This is a question I get asked a lot, I guess mainly because people think if they could do just one thing, losing weight would be so easy. So I’ll explain to you in the most simple terms possible how and why I’ve come to my conclusion, and I think you’ll be surprised to discover that the most effective fat burning exercise is actually also a lot of fun! Sound too good to be true…?
Before I go on, it is important that I explain what bodily fat is, or more, how it gets there. The fat on our bodies is a storage of energy (measured in calories or kJ). It is healthy to maintain some body fat, more for women than for men. Among other important functions, it keeps us insulated, gives us padding to protect our organs and acts as an energy reserve. It increases when we consume an excess of calories (more than what we use) and vice versa. Food energy comes from molecules of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, organic acids, polyols and ethanol; but mostly from the first three. Water, minerals, vitamins and fibre are other molecules that are essential to our survival, however contain little or no calories.
Eating food containing high amounts of fat molecules will not necessarily increase your bodily fat, instead, eating too much food energy in general will make you fat. Our bodies are pretty smart; when they need nutrients, they turn on the hunger signals to make you eat and they turn them off again. As your body digests what you have just consumed it recognises if it has just received all the nutrients it was asking for. If you just ate french fries and a cheeseburger, chances are it wouldn’t have, and as well as having just eaten a seriously high amount of calories, you will probably be feeling hungry again shortly after. So basically, eating crap increases your chance of consuming too much food energy and therefore, getting fat.
If you had’ve eaten a piece of baked fish (high in healthy fats and protein for cell repair and regeneration and other important bodily functions) and a variety of lightly steamed, colourful veggies (full of carbohydrates for energy, as well as fibre and essential vitamins and minerals), you would have not only consumed far less calories, but your body will keep those hunger signals switched off for longer, and you probably won’t overeat.
There can be other factors that come into play when it comes to gaining and losing fat and I could go on about this point for another 12 pages, but basically, if you consume more calories from food/drink than what you burn in daily activity, then you will get fat. The opposite is similar, but this is where participating in the right type of exercise becomes important. If you consume less calories than what you burn, you will lose weight, but not necessarily from fat.
Carbohydrates are the easiest source of food fuel for your body to use (they are broken down fastest), so your body will choose to burn these first. Once it runs low or out, it has a choice of using either fat (from food or stored) or muscle (proteins). To ensure that this weight lost comes from fat rather than muscle, you need to load your muscles regularly to remind your body that you still need them, as well as consuming adequate protein to maintain their growth and repair. And as an added bonus, the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism, and therefore the more calories you burn at rest.
So with all this in mind, the most effective fat burning exercise is going to be something that burns a sh*t load of calories, as well as giving your muscles an intense workout, whole body over. The key to burning a heap of calories in a short space of time, is to get your heart rate up. A few things come to mind; lifting heavy weights, sprints, and boxing.
Lifting heavy weights will definitely give your muscles a serious workout. During the period of exercise, you will not actually burn so many calories, but the amount you burn over the course of the day as a result of your increased metabolism from lifting the weights will be more significant. With an effective weights program, you can work your whole body, and the more muscles you get working, the more calories you burn!
Sprints also give your muscles as awesome workout. Although arguably not as much as a big weights session would, for most people, it would still be enough have your body choosing to burn fat before muscle. Sprinting (whether it be running, swimming, rowing, whatever) will work your whole body, get your heart rate pumping and definitely burn a heap of calories, and likely more than lifting heavy weights will.
In my opinion, boxing is the most effective fat burning exercise out there and I’ll tell you why: not only does it give your muscles a solid workout, and get your heart rate charging, it is super fun and adds a competitive edge. What this means is that you are less likely to slow down or stop just because you are tired. In my experience as a trainer and as a boxer, people will always put in that little bit extra when it comes to punching the pads than they would ever do on a treadmill or weight stack. When boxing with proper technique, you push muscles from your whole body as hard as if you were lifting heavy weights, and at an intensity equal to all out sprinting. Boxing combines the attributes of two of the best fat burning exercises, which arguably makes it the most effective fat burning exercise around.