen’s Formula
220 – your age = your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)
Take your MHR and subract your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) = y
y x (intensity level range of between 65-75%) = _____
Take that figure and add your RHR back in, which is your Training Heart Rate Range (THRR).

For example, using an intensity level of 65%:
220 – 48 (my age, shhhh) = 172 (my approximate MHR)
172 (MHR) – 60 (my RHR) = 112 (y)
112 x .65 (65% intensity level) = 72.8
72.8 + (adding my RHR back in) 60 = 132.8

I should therefore, try to maintain a THHR of approximately 133 beats/minute during my 30-60 minutes of aerobic training, and add a few high intensity intervals, into my workout as well, every 5-10 minutes. I can monitor my heart rate accurately by wearing a heart monitor.

  • Exercise Monitoring: can be done most accurately by wearing a heart rate monitor during exercise sessions. Another way to monitor your heart rate is to stop exercising to check your pulse. Divide your THRR by 6 to find out how many beats you want to get in 10 seconds. Realize however, this is not an entirely accurate measure of your heart rate since it may drop by 10-20% when you stop exercising. Over time you should be able to use the Perceived Rate of Exertion Scale, or simply, be able to judge/perceive whether or not you are in your training range by the difficulty of your breathing level during exercise.

Do not get discouraged if you do not lose as much body fat as you would like right away. Losing body fat takes time. Given that your body’s fat cells did not get to the size they are today overnight, it is not likely that they will disappear any faster. It takes much less time to overeat calories than it does to exercise them off unfortunately.

2) Strength training/weight lifting is also part of a successful, long-term, weight-loss program. Some people believe that weight lifting will cause them to develop “oversized” muscles such as on professional bodybuilders, but muscle growth can be monitored.

Muscle tissue hypertrophies (grows) as a result of strength training, and you may, early in your weight lifting program, gain a few pounds of body weight. This additional lean muscle tissue will help to accelerate and promote increased utilization of fatty acids. As muscles grow in size, the amount of metabolically active tissue increases, leading to a higher rate of caloric burn, especially immediately following workouts. Remember, fat is primarily burned in muscle tissue. Think of your body’s lean muscle as the engine in your car and your body fat as the gas tank. The bigger the engine, the more gas it uses while running. Similarly, the more muscle tissue you have, the more fat you will use while you are exercising. As you develop more musculature, your metabolism increases and you burn more calories, even at rest!

Another more obvious benefit of weight lifting is the body shaping, toning and sculpting advantage. Resistance training often offers a visible improvement in muscle tone and definition within just weeks of training.

Weight lifting may also help many people improve their skills in activities such as tennis, golf, dance, football and other sports that are directly associated with muscular strength, muscular endurance, balance, and coordination. Improved strength will also lead to decreased injuries!

3) Stretching for flexibility is another basic fitness component. Developing flexible muscles though static, controlled stretching, allows for a greater range of movement, reduced muscle tension, enhanced relaxation, improved posture and coordination, reduced stiffness, and delay of the physical deterioration associated with aging.

Adequate stretching also helps to prevent injuries associated with daily activities and exercises, especially those activities that may move the joints beyond their normal range of motion at rapid speeds. Ever injure your hip, wrist, elbow or knee falling, skiing, rollerblading or participating in any other activity and when you went to the doctor, he/she said, “You were very lucky. Your injuries could have been worse had you not been so flexible.” (or strong, etc.)

Long-term changes in flexibility are not well documented, but most experts agree that permanent muscle changes are possible when tissue temperature is elevated and low-force, long duration, is applied. In other words, stretching should be more productive and possibly even safer, if you warm up your muscles and tendons first, move in and out of stretches slowly, and hold stretches for at least 20 seconds.

4) Eat Healthy! The final component to losing body fat through the team approach is eating a low fat, high protein, high fiber, balanced diet that includes foods from the four food groups.
Stay tuned, for more about eating healthy………coming soon!

So, if you are really serious about losing body fat, feeling more energetic, gaining more confidence and self-esteem, and reducing the risk for developing various infections and diseases, just follow this foolproof team approach (and hire me as your personal trainer) to get into the best shape of your life. Good luck!