The (Real) Best Fat-Burning Workouts and Foods

get-rid-of-back-fatExercises that get rid of muffin top!
7 Yoga poses to get rid of back fat!
Lose 22 inches in just 2 weeks!
The 10 best foods for flat abs!
Foods that melt belly fat!

I love pinning articles and finding new ways of making fitness fun and fast. I’m pretty discriminating about what I share, however, because many of the titles (like the ones above) set up incredibly unrealistic expectations. As I talked about in Trainer Tips #1, when readers don’t get what they expect (fast, easy results!), they’re  more likely to quit in frustration.

During a recent perusal on Pinterest I found a picture of a woman using a resistance band and the caption, Bra-Strap Lift: Get Rid of Extra Fat around the Bra. Now, this is just plain misleading. Strength training in particular is touted as the miracle cure for belly fat, flabby triceps and butt, etc. Of course, one could argue that if it gets people lifting weights, then it’s doing good. But when people discover you can’t “blast belly fat” with a strength training workout or “whittle your waist” in 10 minutes, they may give up. That’s not good.

Does Strength Training Burn Fat?

If you see the word “fat” and strength training in the same title, you can assume it’s false, unless it’s referring to a very intense circuit or metabolic training.  The typical person doesn’t strength train intensely enough to “blast fat” – more calories are burned with interval training (also known as HIIT, or high-intensity interval training), metabolic training, or another type of aerobic activity.

Clearly, strength training builds muscle, and muscle burns more calories than fat. The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn without even changing your diet. TThat’s one reason it’s so important to strength train.

But in the short term, you probably shouldn’t rely solely on strength training to burn fat as many online sources claim. The bottom line is that the harder you work the more calories you burn. A 130-pound woman can burn an average of 350 kcals via “vigorous” weightlifting, but typically people will rest between sets and lift too light to get their heart rate up and burn more than around 200-250 kcals. (This doesn’t mean you can’t get your heart rate up with strength training; have you ever done kettle bell swings?)

Another pitfall of using only weightlifting for weight loss is that you might lose lean muscle mass. Muscles grow from high tension overload (heavy resistance), not light resistance done until you drop. I recommend a combination of strength training and cardio for weight loss, in addition to a clean diet.

Of course, strength training can do wonderful things for your body, including:

  • Raise your metabolism over time by increasing muscle mass, thereby helping to burn fat
  • Change your body composition to a higher lean muscle mass percentage, which will help burn fat
  • Increase your energy levels, which can indirectly help burn fat

And if you strength train vigorously enough, you can certainly get your sweat on. Just ask any of my personal training clients!

how to lose weightThe Facts on Fat-Burning

You burn fat when your body accesses fat stores for energy. To do this you need to create a calorie deficit and/or an increase your physical activity. The fastest way to lose fat is by decreasing your daily calories (a deficit of 500 kcals per day will create a one pound loss per week) combined with aerobic exercise 5 to 6 times per week and strength training 2 to 3 times per week. This amount varies based on the individual.

So even if you do all the yoga poses and strength training workouts on Pinterest, you won’t burn away all your belly fat or back fat (sorry!).

What about “Fat-Burning Foods?”

You see a lot of articles and food slideshows labeling foods as “fat burning” without any explanation. Every list is slightly different, it seems. What are you to think?

There’s plenty of research showing the validity of  these claims (though “fat-burning” may be a bit of a hyperbole). However, keep in mind that you still need to create a calorie deficit to lose weight. There are no miracle fat-burning foods and if you eat too many walnuts or any other healthy food you’ll gain weight. You should aim to eat a nutritious, clean-eating diet while managing portions.

There are several categories of foods that are beneficial for losing weight:

  • High-protein foods that take more energy to digest and provide long-lasting satiety
  • Chili peppers, which increase your body temperature and cause a temporary increase in metabolism
  • Foods with certain chemical properties which include improving the glucose-insulin response and making your metabolism more efficient
  • Foods that are high in fiber and thus reduce the amount of calories you absorb and regulate your blood sugar

Some foods that are have weight loss and overall health benefits:

  • Garlic and onions
  • Berries
  • Green tea
  • Yogurt
  • Salmon
  • Lean meats
  • Oranges
  • Broccoli
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Whole grains
  • Beans and legumes
  • Oatmeal
  • Walnuts and almonds
  • Sweet potatoes

Keep in mind that are many types of foods that have fat-burning and “superfood” qualities, not just the ones listed here.

What are YOU doing to work on your health, fitness, weight for the long term?

You might also enjoy:

Trainer Tip #1: You’re Revising Your Workouts Too Often

17 thoughts on “The (Real) Best Fat-Burning Workouts and Foods

  1. LOVE!!!!!! Now I circuit train in my own special way while still lifting decent weights so I can burn more calories than the average person lifting but that is me & most people would not do what I do. 🙂

    I love how you put this all in its place! Even with some of the valid claims, people are still going to have to work hard at this weight loss & build muscle stuff. They are still going to have to eat cleaner & better… there is NO magic pill!

    Loving your posts! 🙂

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  2. Yes, absolutely: most of what we’re told about fat loss is absolutely BS.

    I will just add that (as you know) any strength training regimen that adds muscle does in fact improve resting metabolism. But I’m 100 percent with you in observing that most women work out at a much lower intensity than they need for good results. Breaks my heart when I see them persisting with ineffective workouts . . . and then probably wondering why they’re not getting results.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this info, Suzanne! I think soooo many things online are misleading. I completely agree that there needs to be a balance, and a much as I dislike traditional “cardio” training; I think the HIIT has its place in the whole strength/fat-loss plan!

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  4. I love this post. Not sure about women’s bodybuilding (still learning and researching this world) but a LOT of the men bodybuilders (and these are NPC and IFBB pros) post that to burn fat all they did was “lift heavy”. This could cause a lot of frustration for one who is gaining muscle but still can’t get visible abs. This is a great post, Suzanne thanks for taking the time to post this!

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  5. I had no idea fiber foods decrease calorie absorption. That’s good stuff. Me thinks I’ll eat a prune, and then wash it down with a few cake slices to test this theory. Yes?? It’s sad that people still fall for that “22 inches in 2 weeks” crap. Ehhhh.

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