Contrary to popular belief, low-intensity, long duration aerobic exercise is not the best method for burning body fat. Whilst this approach may work for absolute beginners, anybody with even the most basic level of fitness could and should work harder to reap multiple benefits.
Research has shown that whilst the body will use fat stores as a primary source of energy during steady-state, low intensity work, if you use high-intensity interval training you’ll burn more calories in the 48hours following training as your metabolism becomes and remains elevated.
HIGH-INTENSITY TRAINING WILL:
Burn more fat as a percentage of total calories used.
Increase your metabolic rate both during and immediately following training.
Improve overall fitness levels and increase utilization of fat for energy both during training and when at rest.
So, the more energy used during cardiovascular training, the more calories burnt overall. Remember, it is total calorie expenditure that we should be more concerned with and it is high-intensity training that will consume the most calories and burn fat more effectively.
Having understood the above, don’t panic! You are not banished to the treadmill for endless hours of hard running. Keep your cardio workouts short and always use some kind of interval training. Any combination of intervals can be used; utilizing not just speeds but inclines or resistance levels. Try to follow these guidelines:
Make sure you work hard!
Make your cardio sessions 20 – 30 minutes long (maximum).
Make sure you have a comfortable recovery zone (i.e. 5 out of 10 on a scale of effort)
Intervals can be performed on any piece of equipment, so choose something you like. However, be aware that recent research has shown that fitter individuals would benefit more from treadmill work, closely followed by the stepper, rower, cross-trainer and then upright bike. Less fit individuals can start using any piece of equipment.
An early start
For optimum fat-burning results when performing high-intensity interval training, it is best carried out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Ideally you would wake up, drink as much water as you can handle before you run (i.e. without getting a stitch when you run), and then you would go for your run / speedwalk, return and have your breakfast. One or two glasses of water is an adequate intake to see you through your run.
By training first thing in the morning you will increase your metabolism for the rest of the day and maximise the fat-burning effect of interval training, which is greater than steady-state training.
If this is impractical, you could perform the cardio 2 to 3 hours (maximum) after eating, so your body is almost fooled into thinking that it’s running on an empty stomach. This will have a similar (though possibly less fruitful) effect.
Remember, you choose your own levels to work at, so be honest with yourself. If it’s too easy, step it up a level; if it’s too hard, don’t feel bad if you need to drop down. Your fitness level will improve over time.
What is the best activity? The one that you actually DO! So choose a cardio activity that you like the most (or hate the least) and give it your best effort. The only thing that can stop you from success is yourself.
RAMIS Health & Fitness, Westcliff near Southend-on-Sea