When you think about losing fat, what do you think of?
For most of us, it involves spending countless hours slogging away on a treadmill or elliptical.
On the face of it, it seems to makes sense. Running at a steady pace for an hour will burn the calories you need to shift those extra pounds. Over the following weeks and months you dedicate countless hours hoping you will do just that.
Sure it’s a boring way to spend your evenings and weekends. But everyone else seems to be doing the same, so you must be doing the right thing. No pain, no gain you tell yourself as you soldier on. It must just be a matter of time right?
Take a moment to stop and think. Picture those people you see pounding away on the treadmill or elliptical night after night. How many of those people actually look any different than they did 3 months ago? How about 6 months ago? A couple of them may look a little different, but the majority will look exactly the same. You don’t want to become one of them 6 months down the line.
So what’s the alternative? What can you do that will help you lose that beer belly faster than doing long, boring cardio?
Here are 3 proven methods to do exactly that.
This is the big one. The way that you look, is at least 80% down to what you eat and drink. So that makes improving your diet, the fastest way to lose those love handles.
Here are 3 things you can do today to improve your diet, that will make a big difference to how you look.
1. Start a Food Diary
Now I’m not going to suggest that you have to write down everything you eat and drink. Let’s be honest, that’s boring, really boring! Download the Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal. It’s free and makes tracking what you eat and drink super easy. The best thing is you can scan the barcodes of your foods and it will give you all of the nutrition information.
Is 100% of the information on there accurate? Not 100%, so it’s worth double checking when you scan a new item in. Once you begin to understand what you’re actually consuming, it makes it a lot easier to begin to start making small changes.
2. Cut Down on Sugary Drinks
If you type “Coca Cola is evil” into Google, you get over million results. Some of the results interesting, some are crazy and many are freakin hilarious. Whilst some of those results will have you think that Coca Cola powered Hitler’s Nazi regime, let’s be honest, they’re a beverage manufacturer. So they’re not evil, but they’re arguably a big cause of the global obesity epidemic.
I’m not going to judge you or lecture you if you have 2 bottles of coke a day. Because I used to do exactly the same thing and I had no idea how bad it was for me. If I was thirsty, I wanted something delicious, and usually that would mean something full of sugar. But how can a sugary drink, stop you from losing fat?
Quite simply, when you drink a bottle of soda, you are consuming additional calories. Additional calories that serve very little nutritional benefit to your body, that’s why they’re often called empty calories. When you consume more calories than your body needs, those calories get stored as fat. As a result, you put on additional weight.
Another issue with consuming sugary drinks is the effect it has on your insulin levels. When a lot of sugar is consumed very quickly, the pancreas responds by releasing insulin. The role of insulin is to regulate the level of sugar in our blood. When too much insulin is released, your blood sugar levels drop below a normal level. This is when the dreaded sugar crash strikes.
We want more! We want more! We want more!
This is what your body begs you during a sugar crash. So either you deal with the sugar crash, or you consume more sugar in an attempt to feel better.
The only problem with this is the whole process starts again. If too much insulin is released on a regular basis, your body starts to skip using sugar as an energy source and goes straight to the insulin. And as you know from earlier, those extra calories will get stored as fat.
3. Replace Unhealthy Snacks with a Piece of Fruit
It’s shockingly easy to consume way more calories than you think you are. Most people tend to underestimate the amount of calories they consume each day. In an ideal world we wouldn’t feel the urge to snack between meals. Unfortunately when hunger strikes, it can be all too easy to grab a bag of Doritos instead of a banana.
So how do you avoid falling into the snack trap? The most obvious thing to do initially is to get rid of the unhealthy snack. Whether you chose to put it out of easy reach or even in the bin is up to you.
The only room in my house that has food is the kitchen. So if I really want something to eat, I have to actually get up off arse and get it. Sometimes that in itself will stop me from actually going to get a snack!
Next to my kitchen door is a bowl of fruit, this is my snack bowl. This means that any time I feel the need to snack, my only choice is a delicious piece of fruit. Have you ever heard of someone say they had a binge on bananas and apples? Of course not. It’s almost impossible to do that as a piece of fruit is far more filling than crisps or chocolate.
When you think of strength training, most people immediately think of bulking up. But weight training is a great way to reduce the amount of fat on your body.
Every time you lift more than your muscles are able to handle, you cause tiny tears in your muscle fibres. When you’re outside of the gym, your body is busy repairing these tears. This is your body’s way of ensuring that your muscles are equipped to cope with the same level of stress next time. Whilst your body is repairing and growing the muscle, it is burning extra calories.
Studies show that you can continue to burn calories for as long as 36 hours after your workout has ended. As your muscles grow bigger, your body burns more calories and your metabolism increases. This forces your body into burning fat as an energy source to fuel the growth of bigger muscles.
So what are the best exercises to do if you want to lose weight? The answer is exercises that recruit the largest number of muscle groups. Compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, presses and pull ups are examples of exercises you should incorporate into your workout routine.
HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. A HIIT workout will last for only 20-30 minutes. As with weight training, a big benefit of HIIT, is you will continue to burn calories for hours after you finish your workout. During HIIT you vary your speeds and intensity over the course of the workout. For example, sprint for 30 seconds followed by 90 seconds of slow jogging or walking. Repeat this cycle until you have completed 20 minutes.
HIIT is tough and is a real shock to the system the first few times you do it. As your body begins to adapt, you can increase the amount of time you’re going hard by 5 seconds and reduce your recovery by 5 seconds. The great thing about HIIT is you can apply it to any type of cardio. Whether you’re in the gym or at the park, HIIT is a great way to spice up a stale cardio workout.
HIIT only lasts for 20-30 minutes because of the high intensity. Whilst at first it may seem counter-intuitive to do less and get better results, once you’re halfway through your first workout you’ll understand why you can’t do it for 45 minutes. With 3 sessions of HIIT cardio a week, you can build up your fitness incredibly quickly, burn more calories for longer and lose more fat. Not bad for just an hour of cardio a week!
Improving your diet will have the biggest impact, especially when paired with either strength training or HIIT. But by combining all 3 together, you give yourself the best chance to reduce your fat levels quickly.
The temptation would be to try do everything straight away. But it’s very difficult to transform the way you eat, drink and train overnight. To give yourself the best chance of being able to form a long-lasting habit, just pick just one area to start with.
Let’s take diet as an example. Instead of trying to implement all 3 of the suggestions outlined above, just pick one. Let’s say that you want to track what you’re consuming with a food diary. Your focus for the week is simply to download the Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal and enter everything that you’re consuming.
Don’t worry about trying to do everything at once as you’ll get overwhelmed. At the end of the week, assess how well you’ve done. If you’ve downloaded the app, entered everything you’ve consumed and it feels second nature to do this then you’re ready to implement another area to improve.
But what if you haven’t been able to do it? Should you just give up because there’s no way you can make all these changes if you can’t do one? Don’t beat yourself up about it. Give yourself another week.
Different people find different things easier to implement. What you find easy to do in the first week might take me three weeks to do. It’s not the speed of the change that’s important, but the fact that a positive change has been made.
So how does spending an hour on the treadmill sound now? You now have a better understanding of how to lose fat without subjecting yourself to hours of boring cardio.
All 3 of the methods outlined, will help you reduce the amount of fat you have on your body. If you were hoping to find a silver bullet or magic formula that will transform you overnight, you are probably feeling a little bit disappointed.
But small incremental changes is what will add up to the big change you want to see. Getting and then keeping the body you’ve always wanted requires discipline, determination and perhaps most importantly of all, consistency.
Get into the habit of making small improvements now and you’ll start seeing the benefits quicker than you imagine. Once you begin to see results, it’s amazing how much easier it is to reach for that banana and glass of water.
What’s your experience with cardio? How much time have you spent doing boring cardio before you became frustrated?
What methods have you found most successful when trying to lose fat?
Let me know in the comments!