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Why Most of the Top Fat Burning Strategies Fail
How many articles on fat burning strategies have we read only to roll our eyes knowing they’ll never work for us? Too many to count, right? Simply put, most fat burning advice fails for one of three reasons:
- Make unrealistic demands on our diet
- Require expensive equipment or gym memberships
- Ask us to eat foods we find repulsive and unappealing
Plus, many fat burning strategies are simply based upon pseudo-science and marketing hype. Think Atkins, Keto Diet, or the latest and greatest piece of exercise equipment that most of us can’t afford or wouldn’t use even if we could.
However, burning fat becomse simple when you know the facts and can make simple but realistic adjustments to diet and activity levels. Let’s look at 10 realistic ways to shed fat and keep it off that anyone can do.
1 Increase Protein Intake
Protein Boosts Metabolism Rate and Caloric Burn
Protein is a macronutrient with several fat burning properties. First, protein naturally boosts your metabolism rate, or how many calories you burn at rest. Simply put, your body needs to burn more calories to digest protein than say fats or carbs. In fact, nearly 30% of the calories you get from protein are used to digest and absorb the nutrients.
By comparison, carbs only burn 5-10% of calories during digestion whereas fats burn as little as 3% of total calorie intake.
Protein Impacts Hunger and Satiation Hormones
The hypothalamus helps your body regulate weight via specialized hormones. Higher protein intake increases levels of hormones that regulate how much you need to eat to feel satiated or full. Specifically, higher protein intake boosts levels of GLP-1, peptide YY and cholecystokinin. In doing so, this reduces the amount you need to eat to feel full and naturally helps curb caloric intake.
In addition to helping you feel satiated faster, protein also helps naturally curb appetite. This occurs because higher protein intake naturally lowers levels of the hormone ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone.
So, by substituting protein for carbs and fats, you can reduce cravings and naturally reduce portion sizes without counting calories or starving yourself. In turn, you easily reduce caloric intake making it easier to create a caloric deficit and burn fat naturally.
2. Add-In Realistic Amount of Anaerobic Exercise
Anaerobic exercise requires significant exertions of energy and forces your body to get that energy from reserves–your fat stores for instance. The most ideal form of anaerobic exercise for burning fat is strength training. Specifically, lifting weights which help you build muscles.
First, muscle cells burn more fat at rest than fat cells. So, the more muscle you have, the higher your baseline metabolism rate. Even better, anaerobic exercise specifically helps burn stubborn belly fat.
In one study, weight lifting significantly reduced belly fat in participants who also suffered from metabolic syndrome. In another well-documented study, Several weeks of anaerobic exercise along with aerobic exercise led to a signficantly greater reduction of belly fat than aerobic exercise alone.
But, how much anaerobic exercise do you need to plan for in order to truly reduce belly and body fat? Depending on your current health, most experts agree that 30-60 minute workouts 3 times a week are ideal. Each hour of anaerobic exercise burns 400-600 calories immediately. And remember, by building muscle mass, your metabolism will increase so you also burn more calories at rest.
Always consult with your physician before starting any new exercise regimen. You risk injury and other health problems by jumping in too fast and going overboard. Even modest use of dumbbells and simple, repetitive exercise routines can quickly build muscle mass to help you burn fat immediately while increasing your metabolism rate.
3. Avoid Unhealthy Beverages
Burning fat doesn’t just boil down to what we eat. What we drink can be every bit as important especially with so many unhealthy options out there.
Soda and even many so-called healthy “juices” are often loaded with refined sugar or fructose. Alcohol also tends to be loaded with empty calories that also tend to lower our will-power so that we then indulge in unhealthy eating/overeating.
Plus, the effects of these unhealthy beverages is well-documented. Studies consistently show that sugary beverages and alcohol consumption highly correlate with higher levels of belly fat.
One of the simplest and most effective fat burning strategies is to reduce intake of sugary beverages and alcohol. In their place, drink more water, green tea, or even straight coffee.
Green tea is one of the most beneficial beverages for fat burning as it contains caffeine, boosts metabolism, and ultimately helps burn more fat. In fact, in one study, drinking gree tea extract boosted fat burning by 12% compared to the control group.
Realistically, you are going to go out to dinner and occasionally indulge in a drink or two. And yes, you may go out to lunch and get a soda. But if you make a conscious effort to substitute even a few of these beverages each week for water or green tea, you can burn more fat and reach your weight loss goals faster.
4. Make Sleep a Priority
Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the top fat burning strategies you likely never knew about.
In one study, people who slepts for less than 5 hours per night were more likely to gain weight than people who slept for 7 or more hours per night.
The reason why sleep is so vital to successful weight loss is the hunger hormones. In one study, sleep deprivation was linked to negative adaptation of the hunger hormones which led to increased appetite and higher risk for obesity.
For sleep, the magic number seems to be 7 hours per night if you want to burn fat and lose weight. Cutting down on caffeine and developing a steady sleep routine (cut down on late night texting, etc.) can help you get and stay asleep.
5. Weekly Cardio Exercise (Even Mild Routines)
Combining aerobic exercise (cardio) with anaerobic exercise burns fat much faster than either alone. Cardio improves blood flow and specifically impacts the heart and lungs. While doing aerobic exercise, your body gets most of it’s energy from the oxygen in your blood stream.
Cardio helps burn fat and in one study, participants found that the more aerobic exercise they did, the more belly fat they lost. And, depending on the type and intensity of the cardio, other studies have shown it can increase muscle mass and reduce belly fat.
Ideally, you want to strive for around 30 minutes of cardio each day to effectively burn fat. Types of cardio exercise include:
- Walking/Brisk Walking
6. Intermittent Fasting
Every time you eat, it causes an insulin spike. Too many insulin spikes can lead to leptin resistance. When this occurs, the brain is no longer able to detect leptin. If this happens, your brain will think you are literally starving and trigger 3 things that make fat burning and weight loss nearly impossible:
- Cravings increase in frequency and intensity
- Need to eat more to feel full and satiated
- Metabolism slows down to conserve energy
Intermittent fasting is an effective way to cut down on insulin spikes and reduce the chances of developing leptin resistance. Contrary to what you may think, intermittent fasting does not mean you need to starve yourself for extended periods of time.
Instead, what you really want to do is to restrict your food intake to a specific 8-10 hour window of time. Now, studies do show that fasting for entire days (where you eat one day but not the next) can reduce body weight by up to 7% over a 12 week period of time. However, other studies show that restricting food intake to an 8-hour period also helped reduce fat and maintain muscle mass so long as it was combined with regular exercise.
Of the two options, restricting food intake to an 8-hour window is likely to cause less stress and be more likely to be maintained. The less discomfort and disruption any fat burning strategy causes, the more likely it is to be effective and maintained. So, start with restricting to an 8-hour window and if that works and you want to try alternating days, go for it!
7. Increase Intake of Fiber
One of the hidden advantages of fiber in helping you lose weight is that it fools your brain into think it’s full longer. That’s because fiber absorbs water and moves slowly through the digestive tract and therefore keeps hunger pangs at bay. Plus, studies show that eating foods high in fiber reduces risk for water weight gain and prevents fat from accumulating.
Without any changes to diet or activity levels, one study showed that increasing fiber intake by just 10 grams a day led to a nearly 4% reduction in belly fat. And because fiber makes you feel fuller longer, another study found that increasing fiber intake by 14 grams led to a 10% reduction in caloric intake.
Foods that are high in fiber include:
- Whole grains
8. Eliminate or Greatly Reduce Refined Carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates, or carbs, are one of the leading drivers of the obesity epidemic. Bran and germ are effectively removed from carbs during processing leaving virtually no beneficial fiber or nutrients for you to absorb.
Plus, refined carbs tend to cause the very insulin spikes that lead to leptin resistance. Specifically, they cause massive spikes and subsequent crashes in blood sugar levels which only stimulates appetite so you eat even more.
Studies show that diets high in refined carbs are associated with higher levels of belly fat. This is the same “visceral fat” that has been highly associated with higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and some forms of cancer.
Ideally, you want to limit or eliminate your intake of refined carbs. So, staying away from pastries, pastas, and white breads is a great start. Instead, try looking for foods that are rich sources of whole grains such as quinoa, barley, and oats.
Eliminating refined carbs is likely impossible as they are found in virtually all processed foods. However, consciously cutting down on intake can be one of the top fat burning strategies you can employ with relative minimal disruption to your life.
9. Consume Healthy Fats
Not all fats are created equal. By consuming more healthy fats, you can actually avoid unwanted weight gain because they make you feel fuller longer. This is because fats take longer to digest and thus stay in your stomach longer and thus naturally help suppress appetite.
Plus, healthy fats do aid in weight loss according to researchers. In one study, people eating a diet rich in olive oil and nuts had lower risk for weight gain than those on a low-fat diet. In another study, people consuming 2 tablespoons of coconut oil each day lost more fat than those consuming soybean oil.
Essentially, you want to eat healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Plus, you want to avoid any trans fats at all costs that are typically found in processed foods.
But tread carefully. Healthy fats tend to be high in calories so don’t overdo it. Where possible, just try to replace unhealthy trans fats with the healthier alternatives suggested above to naturally reduce appetite and shed fat.
10. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
One of the very top fat burning strategies is High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT. Essentially, this form of exercise involves quick bursts of activity with short recovery periods. This helps keep your heart rate elevated, burn a lot of calories, and can help build lean muscle mass. For burning fat, nothing really beats HIIT and it takes less time to lose weight than using cardio alone.
In one study, doing HIIT 3 times a week for just 20 minutes each session helped participants lose over 4 pounds in 12 weeks. In addition, they lost 17% of their belly fat and saw a decrease in waist circumference.
While Youtube and other similar channels are loaded with great HIIT workout routines, it doesn’t have to be so complicated. You can simply go walking or jogging and then switch to sprinting for up to a minute at a time. Then, keep walking. After a few minutes, try sprinting again.
The great news here is that you can burn the same amount of calories as cardio investing roughly 1/3 less time. However, definitely consult with your physician before engaging in any new exercise regimen, especially HIIT. If you are out of shape and haven’t exercised in awhile, starting out with mild cardio would be recommended first. Then, build up to HIIT as your conditioning improves.
All of the top fat burning strategies listed above are fully backed by clinical research and do work. Basically, they all boil down to doing two things:
- Cutting down on caloric intake naturally
- Increasing caloric burn via increased activity levels
To burn fat, you need to create a sustained daily “caloric deficit”. Simply cutting down on your caloric intake is rarely enough or even healthy when it comes to burning stubborn and dangerous belly fat. In fact, the most effective fat burning strategies involve a multi-pronged approach.
However, it is important to remember to take a reasoned, pragmatic approach. If you try to do too much too fast, it’s very likely you will ultimately fail because it’s unsustainable. Making modest adjustments like increasing your intake of protein is one way to naturally reduce caloric intake without sacrificing feeling satiated after each meal.
Plus, adding in a short routine 3-4 times a week using dumbbells for 30-60 minutes both burns calories and increases your metabolism thanks to more muscle mass. And while HIIT is more effective in burning fat, it’s ok to start out with daily walks instead.
And remember, what you eat is every bit as important as what you drink when it comes to burning fat. Sugary beverages and alcohol can wreak havoc on even the most disciplined of diet plans. Making small but effective changes to a few habits can make a big difference in your weight loss efforts.
You don’t have to use every one of our top fat burning strategies to be successful. You just have to be consistent and realistically stick to those strategies you decide to use. Just make sure you combine some form of caloric reduction (change in diet) with an increase in activity level to increase your caloric burn. Then, just stick with the changes and the fat will melt away faster than you think!
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Mike Dorfman is BS in Biochemistry from the University of Colorado. Mike’s has worked as a personal trainer for Gold’s Gym and helped many clients achieve their weight-loss and fitness goals.
To health first, weight-loss second. Mike and Tetrogen are here to help you make the transition to the healthier, happier, and thinner you!
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