Summer may be here, but there is still time to shift your beer paunch. A balanced diet and some quality training will do the trick. But to make rapid gains – and sustain them in the longer term – you need to adopt a more holistic approach.
Key fat-loss factors – think good sleep patterns, elevated daily movement habits and more varied training stimuli – are easily neglected.
But fat-loss expert Matt Jones, a performance coach for human performance experts P3RFORM, knows that taking a broader approach can speed up your fat-loss in the weeks ahead, and create a more sustainable, long-term fat-burning solution.
01. BUILD MORE MUSCLE
When you’re looking to shift fat, it’s tempting to tip the cardio-strength scales in favour of the former. But that would be a big mistake.
“It might sound counterintuitive to someone looking to decrease body fat, but increasing muscle mass is the best solution,” says Jones.
“For every 0.5kg of muscle gained, you will burn 6-10 extra calories. So if you gain 4.5kg of muscle mass alone, that can equate to burning around an extra 100 calories per day – without even taking into consideration the additional calories burned from the lifting exercises themselves.”
Lifting weights will also help to keep you looking toned and strong when you start cutting down on the calories.
“Strength training in itself helps to preserve muscle mass while in a calorie deficit,” adds Jones, “as long as adequate protein is also being consumed.”
02. ENJOY THE INTERVALS
“High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is all the rage, and can be useful if you are short on time, but interval training in its less intense form can be useful for fat-loss, too,” insists Jones.
“The primary difference between HIIT and interval training is the recovery periods, with HIIT having shorter recovery periods to keep the intensity high, while interval training is performed with longer recoveries.”
That means you can train more consistently: interval training will place less stress on your body than HIIT to keep you coming back more often. It also empowers you to combine interval training with your favourite cardio, as opposed to joining dedicated HIIT classes.
“That’s especially helpful for individuals who want to change up how they do their favourite running, cycling or rowing sessions,” says Jones.
So try restructuring your cardio sessions into fat-burning interval workouts.
“Break the session up into smaller chunks of very high-intensity activity, and very low-intensity activity which you will use for recovery between the harder efforts,” says Jones.
“For a running workout, this could be 6 sets of 30-secong efforts at a fast speed, and two minutes of easy recovery jogging or walking in-between. For a rowing workout, that may be rowing 200m as fast as possible, then doing 800m at an easy pace for recovery, repeated 3-5 times.”
03. BE MORE NEAT
Your fat-burning training regime is important, but so are your daily movement habits.
“NEAT – non-exercise activity thermogenesis – means the calories burned outside of exercise, eating, and sleeping,” explains Jones.
“It includes all your movements, however big or small, throughout the day, from climbing the stairs, to standing at your desk – even fidgeting.
As fat loss is not just about how many calories you burn in a day, but how many you burn over an extended period, NEAT plays a huge factor in assisting you to lose fat.”
Try to picture your whole day as an opportunity for movement and activity, not just the windows when you can fit in an organised exercise session.
04. SLEEP ON IT
Lying in bed might not sound like the best way to burn fat, but a healthy amount of sleep is vital for your fat-burning ambitions.
“When we don’t have enough sleep we all know that just about everything in our lives suffers, from our concentration to our mood,” explains Jones. If you’re tired, you will make poor food choices and find it harder to train.
“Sleep deprivation is also linked to an increase in a hormone called ghrelin, which increases hunger levels in the body.
A two-week study found that during a period of calorie restriction one group that slept normal hours (8.5 hours per night) experienced 55% of their reduction in body weight specifically as fat loss, whereas another group with restricted sleep (5.5 hours per night) experienced only 25% of their reduction as fat loss.
That suggests sleep loss increases the loss of muscle mass during dieting. So use your phone or wearable device to track your current sleep patterns and try to improve the quality and volume of your sleep.”
05. MIX IT UP
To achieve your fat-loss goals you need a healthy combination of organised routines and fresh challenges.
“Losing body fat is about consistency across a period of months – both consistency of managing your nutrition, and consistency of regular exercise,” concludes Jones.
“But one area where people often fail is when they get into a routine and then get bored with their programme. It is better to get some important variety into your training.”
A wider variety of stimuli will boost your motivation, challenge your body in new ways, and enhance your longer-term weight-control strategy.
“For weight training, that could simply be switching in some different exercises that work the same muscle groups, or changing how many sets and reps you perform. For cardio exercise, it could be changing up your modality from running to cycling or swimming.”
Words: Mark Bailey