With summer holidays on the way, many will be looking to slim down before hitting the beach. Steven Virtue, fitness development manager at Total Fitness, shares his tips on the best ways to shift stubborn fat – as well as debunking some weight-loss myths
Whether you’re a complete beginner to exercise or an avid gym-goer, shifting stubborn body fat is challenging. While losing fat and toning up is a fitness goal for lots of people, many don’t know how to alter their workout routine and overall lifestyle to maximise fat loss in a healthy way.
Debunking Fat Loss Myths
Before establishing what will help you to burn stubborn fat, it is important to debunk several common myths surrounding fat loss.
First and foremost, you cannot spot reduce fat. Although some parts of your body may take longer than others to slim down, depending on factors such as body shape and composition, if you workout to lose fat then you will lose fat across your entire body. You can focus your weight training on building certain muscles so that they appear particularly defined once fat is lost, however it is not possible to lose fat in one body part by exercising that specific area alone.
Furthermore, while exercise is undeniably important and offers many fantastic benefits to our overall health, research shows us that losing fat cannot be achieved by exercise alone. You cannot ‘out-train’ a bad diet and increasing your level of exercise while still eating junk food will not facilitate fat loss. Therefore, it is essential to create a diet plan and exercise routine that complement one another.
Top Tip 1: Pick Up the Weights
You may be tempted to focus solely on cardio-based workouts when trying to shift stubborn fat, but combining aerobic exercises with strength training has been shown to be particularly effective for losing body fat.
Adding resistance to your workout with weight training can help the body preserve fat-free mass, which increases the number of calories your body burns while resting. Consistent weight training, that is safe yet challenging for your body will also help you to build lean muscle – this, combined with the fat loss, helps to create a more toned and sculpted physique.
Top Tip 2: Incorporate HIIT into Workout Routine
High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT for short, is a fantastic form of exercise to incorporate into your fitness routine. Not only is HIIT a great way to boost your mood, but research shows that the increased metabolic rate caused by strenuous and high intensity exercise can last up to 38 hours, meaning your body will burn significantly more calories in a resting state.
There are simple and short HIIT exercises that you can start with – squats, sit-ups, burpees and mountain climbers are all fantastic exercises to try for 30-second intervals with a 20-second rest.
Top Tip 3: Adjust Your Diet
Your diet is fundamental to fat loss. Latest research suggests that 80 per cent of your fat loss is dependent on a good diet, which shows why many people struggle to lose fat despite frequent exercise.
If your goal is to lose fat, then you need to be in a calorie deficit – this is when you consume slightly fewer calories than you are burning which in turn makes your body tap into the stored body fat for extra energy.
To ensure you are still consuming the nutrients your body needs while in a calorie deficit, it’s a good idea to work with a personal trainer to create a healthy and balanced diet plan.
Top Tip 4: Increase Activity Outside of the Gym
While a sweaty gym session is great for burning calories, having a more active lifestyle outside of the gym will also promote fat loss and improve your overall health.
Increase your daily activity levels with simple lifestyle changes – avoid driving short distances and try walking instead, use stairs instead of lifts, or take up hobbies that involve movement, such as climbing or swimming. If you are struggling to stay motivated to be more active in day-to-day life, then combine this with socialising and seeing loved ones. For example, you could suggest swapping your next afternoon in the pub for a trip to a beautiful nature spot where you can enjoy a long walk and picnic.
Top Tip 5: Allow Time for Rest
When trying to meet fitness goals, it can be tempting to try to push your body to its limits with a rigorous and relentless training schedule. This is not the most effective way to lose body fat or maintain a healthy exercise routine.
Too much vigorous exercise without enough recovery days can lead to overtraining which actually causes your body to store more fat, due to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. Listen to how your body feels and what it needs – if you feel particularly lethargic or achy then vigorous exercise is probably not the best idea. Instead, consider an activity that will allow you to rest while also benefiting your mood, such as reading or meditation.
Sleep is also crucial to the fat burning process – aim for at least seven hours of quality sleep per night and ensure that you have an optimum environment for falling into a deep state of sleep.
So, there you have it, five top tips to help you shed stubborn fat in a healthy and effective way.