There is an endless stream of information and resources available in print as well as online, addressing how to lose excess body fat, from infinite sources. However, there is often an information overdose and in worse cases alarming contradictions. It can be painful to sort through the plethora of advice and select what seems applicable personally.
It is important to note that loss of weight does not necessarily equate the loss of fat. The constituents of the weight lost may be water and muscle, which may, in turn, reduce the total performance of a human system. Fats have a variety of benefits , including insulation, shock absorption and most importantly, energy storage. Nonetheless, methods suited to target the excess fat specifically must be applied to avoid a decline in functionality and to gain the desired result.
The resounding “how’s” include regular exercise, a healthy diet plan designed on an individual basis and adequate sleep. These three methods could take on different forms suited to individuals of widely differing make-ups.
Spot reduction is a method used very often, focused on exercising areas with the excess fat. For example, to reduce fat in the arms, an individual exercises the biceps and triceps. Unfortunately, several scientific research papers have conclusive data showing that this does not reduce fat in the areas intended. The process of burning fats is key to understanding this better. It involves the breaking down of fat molecules into fatty acids and glycerol, which is then oxidized for utilization as fuel to release the energy stored. This breakdown and release of energy may, however, occur in any part of the body, regardless of what area is exercised in isolation.
A better alternative is the coupling of spot reduction with whole-body movements to create stronger muscles as well as an overall decrease in body fat. For example, exercises like sit-ups may be coupled with cardio workouts to achieve a toned tummy and overall weight loss.
Lower body fat
These are a staple of most exercise plans worth your while. They strengthen muscles in the hamstring, hips, quads, buttocks and tighten the core as well. To achieve this all-rounder exercise:
- Stand with your feet at shoulder length and outstretch your arms in front of your body.
- Keep your back straight and your knees behind your toes as you steadily lower your butt as close as possible to the floor.
- Assume starting position and repeat several times.
- You can up your game by holding weights in your hands while squatting.
Various studies have proven that squats improve balance and co-ordination. It takes on different forms including; single-leg squats (alternate legs), back squats, front squats and goblet squats.
This is a more obvious one which boosts the heart and lung function, hence, classified as a cardio workout. It builds leg and butt muscles. More so, it carries out targeted toning on several areas of the body while simultaneously acting on the entire system, which aids overall weight loss. A study conducted in 2012 shows that individuals burned 372.54 calories by running 1,600meters.
This works exactly the way you imagine, except the climbing occurs horizontally and in one position. It works on the abdominal muscles and helps to lose belly flab. However, it has technical difficulties as your core has to remain stable when your foot lifts off the floor, like a moving plank. To do this;
- Prop yourself up on the floor with your palms facing the ground and your arms aligned with your shoulders.
- Extend your feet backwards, behind your shoulders in a straight line.
- Lift your foot, draw it to your chest and return it to the original position.
- Alternate the foot drawn to your chest and repeat the exercise.
- Speed it up to a pace that suits you best.
This burns calories rapidly and involves the use of an equipment called a Kettlebell as the name suggests. Your heart rate shoots up as the momentum of the kettlebell being swung up pushes you forward while strengthening your core. To carry out this exercise;
- Assume a sitting position, placing your hips slightly higher than your knees, which should be shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the kettlebell in your extended arms between your knees.
- Swing the kettlebell upwards to align horizontally with your chest and as you do so stand up straight.
- Return to the starting posture and repeat.
Upper body fat
This works on the upper arm and takes the form of a regular push-up.
- Lay flat on the floor and prop yourself up with your palms directly beneath your shoulders.
- Keep your elbows tight by your side as you bend them to get closer to the ground while keeping your back straight.
- As your nose inches towards the floor, press yourself back up slowly.
- You may repeat this nine more times as a beginner and increase it as suitable.
This builds arm muscles and efficiently burns calories. It is relatively straightforward;
- Stand with your feet slightly apart with your palms facing outwards
- Keep your elbows at your sides and slowly bend them upwards towards your chest
To amplify this exercise, you may use weights and tighten your abdominal muscles, while in a squat posture to strengthen your core.
Methods of Exercise
The exercises discussed above can be organised into patterns to achieve the desired result.
These are whole-body exercises. Cardio workouts such as running and cycling are not only useful for burning lower body fat but also belly fat.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
Some studies show that HIIT burns fat more rapidly than regular cardio. It involves intense exercise for short periods, followed by a recovery period.
Exercises specific to different parts of the body may be combined. You may couple lower body exercises with upper body exercises, for example, squats with bicep curls. Studies show that this is more effective at losing fat than the application of a single activity.
Food choices play a highly significant role in the loss of fat. As such, it is vital to dedicate time to come up with an efficient and effective meal plan that works for you. Thousands of diet plans exist with nutritionists and dieticians designing new systems to fill their pockets. Admittedly, a good portion of these work, but come at quite an expense. Do not lose hope, it may take a few trials, but slowly and surely you will get there.
Several studies show that exercise achieves better results when calorie intake is also regulated. Some tips to consider when designing or requesting a diet plan, include;
- Cut back on processed and sugar high foods: I know, I know it seems incredibly impossible to do without the fizz, the sweet and the canned foods that make life easy. You can start small, for example, by stipulating a maximum number of 2 chocolate bars, cakes or servings of fries to have per week and then progress to smaller bits from there.
- Fibre, Fibre, Fibre: High fibre content foods are great for losing fat because they give a “filled-up” feeling. This feeling results from the lengthy-time period it takes fibre foods such as oats, beans, broccoli and berries to digest.
- Increase your protein intake: High protein intake may help curb overeating. It works like fibre as it gives a “filled-up” and it helps to lose weight.
- Hydrate: This seems like an obvious one but is often overlooked. It is recommended to drink 8 ounces of water every day. It increases the rate of metabolism, hence getting rid of your body’s waste and creates a “filled-up” feeling.
- Portion sizing: Eating healthy foods does not necessarily mean low-calorie intake. Some healthy foods are rather high in calories, so eating reasonably sized portions is paramount. To develop a good portion sizing habit, you may use smaller plates.
Weight loss pills continue to gain increased popularity due to the marketing influx and captivating “before and afters”. A good number of these work but make sure to seek your doctor’s advice, and research the side effects. Be aware that weight loss works as a two-way street; you give what you get. If you decide to use weight loss pills, make sure to eat healthy to avoid a rebound.
Rest can never be overemphasised. It is an absolute necessity and aids in body development. During sleep, your body releases growth hormones, which aids the torching of fat. It also rejuvenates your system, giving you the strength to carry out your exercise plan. It is highly recommended to have at least 7 hours of sleep per night to function properly and to reduce the production of the stress hormone cortisol.
The three major points for fat loss, seem like a lot to combine into one functioning weight loss plan. Nonetheless, it is crucial to start from somewhere, no matter how small and gradually develop healthy habits over time.