Who doesn’t want to burn more fat when they exercise? Exercise is one of the best ways to rev up the metabolism and get the “fat-burning furnaces” working at peak capacity. Any type of activity burns more fat than sitting still, but how can you burn the most fat during a workout?
Fat vs. Carbohydrates
The two main sources of fuel the body uses during a workout are fat and carbohydrates. Fat is the primary fuel burned during low-intensity exercise, such as walking, whereas high-intensity exercise, such as sprinting, requires carbohydrates as fuel. Based on this, you might assume to burn more fat during your workout, you need to keep the pace slower. If you do this, you will burn a greater percentage of fat if you exercise at a low intensity, but you won’t burn as many overall calories. When you pick up the pace, you burn a lower percentage of fat, but more total calories, which ultimately means a greater fat loss.
Interval Training and Fat Burning
Based on this, most experts recommend exercising at a moderate to moderately-high intensity to maximize fat loss. Some even advocate doing interval training where you alternate periods of low-intensity exercise with high-intensity moves for short periods of time. For example, you might walk for two minutes and then run for a minute – and alternate back and forth. This burns more total calories than exercising at a moderate intensity and stimulates the release of hormones, such as growth hormone and epinephrine that burn fat.
Exercise on an Empty Stomach
Exercising in the morning on an empty stomach isn’t for everyone, but if you can do it, you’ll burn more fat than you would if you exercised after eating a carb meal. After not eating overnight, you’ve depleted most of the glycogen or carbohydrate stores your body can use as fuel, so you switch over more quickly to fat burning mode. On the other hand, this method won’t work if you become so fatigued from not eating that you cut your workout short.
Try sipping some green tea before working out. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2008 showed that cyclists who took a green tea supplement before cycling at a moderate intensity for thirty minutes burned 17% more fat. Some studies also show that caffeine has a similar effect.
According to a Japanese study, you’ll burn more fat by doing two shorter moderate-intensity exercise sessions rather than one longer one. Instead of doing sixty minutes of jogging or running on a treadmill, run for thirty minutes, rest for twenty minutes, and then do another thirty minute stretch. This may be more effective because the body has to “rev up” again after a rest period, which requires more energy.
Finally, don’t forget to do resistance training. This builds lean body mass and the higher your lean body mass, the more fat you’ll burn during an exercise session. You can even do circuit training where you alternate five minutes of cardio with five minutes of weight training. This burns more calories and fat than doing a single session of weight training.
The Bottom Line
By making subtle changes to your workout, you can burn more fat and see greater results. Give these fat-burning tips a try the next time you’re at the gym.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 87, No. 3, 778-784, March 2008.
Science Daily. “Interval Training Burns More Fat, Increases Fitness, Study Finds”
PhysOrg.com. “Repeated sessions of exercise burn more fat than a single, long session”