We turn to the experts for their insights into the key to fat loss and reducing body fat.
While maintaining body-fat percentages is generally about balancing calories in versus calories out, losing it often involves exercises that encourage the body to burn fat as fuel – draining the fat cell of the lipids at its centre and creating a smaller version of yourself.
So how much exercise do you have to do?
“For the prevention of increased body fat, the evidence points towards at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity activity per day,” says accredited exercise physiologist Dr Richardson. “But for people who are already carrying a higher than healthy amount of body fat or who are obese, this amount of exercise is unlikely to change that without healthy changes in other parts of their lifestyle, particularly their diet.”
What if you want to reduce body fat?
“A very common goal is to reduce body fat. To do this effectively we need to increase the cardio components, thus raising the heart rate” says trainer and gym owner Scott Reynolds.
While performing steady-state cardio at a heart rate of about 65 per cent results in the body opting for fat over carbohydrate for fuel, you need to exercise for at least 45 minutes or more in order to dip into fat stores.
On the other hand, participating in higher-intensity exercise means the body opts for a greater percentage of carbohydrate for fuel, but also in elevated oxygen consumption both during the session and in the two hours after training, boosting the overall energy expenditure of the workout by six to 15 per cent. For this reason, HIIT training is often utilised two to three times a week by time-efficient enthusiasts.
“To increase calorie expenditure, we must elevate the heart rate above 65 per cent. I find the most ideal training zone for optimal body fat training is 75 to 85 per cent of your maximum heart rate. Any higher and it’s too intense to maintain for extended periods of time,” says Reynolds.
Building these high-intensity workouts into a program that also includes one to two muscle-building sessions can also lead to burning fat while bum is on couch. Muscle, being a highly active, calorie-burning tissue, can do wonders for your baseline metabolic rate (BMR).
“But you don’t have to wait for the muscle mass to increase to start reaping the benefits. A single bout of resistance exercise has been shown to increase BMR up to 48 hours after finishing the workout,” says Dr Richardson.
What is often not discussed is that weight loss and the distribution of fat doesn’t always depend solely on an energy deficit.
“So many clients I’ve worked with eat beautiful, nourishing wholefoods and exercise at a moderate intensity regularly, but still struggle to lose body fat, especially around their tummies,” says Dr Richardson. “This is often related to what’s happening with psychological stress and related hormones. There is a growing body of research investigating the effects of mindful movement on weight control and weight loss, as stress and elevated cortisol promote abdominal fat.”
A small Australian study showed the positive effects of 12 weeks of three to four-and-a-half-hours of mindful movement (i.e. yoga) a week on body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, waist circumference and depressive symptoms, so remember to get a massage and enjoy a yoga class once in a while.