Becoming a Lean Mean, Fat Burning Machine
Using Cardio to Build a Strong Metabolism
If you’ve ever felt like the food you eat goes straight to your backside or your thighs, your mind is not playing tricks on you. Your body stores fat in these areas based on many factors such as genetics, hormones, age, lifestyle, and more. Your body, in essence, is trying to keep you alive by hoarding calories as fat in these storage deposits. The challenge you are now met with is how to adjust your body’s metabolism to burn off that fat through a combo of proper diet, exercise, and supplementing.
Understanding the Basics
When trying to lose weight, it is important to know how your body uses calories for fuel, especially when planning your weight loss program. Your body gets energy from fat, carbs, and protein. Instinctually, you would want your body to exclusively get its fuel from fat. More fuel from fat equals less fat, which equals lean body, right? Not quite.
Primarily, your body will get its energy from fat and carbohydrates. Protein, although can be used during exercise, is mainly used to repair the muscle after exercise. This leaves most energy source to rely on fat and carbs for exercising and firing up your metabolism.
For higher-intensity exercises, such as sprinting or deadlifts, your body will rely on carbs for fuel. The reason for that is because the metabolic pathways available to break down carbs for energy are more efficient than the pathways available for fat breakdown. Fat is used for longer, slower exercise, where the body has the time to dig through those less-efficient pathways. Supplements such as an L-Carnitine can expedite some of that fat burning for energy.
Regardless, the main takeaways to this guide should be that you want to aim to burn more calories than you take in. When sticking to the calorie-deficit rule, it really doesn’t matter what your fuel source is, as long as more goes out (burn) than goes in (intake). Bottom line, the harder you work, the more calories you will burn, which will lead to a strong furnace of a metabolism regardless of the energy source.
It’s easy to want things to be true that give us a sense of control over our bodies, especially if a lot of them can’t be controlled. One such thing is the idea that working out in certain heart rate zones will allow your body to burn more fat. The fat burning zone myth is one of the most widespread and persistent health and fitness myths out there, but it’s just not true.
Heart rate does not determine how much you burn during exercise, your bodyweight does. We know this because we have conducted a lot of science in this area, so we can confidently say that it’s not true, although it is a factor in measuring the effort it would take to burn.
Mixing Cardio for Max Burn
When it comes to using cardio for your fat burning, it’s easy to fall into the misconception that you need to go exclusively high-intensity. This is not true and may even be averse to your endeavor. Adding variety will stimulate all your energy systems in your body, as well as prevent injury from overuse. 1 hour on a treadmill can be harder on the knees and not as effective as an hour split between a treadmill and a row machine. Not to mention, exclusively high-intensity workouts may also lead to burnout or painful recoveries that can traumatize the body which affects motivation. Be kind and patient with yourself.
Hit ‘em High (intensity)
If you are implementing cardio in at least a couple of days per week, you may want to limit your high-intensity workout to 2 exercises. Here are some examples of high-intensity workouts:
Fast Pace: Any exercise machine you would normally use, however, for a 10 to 20-minute period bring up the pace as much as possible. If you are using something with adjustable resistance, go for something on the lower end so you can aim for a strong and quick pace.
Tabata Training: Tabata training is a form of high-intensity interval training that will stimulate all your energy systems without overtraining any single part, but will make you break a sweat. Exercises in Tabata training are typically high-intensity for 20-second intervals followed by 10-second rests, repeated for 4 minutes.
Interval Training: Taking the same formula from Tabata Training, you want to alternate between a high-intensity exercise for 20 seconds, and rest for 10 seconds, rinse and repeat for whatever amount of time you set for yourself, with a good 2-minute rest between completed sessions.
There are many interpretations of what can be considered moderate-intensity exercise, but it typically falls between 70 to 80% of your maximum heart rate. On a 10-point perceived exertion scale, moderate-intensity would sit between 4 and 6. To put another way, moderate-intensity exercise should get you breathing a bit harder than usual, but you can still carry on a conversation while doing it without feeling winded.
Recommended by the ACSM exercise guideline, moderate-intensity workouts usually incorporate the fat burning zone. For weight loss, you would likely want the majority of your cardio to fall into this range as it will provide the most effectiveness and most comfort together. You are neither overexerting with exclusively high-intensity workouts, and you are still in a level of comfort where you can easily implement and increment up while maintaining consistency. Simply put, it’s easier to do it again if it was easy to recover from.
You also have more choices in exercise, as even things as simple as raking leaves, taking a brisk walk, or carrying groceries, when done vigorously enough, can fall into this category.
Low-intensity exercise, is considered to be below 60% your Maximum Heart Rate, or 3 to 5 on a 10 point exertion scale. Definitely the most comfortable, as it is not as taxing and isn’t as hard of a challenge, low-intensity exercise can be just as effective to burning fat. Remember, however, that the amount of calories you burn correlates with how hard you work, so just as with other types of cardio you want to avoid exclusivity with it.
Low-intensity cardio does not have to be structured and scheduled and can be implemented simply. Long walks, choosing the stairs over the elevator, or doing more physical chores around the house all fall within this bracket. Not only that, exercises such as Pilates or Yoga that sit in the lower-intensity scale can also help develop your core, flexibility, and balance.
Consistency is the Key
Yes, it’s pretty obvious that you need to consistently exercise to lose weight, but it is more than the calories your body is burning. You see, there are also adaptations your body makes when you exercise on a regular basis, directly leading to your body’s ability to burn more fat without effort – a fat burning machine per se.
The benefits of consistent exercise include:
Becoming more efficient: Your body becomes more efficient at delivering and extracting oxygen. This helps your cells burn fat faster.
Improved Circulation: This adaptation allows fatty acids to move more efficiently through the blood and into the muscle. That means fat is more readily available for fueling your body.
Increased number and size of Mitochondria: Essentially the cellular power plants that provide energy inside your cells. Exercise increases the need for more and bigger mitochondria, which leads to stronger need to burn fat for energy.
Tips for Consistency
Maintaining consistency can be a challenge just as hard as the exercise itself. A few tips we’ve found that help:
Changing your routine around: Small things such as parking further away from the stay for a higher step count, do an extra lap at the mall, or increase the intensity of your yard work. All these small changes in your routine are small individually, however, altogether will lead to more significant results.
Make exercise your focus: Choose a day to schedule AROUND your exercise rather than the other way around. Choose a day and time for it and plan the rest of your day around your exercise, which is the focus of the day. This may take strong willpower and setting boundaries with others, but making your health a priority is the tactic here.
Split em up: Switch out what would have been small breaks to scroll through your phone or drink some coffee for a small workout. Several of these a day added together will burn the right amount of calories to see visible results, granted your intake is low.
Strategize and Supplement
Plan it out
You cannot control what you cannot measure, so the surest way to success is having a plan. Setting up a plan you can execute comfortably is going to make all the difference for you. When it comes to setting up a cardio program here are some quicks steps you can follow for direction:
Choose an activity: Choose something you like and can do comfortably enough to increment up and down in intensity. Maybe you want to choose a set of machines you stick to for your workouts, maybe it’s a certain youtube channel you follow with circuits you can follow along with. Whatever it may be, own it as Your Jam at the gym. Hate cardio? Do chores intensely.
Choose the Days: General guidelines suggest moderate cardio 30-60 minutes most days per week, but realistically that is hard for most working people to fit in. 3-4 days per week or every other day would be more than fine.
Figure out how much time you’ll exercise: This is a good thing to figure out to plan ahead in case you choose to supplement your workout with a fat burner. Timing your workout so you know when to take your pre workout will help you get the most out of your workout.
Schedule: Using your phone, you can set reminders in your calendar with a notification first thing in the morning reminding you of your workout for the day. This puts the idea in your head while still in your theta dream-like state which will increase the likelihood of following through.
Prepare beforehand: Only able to fit a workout at the butt-crack of dawn? Do the 5am version of yourself a favor and leave everything ready beforehand. Your shoes and workout clothes left out, your water bottle filled, and playlist preloaded in your phone will save you all the time and effort in the morning. Again, this is all intended to achieve consistency through easing the micro-barriers.
Maximize by Supplementing
Every bit of effort you make is only going to benefit you. Whether you can follow through with the entire regimen you lay out for yourself or 80% of it, you want to maximize effort you put in. Taking a Fat Burner, for instance, will increase thermogenic activity in your body, increasing the amount of calories you burn doing the same exercise you were going to do anyway. This can make high-intensity exercise something easier to ween into as your body has increased it’s capacity to burn fat by the time you are ready.
Second to burning the necessary calories and fat, ensure to take in your protein following every workout. This is going to aid in your recovery and preserving lean muscle tissue. This gets you ready for the next cardio session faster and, ultimately, more consistently.
Once the pounds have shed off and you are seeing some more flattering tones to your body, you are ready for whatever next step you want to take with your body. Achieve a ripped and shredded look using a Diuretic Formula, or work on bulking up muscle mass. At this point your body is a clean slate and it all starts with a strong metabolism.