If you’re trying to lose weight for health reasons or want to fit back into that pair of jeans that probably just shrunk in the wash, you’ll need some scientific knowledge, patience and a side of body positivity.
But before you can burn those jiggly bits, you first have to understand them.
Men are from Mars, women are from Venus
And the differences extend to how our bodies store, process and burn fat.
Other factors are also important, such as age, lifestyle and body type.
Little-to-no fat is little-not-good
Having too little body fat can be just as dangerous as having too much. Your body needs a certain level of ‘essential fat’ to function optimally.
This means maintaining a minimum body fat percentage between 10 and 13 percent for women and 2 to 5 percent for men. Falling below it can cause a number of discomforts, including:
- vitamin deficiency
- increased risk of heart disease
- nervous system damage
- a weakened immune system
- fertility problems
Without body fat, your body may even begin to break down muscle, which can leave you feeling weak and tired.
So how much fat is on me?
There are many ways to measure body fat percentage. Some are simple and inexpensive, while others are a bit more expensive and may not be super accurate.
For the most accurate measurement of body fat, consult a doctor or trainer. Weight and size charts are not one size fits all, as they do not consider key factors in a person’s overall health. And health is what matters most.
How do I lose fat without losing muscle?
Having muscle mass helps you burn fat faster. Studies has shown that rapid weight loss results in more associated muscle loss than gradual weight loss.
It’s a reason to slow down, stop obsessing over calorie counting and focus on preserving those sweet muscles.
And don’t obsess about the scale. A small amount of muscle weighs more than a large amount of fat, so the readings can be discouraging and misleading.
Instead, you can track your body measurements with a tape measure and a laptop – AND the fitness app.
This way to the gun show
Even if you don’t consider yourself a bodybuilder, your own body weight is constantly building muscle. And the more weight you carry around, the more muscle you have (snap!) – so what if it’s hiding under some rolls?
The following tips for burning fat also help maintain muscle mass in the process.
Strong is the new skinny
Strength training (aka resistance training) may conjure up images of extreme bodybuilders or Mac from ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.’ But it’s not just about getting busted.
Successful strength training requires you to contract your muscles against a resisting force such as lifting weights or supporting your body weight in a yoga pose.
One study showed that 10 weeks of resistance training can increase the number of calories burned while resting by 7 percent and reduce body fat by 1.8 kg. Burning calories while at rest? Register us!
In another study, weight training reduced visceral fat (inner belly fat) by 78 percent in people with metabolic syndrome.
Visceral fat may sound like a Marvel villain, but it is actually a type of fat that forms around the organs in the abdomen and can lead to dangerous consequences. You can fight the evil visceral fat by adding strength training to your exercise regime.
The most common form of strength training is – you guessed it – weightlifting. But if pumping iron isn’t your thing, try yoga, fitness equipment, exercise bands, or rearranging furniture in your house to achieve the same results.
HIIT me baby one more time
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a type of high-energy training that combines bursts of intensity with short rest periods to keep your heart rate up and at them.
It burns more calories in less time than other forms of cardio, and it has been shown to increase fat loss.
Ready to try? On your next walk or run, try alternating between walking and sprinting for 30 seconds at a time. Restoring your breath without stopping your activity (known as active recovery) will improve your overall fitness.
Sounds like a ‘HIIT’ to us! #DadJoke
Don’t say ‘no’ to cardio
Walking, running, dancing and kickboxing are all forms of cardio (aka aerobic exercise). This type of exercise disrupts the heart and lungs.
20 to 40 minutes of moderate to hardcore cardio per day is ideal for burning visceral fat and reaping other fat reduction and metabolism-boosting benefits.
Need some #inspo? Try swimming, cycling, running or chasing your dog around.
Move (beep), get out the whey!
Protein is more than just a supplement you mix into your smoothie after training. Protein, helps in preserving lean muscle mass and also reduces body fat.
According to a study, eating a high protein diet helps your body increase metabolism and retain muscle mass.
Examples of protein-rich foods include:
- lean beef
Protein will also help you feel fuller for longer – reducing your total calorie intake.
Is your fat good or bad ?
In the magical land of business, not all fats are created equal. While some fats are evil (we’re looking at you trans fats), some fats are actually good for you.
Because fat takes its sweet time in the digestive tract, it takes longer for the stomach to empty afterwards.
Try these delicious fats:
- coconut oil
- olive oil
Word of caution: While super delicious and a necessary part of a healthy diet, they still contain calories.
Royals should be refined, not carbohydrates
If the word refined sounds fancy, it’s actually anything but… when it comes to carbs, at least.
Refined carbohydrates have been processed to remove the bran and germ from grains. This means that their fiber and nutritional beauty is also removed.
In addition, consuming too many refined carbohydrates can lead to fat gain, especially – ( dun dun dun ) Visceral fat .
By reducing the amount of refined carbohydrates in your diet, you can reduce the amount of fat build-up in your body.
Refined carbohydrates are found in some of the yummiest party foods, such as pastries, pasta and cereals. Because they often have a high glycemic index, these sneaky carbs can spike your blood sugar levels and spike, giving you all kinds of itchiness.
Try replacing refined carbohydrates with delicious whole grain options, such as quinoa, barley, oats and whole wheat.
Soluble fiber moves slowly through the digestive system, absorbing water as it goes and keeping you feeling full for a long time.
In the same study, increased fiber intake helped participants lose nearly 2 kg over a 4-month period.
Fill up on these fiber-rich foods:
- whole grain
- nuts and seeds
Sayonara soda and goodbye booze!
Sip regularly sweetened beverages like soda, juice, and frappuccinos can add tons of empty calories, which can contribute to body fat.
Another culprit? Alcohol. Spray contains one lots of calories- and it’s usually not listed on the bottle. So the rosé you sip during The Bachelor each week contains more calories than empty promises made in the fantasy suite.
Alcohol also lowers your inhibitions, which can cause you to overeat or make unhealthy food choices.
What’s more, studies show that this type of drink is also linked to increased belly fat.
Swapping these drinks for a refreshing glass of water or sparkling water is a refreshing option without the calories.
Another option is hot or iced green tea. It is packed with antioxidants and caffeine to boost energy, immune system and fat burning potential at the same time.
Can’t stop drinking these high-calorie drinks? Start small. Swap one or two of your sugary drinks each day for water or green tea, or replace that rosé with a simple glass heart-healthy red. You will soon reap the benefits!
Let’s break it down: a summary
Body fat gets a bad rap, but it’s important to your health. Fat keeps the metabolism in check and hormone levels balanced. You definitely want some fat to hold onto
But with good comes not so good. Some types of fat – like our old nemesis visceral fat – can put you at risk for a number of life-threatening diseases.