Feel like you're doing all the right things? And still not reaching your fitness goals?
Do you ever feel like you're doing all the right things, working out every day, drinking lots of water, eating right, getting enough sleep, etc, but still not losing those pesky extra pounds? The secret to achieving your fitness goals may not lie in the gym or in your kitchen, but simply in incorporating more movement into your day.
For some of us, working out once a day and staying sedentary for the rest of the day isn't enough to burn fat and lose weight. In fact, your body is working against you, it doesn't want to lose fat. From an evolutionary standpoint, burning fat is the worst thing to do; so, our bodies try to resist fat loss at all costs. For example, if you lower your calorie intake and exercise, your body will try to compensate for lost calories by upping your appetite. This is often why you feel so tired for the rest of the day after working out intensely in the morning. Your body is slowing down your metabolism and thus your available energy in an effort to conserve vitality.
4 ways to burn fat:
The only way for you to successfully reduce fat in your body is to create a need for a reserve energy source. If you’re already giving your body all the energy it needs, you won’t tap into your fat reserve. So, you must burn more energy than you’re taking in. There are four main ways to burn fat:
Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the energy your body expends supporting the functions of organs and physiological systems. The liver, brain, and skeletal muscle burn the most calories when your body is at rest. This is largely dependent on your age, sex, body weight, and fat-free mass. The only factor you can regulate is your fat-free mass. BMR accounts for 60-75% of total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
The thermic effect of food accounts for the extra calories burned through heat after you eat. Proteins have the highest thermic effect, at 20-30% of calories burned from heat, whereas foods high in fat hover around 0-5%. The thermic effect of food accounts for about 10% of TDEE.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) regards the calories you burn throughout the day in your usual routine. The number of calories you burn through NEAT vary from person to person and is affected by your genetics, hormones, and how active you are on a typical day. 15-30% of TDEE is from non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
Exercise is the fourth way to burn fat. But be warned the number of calories you burn through exercise is often overestimated by activity trackers or cardio machines.
Focus on NEAT:
Optimizing the number of calories you burn through non-exercise activity thermogenesis is the key to achieving your fitness goals. There are small additional measures you can take every day to increase your non-exercise activity thermogenesis:
Stand up more often throughout the day. Standing will not only increase your daily caloric expenditure but is also incredibly beneficial to your overall health.
Get moving. Walking or riding your bike for transportation is another easy way to increase your NEAT. You are turning this once sedentary commute into a great opportunity to burn some extra calories.
Play with your kids. If you are lucky enough to be with family this holiday season, take a break from the adults table and go play outside with the kids! You will be increasing your NEAT and boost your neural activity and cognition.
Take more walks. Not only is this getting you outside in nature but can also improve your mood and energy.
Exercise and fat loss:
But is exercise essential for fat loss? Studies point to yes. Exercise helps to prevent the body from going into adaptive thermogenesis, or starvation mode. Simply lowering your calories without including exercise will slow your metabolism in an attempt to preserve your precious calories, meaning that fewer calories will be burned throughout the day in NEAT. If you are trying to lose fat, you want to avoid entering adaptive thermogenesis. Working out along with a calorie deficit is the only way to make sure your metabolism doesn’t slow down and stop you from losing weight.
But all workouts are not equal in regards to fat loss. Your workouts should be tailored to your individual fitness goal.
If you want to build muscle, you should focus on hypertrophy training. Training volume is the largest component of muscle hypertrophy. Volume is defined by the number of hard sets you complete in a workout, the sets where you almost reach failure. If you want to build muscle, you should weight lift, with a focus on the five big, compound lifts: squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, and barbell row. These five exercises hit every muscle group in your body. You should start with weight lifting three days a week.
If fat loss through strength training is your main goal, you should not expect to also gain muscle during this period. Hypertrophy will not be beneficial to you beyond the number of calories you will burn. To lose fat, you should eat at a calorie deficit and maintain your muscle mass with two workouts per week. This may not feel like enough, but your basal metabolic rate will burn the fat off of you.
You can also achieve fat loss through cardio. You can use cardio on off days from your strength training. Achieving 10,000 steps per day is enough, but an hour of low-intensity cardio is also beneficial. A long stretch of high-intensity cardio will negatively impact your muscle mass and leave you lethargic for the rest of the day. A better alternative is high-intensity interval training. Only 30 minutes of high-intensity interval training is all you need.