How to shift stubborn fat

Losing body fat is not easy, but you probably don’t need me to tell you that! Perhaps you’ve tried for years to shift those persistent love handles or sagging stomachs. It’s often the case that the last ten or so pounds are the most difficult to shift, however hard you try.

The best way to shift stubborn fat will vary from woman to woman but listed below are what research confirms and what I believe to be the most effective ways to shift unsightly fat that refuses to budge. The fat loss rules apply whatever age or level of fitness you are and however much weight you need to lose.  


Use a combination of aerobics and weight training

The trick to losing fat is to make sure that your exercise routine includes both aerobic activity and weight training. Weight training helps to build muscle mass which is metabolically active and will reduce fat because it requires more energy to work.


With aerobic activity you are more likely to burn body fat if you exercise aerobically every day at a moderate rather than an intense pace for at least 30 minutes. If you can still carry on a conversation when you are exercising you’re doing fine but if you are huffing and puffing you may need to tone it down because fat burning can’t start unless you are breathing properly. And if you keep going beyond the 20 minute mark to 30 or even 40 minutes fat burning mode really starts to kick in.

Brisk walking is therefore the perfect fat burning exercise because it’s a form of exercise that can only really be done at a moderate pace. So if fat burning is your goal put on your walking shoes, head out the door and keep going for 30 minutes at least five times a week.


Swap bad fat for good fats

Study after study has shown that diets rich in saturated and transfats, found in red meat and processed, refined foods, will result in increased fat gains whereas diets rich in good fats, such as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids found in oily fish, nuts and seeds boost metabolic rate or fat burning. Therefore it makes sense to cut back on the bad fat while increasing your intake of the good type.


Know your carbohydrates

A diet rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, brown rice, bread, pasta, fruits, vegetables and beans will stimulate metabolism without causing an outpouring of insulin which causes greater fat storage. Whole grains are also rich in fibre which is important for fat loss as it increases feelings of fullness and pushes fat through the system to be eliminated. However, simple carbohydrates, such as sweets, white bread and processed, refined foods should be avoided during a fat loss phase as they can cause a large insulin spike, food cravings and resultant fat gains.


Mix up aerobic activity

Brisk walking is great for fat burning but for variety – to eliminate boredom and encourage adherence – and to keep going in the long term it is important to do a range of aerobic activities, such as swimming, dancing, jogging and cycling. These different activities will also have differing fat burning effects, and when combined can stimulate your metabolism to greater heights.


Weight train first

Weight training is a perfect activity for fat loss. Although it doesn’t directly burn a greater number of fat stores than aerobics, weight training will build muscle, which in turn will increase your metabolic rate for 24 hours a day. The more muscle you have, the better your chances of losing body fat.


You’re probably used to doing your weight training or toning exercises after your aerobic workout but for the next few weeks I’d like you to try doing them the other way round to see if it makes a difference. There is a school of thought that believes that training aerobically directly after weight training or toning work, or first thing in the morning, will stimulate greater gains in fat loss. The idea is that glycogen stores will be depleted at this time and therefore fat will be used directly for fuel.

Note: Be sure to do a gentle five to ten minute warm up, such as jogging gently on the spot and stretching, before you weight train to avoid the risk of injury.


Try high intensity interval training

High intensity interval training is an advanced form of aerobics designed to strip body fat at a faster rate. It’s not for everyone as it can be very exhausting but can be an effective fat loss method for someone who is fit but still wants to shift stubborn fat. As the name suggests, this training methods requires that you train at a high intensity (near maximum) for a series of intervals, before backing off to a lower work-rate. The interval can last anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds, and the entire session might last only 20 minutes, depending on the stage (both in terms of fat storage and fitness level) you are at. An example of a high intensity interval training session might be, for instance, two minutes of walking followed by fast running for 30 seconds, for a 20 minutes total.


Check your protein

Don’t leave more than three hours between eating and when you eat a meal or snack make sure it contains some healthy protein. Good sources include oily fish, nuts, seeds and legumes. Protein is not only food for your calorie burning muscles it helps keep your blood sugar levels stable. If your blood sugar levels are stable you’re less likely to get food cravings which can lead to weight gain.


Drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day

While working with my patients to help them lose weight one common theme that often emerges is that a higher then normal water intake is crucial for fat loss. Water intake is important for fat metabolism as it helps the liver to perform the function of fat conversion for energy purposes. Unfortunately the liver also has to work on behalf of the kidneys (if the kidneys are water deprived), therefore lowering total liver productivity, which has deleterious consequences for the fat conversion process. Therefore drinking enough water is an important step toward fat reduction. Try to drink at least a six to eight glasses of water a day; more if you are sweating or exercising intensely.


Cut Alcohol

Alcohol will reduce the number of fat calories burned for energy so if you want to lose body fat avoid alcohol completely. After alcohol is consumed it is converted into a substance called acetate, which is used in place of fat for energy thus helping the body to maintain its fat stores.


Keep a food diary

Studies show that people who write down what they eat every day are more likely to eat healthily and lose weight than people who don’t. So get into the habit of recording what you eat and drink every day.


Take it slow and steady

One of the main problems people run into is being consistent. Consistency and being persistent will be the key to reaching your goal. Small steps are best. Losing weight fast could throw your body into a defensive mode so set realistic goals and aim to lose one to two pounds a week and no more. Studies show that people who lose weight in this slow and steady way are more likely to keep it off in the long term.


What to do and when

If you are seriously overweight, for example, you need to lose around 30 to 40 pounds, the best strategy is to eat healthily and exercise moderately with aerobics (walking or cycling) for at least 20 minutes every day of the week. Then as the weight starts to melt away gradually add three sessions of weight training to your routine.


If you are overweight and have around 20 pounds to lose your best strategy is to gradually drop excess body fat through a combination of low intensity and high intensity training coupled with a sensible eating approach. Exercise moderately with aerobics (a combination of walking, cycling, and rowing) and weights while incorporating the occasional interval training session after the first few pounds are lost.


To drop those last 10 pounds to reveal a muscular toned body train aerobically every day for at least 30 minutes with one moderate intensity session and four interval training sessions per week. You should also weight train all muscle groups three to four times a week before your aerobic workouts.


For those who only have a three or four pounds of fat to lose it is probably best to train with weights four times a week and to interval train five times a week for 30 to 40 minutes to effectively rev the metabolic rate.

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