The Most Effective Way to Burn Body Fat: Eat, Sleep, And Train
There‘s a lot of conflicting information out there in the fitness world.
When it comes to training for fat loss in the gym, you could ask three different people what the best option is and easily get three different answers.
One person may swear by high intensity interval training. Another may say that long duration, low intensity, steady state cardio is the best way to go. And yet another may recommend “boot camp” style group classes, where the pace is quick and the heart rate stays elevated.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those— they’re all useful fat burning tools in their own right.
But the question was, “what’s the best option to burn fat in the gym?”
And what most people really mean by that is — what’s the best option to burn body fat and develop a shaped, toned physique?
The answer? Good old fashioned resistance training.
Understand that when we say we simply want to look “shaped and toned”, they are not the same thing.
Your body is “shaped” by the appearance of your muscles. When you perform resistance training, your muscles are developed and given a distinct shape.
In order to become “toned”, the layer of fat that is covering those muscles has to be stripped away.
Muscle is metabolically active. It is very “expensive” tissue for the body to maintain — meaning, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body has to burn throughout the day in order to maintain it.
Therefore, the single most effective thing you can be doing while in the gym to burn fat is to build muscle!
Developed muscles + low body fat levels = shaped and toned.
What does “resistance training” mean, exactly?”
Resistance training is any exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external resistance with the expectation of increases in strength, power, hypertrophy, and/or endurance. The external resistance can be dumbbells, exercise tubing, your own body weight, bricks, bottles of water, or any other object that causes the muscles to contract. — TREK Education
You don’t need a ton different exercises, especially in the beginning.
Choose a variation of an upper body push (presses, push ups), an upper body pull (pull ups, rows), a squat, and a hip hinge movement (deadlifts, hip thrusts).
- 1. Barbell bench press — 3 x 10 reps
- 2. Single arm dumbbell row — 3 x 10 reps
- 3. Goblet squat — 3 x 10 reps
- 4. Glute bridge — 3 x 10 reps
- 5. Loaded carry (holding dumbbells in each hand) — As long as possible
Probably sounds stupidly simple. Because it is.
If you don’t have immediate access to a gym, use your own bodyweight to start. Push ups, pull ups, squats, lunges, planks — there are countless exercises of this nature that you could perform alone on your bedroom floor.
What about the other 23 hours of the day?
We’ve established that weight training is the single most efficient use of your time at the gym to burn fat and build a lean, athletic looking physique.
But the question of “what’s the best way to burn fat?” goes far beyond merely what you’re doing in the gym, because what you should be doing outside of it is of equal (if not greater) importance — namely, eating right and getting enough rest.
The “rest” part is pretty self explanatory — don’t make a habit of staying up into odd hours of the night (guilty), especially if you’ve got to be at work or school early in the morning.
Discipline yourself to get a quality 7–8 hours of sleep every night. Turn off the TV and put down the electronics an hour before bed; allow your body to heal.
As for the “eating right” part — keep in mind that I don’t believe in strict diets, because most of the time, they don’t work. When you put yourself in the mindset that you’re “on a diet”, that means eventually you plan on coming “off” the diet.
What you need is to develop healthy habits that you can adhere to for a lifetime.
If you like the ketogenic/paleo/intermittent fasting/etc. diet and could adhere to it for the next 50 years, more power to you.
But if you’re just doing it as a “means to an end” and feel miserable all the time, you’re in trouble. Will power on its own can only take us so far — if you can’t do it for life, the results aren’t going to last.
Find an eating style that fits YOU and stick with it.
“So you’re saying cardio is a waste of time.”
Not at all. Cardiovascular health is critical to maintaining a high quality of life. I like to perform low intensity, steady state cardio in the form of a brisk paced walk 2–4 times per week.
But when it comes to being “shaped and toned”, this should be considered more of the cherry on top as opposed to your primary focus.
Consider an overweight person that utilizes only cardio and under eating as their two primary tools to lose weight. They turn into a smaller version of themselves.
Instead of looking “lean and athletic”, they become “skinny fat”, because they’ve neglected the weights and no muscle has been built. They have no shape underneath the fat they’re trying to burn off, and will therefore look proportionately the same.
If you’re trying to get from 8% body fat down to 6%, adding cardio into your program can be a useful tool to help burn off those last few stubborn pounds of fat — but it is simply not the foundation of any effective fat loss plan.
Training to build muscle is the single most effective use of your time to burn fat while in the gym. It is a prerequisite for a lean, defined physique.
But it goes beyond just that, because your training, your nutrition, and your recovery must be dialed in to achieve optimal results.
So prioritize resistance training in your workout plan, utilize progressive overload when you’re ready, make sensible food choices, and make adequate sleep a priority.
That’s your fat burning foundation.
Thanks so much for reading. New articles are posted weekly! If there’s a topic you’d like covered in the future, let me know! — Zack
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