You’re eating better, you’re exercising, but you just can’t seem to burn that body fat off.
What’s the deal?
Why is body fat so hard to get rid of?
The fact of the matter is that jogging and eating light won’t do it. So what’s the secret to burning body fat? Well, it comes down to two basic things: Healthy habits, and muscle mass.
Yes, even if you’re working out to lose weight, and not necessarily to build muscle, building muscle is going to get you there much more quickly than starving yourself will.
Strength training will reduce visceral fat, the type that surrounds the organs in your belly. It has been proven in studies to reduce general body fat when paired with aerobics more quickly than aerobics alone. It will also help your body to maintain mass, which will help you to burn calories at rest.
So what can you do to change your routine and burn body fat?
Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Hit the Weights
In order to burn fat, you need to build muscle, so there’s no way around it, you’re going to have to start hitting the weights.
The best exercises for burning fat will be those that put multiple joints to work.
It may be fun and easy to crank out hundreds of bicep curls in a row, and it’ll do you a lot of good when you’re sculpting those classic Schwarzenegger arms, but for burning fat, you’re going to want to focus on full-body lifting.
That means deadlifts, bench presses, good-morning lifts, anything that works multiple parts at once. You’re looking to build a solid foundation of muscle, and once you have that going, you can build on it as you please by bulking up shoulders, triceps, glutes, whatever you like. But you’ve got to start with a good foundation.
You should especially be thinking about workouts for your core.
That’s where visceral fat is going to collect, which can do a lot of harm to your internal organs. Weighted crunches, rowing, bicycling and running will all help you out in that area.
2. Get Some Rest
A study of around 70,000 women found that those who slept just five hours a night, or fewer, were more likely to gain weight over a sixteen-year period than those who slept seven hours or more.
Why do we gain more weight when we’re not sleeping well?
There are a lot of contributing factors here, but key among them would probably be hunger hormones.
You’ve probably noticed that on days when you didn’t sleep enough, you’re hungrier than you would be otherwise, right?
Basically, your body chemistry needs a full seven to eight hours to reset itself. Five or six hours of sleep is enough to live on, but it’s not enough to live well.
You’re going to spend every day exhausted, you’re going to be hungrier, you’re not going to feel like putting in that extra set at the gym, and you’re probably going to have a craving for fatty, salty, sugary foods to make up for the lack of energy you’re feeling.
What can you do if you have trouble getting enough sleep?
First of all, prioritize it. You have a lot of good reasons for undersleeping, we’re sure, but if you take your sleep seriously, you’ll find a way to get enough hours in bed.
In order to actually fall asleep when you hit the sack, you want to stop drinking any sugar, caffeine, or alcohol at least four hours before bed. Drink plenty of water to flush all those stimulants out, and if you’re craving a midnight snack, stick to something simple like toast or crackers.
And what if you wake up earlier than you intended to? Find time for a nap later in the day.
We know, we know: Easier said than done. So we’ll say it again: Prioritize it. Find a way. Nothing is more important than a good night’s sleep. And not just for burning fat, but for overall health.
3. Eat Like a Weight-Lifter
Keep it proportionate to your lifting, but remember that if you’re lifting weights, you’re going to need more protein than an aerobics-only workout routine would demand.
Studies show time and again that a high-protein diet will tend to lead to lower belly fat, meaningless visceral fat weighing your organs down. You’ll also need all that protein so that your body actually has something to build those muscles with.
So what should you be eating to get more protein into your diet?
We all have our own personal tastes, and the good news is that you have a lot of options to choose from. You’re generally looking for lean proteins, so you’re not after fried chicken, bacon, and sausage or cheeseburgers. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Tuna salad sandwiches with light mayo
- Egg-white omelets
- Turkey burgers
- Baked or grilled chicken breast
- Almost any seafood
- Mixed nuts
- Peanut butter
Experiment and find what you like, and add it to your diet.
What if you’re looking to get a little extra protein for that male muscle growth without having to chow down a whole bowl of beans?
Well, that’s where supplements come in.
By having a shake with protein and creatine before or after a workout, or throwing it in the blender for breakfast, you can get a full serving of protein even when you don’t have time to sit down for a meal.
4. Take Care of Your Digestion
Proper digestion is one of the most important keys to burning fat. One study saw around a thousand adults losing 3.7% of their belly fat over five years just by increasing their soluble fiber intake by ten grams a day. That’s with no changes to their diet or exercise habits. That was from soluble fiber alone.
Basically, you have soluble and insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is the stuff you get from bran flakes. It absorbs water and helps food make its way through your body. Then you have soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, creating bulk, and giving you that nice full feeling you get after eating some garlic bread or a nice big sandwich.
Protein is important, but if you only eat protein, you’re going to wind up being hungry all the time. Fiber helps you to stay nice and full so that you don’t overeat.
In addition to fiber, you’ll want to take your time when you eat. If you scarf everything down as quickly as possible, your body is going to have this big lump of chewed food to deal with all at once.
You want to eat slowly so that your body can take its time processing your meal.
When you don’t have time to sit down for a meal, have smaller snacks or drink a meal replacement shake, but the last thing you want to do is munch down a bowl of pasta like you’re in an eating contest.
5. More Cardio
Filed under: Not at all surprising. A review of sixteen different studies found that the more aerobic and cardio exercise a person did, the more belly fat they lost. Sounds obvious, but why does that work?
Basically, it comes down to training your heart, lungs, and cardiovascular system.
With cardio and aerobics, you keep the blood and oxygen pumping through your body at a nice, brisk pace and strengthen the highways and by-ways of your body.
This helps you to burn fat quickly, and it also helps you to build muscle. As you strengthen all those arteries and beef up your heart and lungs, your body gets to be more efficient at moving proteins into your muscles so that they can heal and strengthen.
As your muscles get stronger, you burn fat more quickly.
Whether you’re exercising to lose weight or for male muscle growth, you want to get in a good healthy mix of cardio and strength training. If you only do one or the other, you’re going to have to work several times harder for poorer results.
6. Take Your Rest Days
It’s a good idea to keep moving every day, but you need to take your rest days. Switch up heavy workout days with light exercise days.
The idea is that you need to give your body time to heal. Remember that a workout actually works by creating microscopic tears in the muscles. As these tears are healed, your muscles actually come back stronger than they were the day before.
So it’s not the lifting that actually builds your muscles, it’s the resting.
Not to mention, going full-throttle every single day is going to leave you more prone to injury, and if you tear a quad you’re going to be sitting on the couch for weeks with an ice pack, just waiting for it to get better while all that muscle you worked so hard to build slowly shrinks.
You’ll want to experiment and find a routine that works for you, but it’s not a bad idea to do your heavy workout days on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then some light cardio, cycling, and walking on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and then take Sunday just to hang around and catch up on your favorite shows.
Just try not to take more than one day off at a time. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Taking a week or two off at a time is a one-way ticket to couch potatoville.
What it comes down to is simply that you need a full-body approach, no matter your fitness goals. Whether you want to burn body fat, build muscle, run faster, or look better, you have to mix strength-training, cardio, good food, good habits, and a full night’s sleep if you want to see any results.
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