If you haven't already I strongly recommend you read my two previous posts before reading this one. Why Does Our Body Store Fat, and Foods That Make Us Fat form a foundation for all future articles on exercise and weight loss.
You Don't Have to Exercise to Lose Weight...
I tell people they don’t have to exercise to lose weight, and it’s true. This is probably the most prevalent myth about weight loss – the completely fallacious idea that you have to exercise to lose weight, when the real keys are consuming fewer calories than your body needs, and avoiding high glycemic index foods. Eating small meals throughout the day helps too, as this keeps your metabolism running in high gear and turns your body in to a fat burning machine!
But It Helps!
But what if you don’t mind exercising, or perhaps you want to speed up your fat loss? If this is the case, there is very definitely a right way to exercise to lose weight, and about a hundred wrong ways. I work out at 6 a.m. every day, and I see lots of people at the gym on the cardio machines. I just shake my head. They’re doing it wrong! OK, so they’re going to burn a few hundred calories on that treadmill. Big deal, they’re just going to go home afterwards and eat breakfast, immediately replacing those calories and shutting any fat burning down cold. And if they ate breakfast before they came to the gym, they likely won’t burn any fat at all. They’re just burning the food they ate.
Burn Fat While You Sleep
Remember the stuff in the Foods That Make Us Fat article about sugar being your bodies’ fuel, and how your body will always burn fat dead last, after the free sugars and glycogens are gone? That’s the key. I’m about to show you how to use that knowledge to literally burn fat while you sleep! Yup. It’s true. You can put your body in a state where it is burning fat while you sleep. All night long!
Here’s how it works. Follow my recommendations about eating small meals throughout the day, making breakfast the biggest meal and gradually reducing the size of your meals until dinner (meal 5 or 6) is very small – no more than a few hundred calories. Now you have very little food in your system for your body to extract sugars and build glycogen from.
Now you’ve eaten your last meal of the day. Time to exercise! This is where some people will say, “But won’t I get cramps if I exercise after I eat?” No, you won’t. That’s a myth. In fact, until you get in shape you could be susceptible to cramps regardless of when you exercise. The cramp is caused by tissues running out of oxygen because your vital organs are using it all. Once you get in better shape, the cramping will go away.
The Sugar/Glycogen/Fat Burning Ratio
Remember that your body will burn free sugar first, then glycogen and finally fat? In actual fact it burns all three at the same time, but the percentages change depending upon how easily your body can access sugar and glycogen. If there’s lots of the first two available, only the genetically gifted will burn any appreciable amount of fat until the sugars and glycogen are gone. And that’s the final clue.
Eat - Then Train
Eat your last meal of the day, and be sure to include a protein in that meal. This is key to making sure you burn fat, rather than losing muscle. About an hour later go work out as intensely as you can handle for a minimum of 40 minutes. This is the amount of time your body needs to burn off all the free sugar and glycogen, leaving nothing to burn now except your stored fat!
Now go home, relax as you normally would, and under no circumstances eat anything else! If you just give your body easy access to sugar in the form of food, once again you’ll shut the fat burning down cold.
Leaving Your Body No Choice But to Burn Fat
Do all of this, and congratulations, you’ve now put your body in a state where it has no choice but to burn fat for energy. Now go to bed. Your body will continue to burn fat while you sleep, and the fat burning won’t stop until you eat breakfast the next morning. And absolutely do eat breakfast when you should, shortly after getting up. Trying to cheat the system by extending the fat-burning period will backfire, because by the time you eat, you’ll be starving and any food will give you an insulin spike resulting in fat storage.
As to what kind of exercise you should do, it doesn’t really matter. Whatever method of cardio exercise that appeals to you will work, as long as you’re sustaining a heart rate between 65 and 85% of your max (most machines will do this calculation for you) and you do so for a minimum of 40 minutes. This will burn off all of your glycogen and free sugars. I like to break my cardio up, doing 10 to 15 minutes on the rowing machine, followed by another 25 to 30 on either the treadmill or the elliptical.
Note that this is an optimum fat-burning exercise method. While it won’t be as effective, you can burn fat at any time of the day if you do it right, and I’ll cover that in my next article, Losing Fat vs. Losing Weight.