Do you feel like you’ve hit a wall with your training and your ability to burn fat has come to a standstill? Maybe you’ve been making progress on the fat loss front, but it’s just going a whole heck of a lot slower than you’d like. These are common themes I hear amongst our readers, particularly those that have been exercising for a while. If you’ve been using a workout program and are no longer getting the results you want, it may be time to change it up. After helping real-life and virtual clients alike for years, it’s become clear that the best way to burn fat isn’t a single, magic bullet. There is no ONE single workout type that is instantly going to stoke that fat loss fire. There isn’t one way of eating. And there isn’t one way of doing cardio. The best way to burn fat is a combination of three distinct methods of training and living, and from my experience, when these three things are done in conjunction, your ability to burn fat, lose weight, and get lean will soar to all-time highs.
Maybe you’ve tried p90x and are no longer seeing results. Maybe you’ve worked with a personal trainer and things have gotten stale. Perhaps you’ve been using some sort of online training program but results have diminished. All are viable options in their own rights, but after a while, if things don’t change, neither do you. If you’re looking for the “new” best way to burn fat, and get that train towards lean-ville moving again, it’s time you incorporated a few things into your training regimen.
Why HIIT Isn’t The End All Be All
Too many blogs and fitness professionals claim that HIIT cardio is the single best way to burn fat. It’s as if HIIT alone is the end all be all when it comes to fat loss and getting into shape. While HIIT is a great tool, and one part of the fat burning formula, when used alone, it poses some problems. First and foremost, HIIT is great at helping you shed calories in record time, but if used exclusively, it’s going to also help you shed your muscle in record time too. If you weren’t aware, shedding muscle is the last thing we want, as I’ll explain shortly.
Before we go any further, I want you to focus on what you truly want to achieve. I bet a lot of you are thinking, Well, duh, I want to lose weight”. Stop. This is a trap. When you get so wrapped up by simply lowering the number on the scale you’re doing yourself a disservice. Think of it like this for a second; pretend you woke up tomorrow morning 20 pounds less than you currently weigh. Now, let’s also pretend those 20 pounds all came in the form of muscle mass. Your body fat level stayed the same, but your body fat percentage actually increased. How do you think you’d look? You’d look absolutely terrible. The number on the scale is not what you’re trying to do – you’re trying to burn fat, and do it in the best, and most efficient way possible.
To maximize your fat burning potential and get into the best shape of your life, maintaining your lean muscle mass is an absolute must. Remember, priority number one is burning fat, NOT simply losing weight.
It’s Not Just About Calories In, Calories Out
You’ve probably heard the term calories in, calories out before, right? This implies that if your calories out is more than your calories in, you’re going to lose weight. While this is true in theory, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to lose the right kind of weight. Again, we want to maximize our lean muscle mass and minimize our fat. Burning tons of calories with super intense workouts each day, practically starving ourselves, and watching the number on the scale go down may make you feel good initially…but then you look in the mirror and you realize you appear soft, gaunt, and still pudgy – this is the problem so many of you are running into.
The key to burning fat at an accelerated rate is by finding ways to boost your metabolism. When you have a heightened metabolism, your body is going to churn though fat throughout the day – well after your daily workout has come to an end. The leanest and fittest people (not coincidentally) have the best metabolism. Some are blessed with great genetics and have a natural fat burning ability, but others are doing specific workouts that help jack that metabolism into overdrive. If you aren’t in the former group, you need to start doing metabolism boosting workouts if you want to start burning body fat.
Metabolic boosting workouts almost always combine compound strength exercises with high-intensity cardiovascular exercises, performed in rapid-fire fashion. Some great examples found on the blog include:
All of these workout plans involve big, strong lifts, set to an uptempo pace, and include intense bursts of cardio. This format of training is going to prove to be one of the very best ways to burn fat AND pack on lean muscle mass, which will in turn spike that metabolism. Two birds, one stone.
Eat Your Way to Fat Loss
This last concept is the typically the hardest for people to grasp, and understandably so. What I’m about to tell you goes against conventional wisdom, and perhaps even common sense. When people are trying their hardest to burn fat and get lean, the biggest mistake I see is the extreme restriction of calories in their diet. They’ll go on some faddy diet that is designed for fast weight loss (not necessarily fat loss) and not conducive to their intense style of training, and simply waste away all of their hard-earned muscle. Remember, your body needs fuel (calories) to build new muscle; unfortunately, muscle doesn’t appear out of thin air. If you’re not fueling yourself you’re not growing muscle…and if you’re not growing new muscle, or at the very least maintaining what muscle you do have, your metabolism is going down the toilet.
You’ve got to realize lowering your body fat and achieving a lean body is a slow process. While you may initially see a spike in the scale, due to increased muscle mass, over time, things are going to balance out. The increase in muscle will be balanced by decreases in body fat stores due to your newly heightened metabolism. While the scale number may not change dramatically, your physical appearance and measurements surely will.
I want you to really make sure you’re not only getting enough protein each day, but your total calories are in line with the intensity of your training. This means eating whole grains, healthy fats, lean protein, plenty of fiber, vegetables, and to a lesser extent, fruit. Eat balanced, eat clean, and eat smart – you do those three things and your diet will become an ally in your fat loss fight, instead of a foe.
One word of caution here – if you’re eating like you’re training like a crazy person, but you’re actually training like a wimp, you’re going to pack on more body fat. So be careful, and honestly assess how much work you’re actually doing.
So to recap what we went over in today’s blog post…
- There is no single best way to burn fat – the best way to burn fat is a combination of three key concepts.
- HIIT cardio is important, but to maximize your fat loss, it needs to be accompanied by intense weight training.
- Weight training programs that aim to boost your metabolism are the best way to burn fat and increase total caloric burn.
- Your goal should be to minimize body fat, maximize muscle, and improve your physique – not simply “lose weight”.
- You have to eat as well as you train – consume ample protein and total calories each day if you want to see fat loss progress.
At the end of the day, it’s important to realize that no matter what we do, we’re still going to have to work within the confines of our own body type and genetics. Some of us are naturally destined to be more lean and burning fat comes easier. The most important thing you can do is maximize your own potential by training hard, eating well, and living a healthy lifestyle. While achieving a lean body, rippling abs, and being toned all over is nice, this way of living is also doing wonders for your insides. You’re improving your heart health, your cardiovascular function, and benefiting all of the vital signs your doctor is looking at when you have a physical. Training to look good is fine and dandy, but also remember you’re training to improve your health, decrease disease and illness, and be the happiest person you can be.
Have any comments, questions, or concerns? We’d love to hear form you. Leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to get back.