How to Burn Fat & Build Lean Muscle Mass
Walking, jogging, running and swimming have long been the exercise choice for women wanting to lose weight. While it’s true that some exercise is better than no exercise, it’s also true that not all exercise burns fat equally.
A common exercise regimen will consist of 30-40 minutes of moderate intensity aerobics like those mentioned above 3-5 times a week. For those who are more aggressively pursuing their fat burn, it’s reasonable to think that more is better (more minutes or more frequency).
Many fitness professionals recommend this exercise regimen for fat burning and metabolic stimulating. However, recent fitness research tells us another story. Medium-intensity aerobic exercise is not the best way to burn fat.
The Aerobic Exercise Myth
Here’s the story of you on your treadmill (or stairmaster or elliptical machine or swimming pool). Let’s say you’re an avid exerciser, 30 minutes five times a week. While it’s true that you will burn a modest amount of calories “while you’re running to nowhere on a treadmill”, according to author and fitness expert Rob Poulos, this alone will not transform your body or do much to encourage fat burn. Poulos and other fitness gurus, in fact, have discovered that a mono-diet of walking, running or swimming can be counterproductive approaches to burning fat.
Why? This type of exercise – medium intensity aerobics – uses your stored body fat for energy during the exercise session. Sounds good except for the fact that after the workout, your body will create more body fat to store in reserve so it will b ready for you next time you workout.
That’s the first rub. The second problem with low intensity aerobics – when done frequently in absence of strength training – teaches your body to be cardiovascularly efficient. This means that your heart muscle learns that it doesn’t have to work as hard and will begin to “get lazy” in its everyday function. As a result, when you experience a sudden onset of stress, your heart will not be as agile to handle the increased capacity required to pump blood through your circulatory system, which is contracted by the stress and thus requires more help than usual. The “lazy heart” effect can lead to other health problems (like a higher chance of heart attack, which is elevated if you are already overweight).
Bottom line: an exercise diet consisting only of low and medium aerobic exercise doesn’t challenge your body.
The Secret to Burning Fat
What you need to do to burn fat is challenge your body to increase its capacity, strength and muscle mass. Muscle mass, in and of itself, increases metabolism and burns more calories, even when the body is at rest. As you add lean muscle to your body you will literally turn your body into a fat burning machine!
How do we increase muscle mass? Through resistance training, which includes working with weights, resistance bands, and exercise machines, and which also can include a variety of easy-to-do-anywhere strength training exercises.
Since the thighs are the largest muscles in the body (and often the most fat-forming in women), the very best muscle-building exercise you can do is squats. To do a squat, stand with your feet shoulder distance apart, pull in your belly and keeping your back straight, bend at the knees and touch the ground (if possible) with your fingertips. Make sure your back remains as vertical as possible. When you stand, lift your hands up to the ceiling. Do a set of ten, rest and do another set of ten.