Losing fat is the number one reason people get on the fitness wagon. But with so much misinformation out there it can be hard to know for sure whether your workout is burning fat, or just burning your time. Chances are if you’ve tried to shift stubborn fat before, you’ve probably heard one of these common fat loss myths:
Not too long ago, cruising along on a stationary bike for an hour was everything you needed to know about fat loss. The fitness industry has since learnt so much more about the role resistance training plays in reaching fat loss goals. True, cardio is often proven to burn more calories than resistance training. But resistance training builds lean muscle mass that helps to burn energy more efficiently overtime. It also comes with a whole host of benefits to improve bone density, connective tissue strength and athletic performance. While cardio may no longer be king, it still has a part to play in any fat loss goal. It helps to build a calorie deficit, ensuring the energy expended exceeds the energy consumed. So what’s changed? In a recent study by Dr. Jacob Wilson, it was found the type, intensity and duration of aerobic exercise impacts fat loss. Higher intensity, shorter bursts of cardio were proven to be more beneficial than the long and slow burn. So aim for shorter, more efficient cardio workouts, leaving you more time to hit the weights floor.
If only washboard abs were as simple as smashing out some crunches on our bedroom floor every morning, we’d all be walking around with perfectly chiselled stomaches. In fact, leading expert Dr. Stuart McGill argues whether traditional sit ups and crunches are good for us at all. According to McGill, these exercises place a significant amount of stress on the spine and solely target the abdominals rather than working the entire core area. He favours other forms of core training that require our middle section to work hard and stabilise the spine, such as variations of a plank exercise. If you have ever struggled to lift something heavy off the ground, you will appreciate the importance of a strong core, rather than just great looking abs. A good training plan should always incorporate large compound movements that engage the core, like dead lifts, squats, lunges, press variations and chin ups – have you ever felt sore abs after doing chin ups? If not, you may need to add some weight to appreciate how hard the core is working. Ultimately, chiselled abs come down to a low body fat percentage so what you’re sculpting below the surface can be seen above. This means a commitment to a balanced diet with a focus on natural and low processed foods.
When most people say they want to “tone up”, they mean they want to lose fat and see some muscle definition, which is typically the result of a combination of fat burning and building muscle through weight training. But the term weight lifting has a stigma attached to it, particularly for many women. If you’ve been avoiding the weights floor because you think lifting weights means getting your ‘Hulk’ on, think again! Building muscle and bulking up are not one in the same. Fat loss expert Brad Schoenfold recently identified three key focus areas for growing lean, toned muscles that you would be hard pressed to achieve with a couple of light dumbbells:
Maximum mechanical tension – this basically means working the entire body with large compound weight lifting movements.
Metabolic stress – really tiring your muscles, almost to the point of exhaustion, recruits more muscle fibres to be working hard. Reaching this point will take much less time lifting heavy weights than it will with light weights.
Muscle hypertrophy – have you heard the expression ‘muscle soreness = happy pain’? It might sound like a bad thing, but damaging muscle tissue through weight training is where progress happens. As the muscle tissue recovers, it grows and strengthens. But there is a fine line – a favourite saying is ‘stimulate, don’t annihilate!’