To get leaner and to look more toned, you have to reduce your body fat.
But before you commit to an exercise programme, make a note of your body fat (calculate your BMI[F1] ) and also your Waist-to-Hip Ratio . These are the figures that tell you a lot about how much fat you should lose, and where your body is storing excess fat.
With this in mind, you can set realistic goals. A realistic goal is to lose 2.2 kg of fat a week by creating a 500 calorie deficit per day through your combined efforts (1kg of fat has roughly 1590 calories).
Now let’s talk about how to lose the fat!
The best approach is to follow a calorie controlled diet (unless you’re excessively over your ideal weight, in which case you need to restrict your calories intake). Couple this with an exercise programme comprised mainly of weight training, with some low intensity, longer duration cardiovascular activities to create a calorie deficit and burn fat.
Why weight training?
Because it builds muscle mass, and when you have more muscle mass, your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is higher. This is the energy required to keep your body functioning at rest, or throughout the day going about your daily activities. Think of it as having a bigger engine in your car, which will use more fuel when idling.
The reason we suggest lower intensity cardio exercises done over a longer duration is that stored fat can only be effectively broken down and used as energy when you are exercising between 60 and 75% of your maximum heart rate. Anything higher and you start using glycogen as the primary energy source, as fat cannot be broken down quick enough to meet your energy needs.
Interval training is a suitable solution to ensure you work through a broad spectrum of heart rate ranges during your workout if you also intend to improve your general fitness levels.
Watch out! A poorly designed fat loss programme can result in a loss of lean body tissue as well as fat, which drives your BMR down and reduces your capacity for physical work.
Training aids that help burn fat
There are fat loss training aids that can also be used to help target fat stores, which include thermogenic fat burners, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and fat blockers. While these supplements can greatly aid in fat loss, they shouldn’t be overused, or solely relied on to achieve your goal.
It’s the combination of nutrition, exercise and supplementation that will yield the best, most sustainable results.