This article is a follow-up to “Why Starvation Diets Don’t Work For Fat Loss”.
In that article I explained why starvation diets aren’t the best idea for losing fat.
In this article I’ll explain the best ways to burn body fat.
1. Proper nutrition
•Controlling insulin spikes.
•Concept of nutrient timing
2. Proper exercise selection
•Excessive cardio isn’t the answer
•High intensity intervals
I’ll explain each of these in the sections below.
First of all what is insulin?
Insulin is the hormone responsible for taking sugar out of the blood and shipping it into our cells and muscle tissue ¹.
Insulin is constantly released, but increases in response to elevated blood sugar.
When we consume food our blood sugar levels increase based on the glycemic index (GI) of that food.
Glycemic index is a rating for food that describes how quickly that food increases blood sugar levels.
Foods are said to have a “high glycemic index” if they cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. Foods are said to be low glycemic if they have minimal impact on blood sugar levels.
High glycemic foods:
Low glycemic foods:
To lose body fat we must moderate the intake of high glycemic carbohydrates.
Scenario # 1→ The body has adequate carbohydrate intake. It burns both sugar and fat as fuel. In this scenario there is little to no change in body composition.
Scenario # 2→ The body has excess carbohydrate intake. It burns sugar as fuel, stores the excess energy as body fat (to use as future energy), and leaves fat completely alone. In this scenario there is an increase in body fat.
Scenario # 3→ The body has limited (not severe) carbohydrate intake. The body burns fat as fuel. In this scenario body fat is burned.
Scenario # 3 is the scenario we are looking to achieve.
To help illustrate this point I drew two graphs.
(Affect of eating high glycemic carbs on stored body fat)
(Affect of eating protein, fat, and low glycemic carbs on the ability to burn fat as fuel)
Eating large amounts of high glycemic carbohydrates increases blood sugar.
A rise in blood sugar causes insulin to spike.
Insulin ships the available energy (sugar) from the blood to receptive muscles.
Receptive muscles store the sugar as glycogen. The muscles use stored glycogen for maintenance, rebuilding, and/or growth.
If there is excessive carbohydrate intake muscle glycogen stores remain topped off.
Excess sugar (energy) is stored on the body as fat (potential future energy).
Moderating high glycemic carbohydrate intake helps ensure the body is only receiving enough energy (sugar) to replenish muscle glycogen, but not store extra as body fat.
The best foods to eat for burning body fat are:
• Animal protein
•Low glycemic carbohydrates
Protein has the highest thermic effect of all foods. This means that protein requires the most energy (calories) to be broken down into nutrients.
Fat helps with the feeling of satiety, protects and insulates vital organs. Contrary to popular belief eating fat will not make you fat. For information about fat checkout this article on “Healthy Fats”.
Low glycemic carbohydrates have little impact on blood sugar. You can eat them whenever you want. They are usually full of vitamins, rich in color and taste, and provide texture for your meals.
However, as Dr. Warren Willey likes to say “there is no such thing as a bad food, just bad timing to eat certain foods”. ²
Dr. Willey is referring to the concept of nutrient timing. A powerful technique to use when burning body fat.
The body won’t burn fat for energy if sugar is available.
We must trick the body into thinking it needs to burn fat for energy!
Through nutrient timing.
The general principles of nutrient timing are as follows.
•Eat high glycemic carbs in the morning after waking up and/ or directly after a hard workout.
In the mornings our blood sugar levels are low from fasting all night. High glycemic carbs in the morning give us energy for the day’s activities.
After a hard workout the muscles are in their most receptive state to take in nutrients. Eating high glycemic carbs within one hour of a hard workout will provide hungry muscles with the required sugar (energy) to rebuild, repair, and grow.
•Throughout the day eat unlimited amounts of low glycemic carbs, animal protein, and healthy fats.
This is a gross oversimplification of nutrient timing. The main idea, however, is to moderate insulin spikes through proper timing of consuming high glycemic carbohydrates.
When losing body fat is the goal you must exercise in a manner to increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR).
BMR is the minimum amount of calories your body burns, while awake, to keep you alive. I wrote in depth about BMR in the starvation diet article so I won’t revisit it here.
The key take-a-way to burn body fat is perform exercises that increase your BMR.
•High intensity interval training
•Metabolic weight training
•Weight training using heavy weights and compound movements
Numerous studies have proven high intensity interval training (HIIT) to be a very effective method for burning fat. Checkout the article “High Intensity Interval Training vs Cardio” for a more detailed look at the power of HIIT.
Metabolic weight training can also be described as circuit training. Essentially you are moving nonstop for a period of 1-20 minutes, rotating between different exercises.
Lifting heavy weights is self explanatory. Compound movements are any movement that span across two or more joints (Deadlift)
High intensity interval training, metabolic weight training, and lifting heavy weights are great methods of exercise for burning fat.
These three types of exercise burn fat because they are intense enough to increase BMR.
If your goal is burning fat I believe that you can skip long bouts of cardio all together.
Long slow cardio just simply isn’t intense enough to stimulate any real change in BMR. Once your cardio session is done the body stops burning calories.
Yes, they have done studies that show while you are performing cardio your body primarily burns fat. However, like we stated earlier we are aiming to increase BMR (total calories burned thoughout the day). Long slow cardio doesn’t increase BMR.
Now, that being said, if cardio is your feel good drug and you enjoy it, 1-2 short sessions per week won’t break the bank.
Since we are strictly talking about fat loss here though, I would limit cardio sessions to 2x per week, max.
You’ll get more bang for your buck through weight training and high intensity intervals.
To recap, the best ways to burn body fat are control insulin spikes through moderation of high-glycemic carb consumption and exercise in a manner that increases basal metabolic rate.
Email me with your questions. I’m here for you guys! I’ve got ideas to help you lose body fat. All you have to do is ask.