So you think you can "target burn" fat?

Many people think that doing more exercises in a specific area will burn the fat in that area. This is not how the body works. Sure, doing a million crunches will help you burn calories, which can, in turn, lead to burning of body fat, but the body doesn't just burn body fat in a specific area. We all have the genetics to blame for a tendency to accumulate more body fat in certain areas of the body, and there is no way to exercise that specific area away. 

The best approach is to do the things you need to do to have the body start using body fat stores as energy. This will not only reduce stubborn belly fat, but also reduce body fat in every area of the body (even the fat you can’t see that is the most dangerous kind of fat, visceral fat, which greatly increases your risk for dangerous health conditions). Here are three tips for getting your body to effectively and consistently burn body fat. 

#1: Track your food.  The biggest mistake people make is not tracking what they are consuming every day. Research shows that people greatly underestimate their calorie consumption if they are "just winging it".  There are a ton of apps you can download to your phone and easily and quickly track what you consume on a daily basis. The app should give you a range of suggested daily calorie consumption based on your goals. As a trainer, I suggest that you also track your macros (percentage of protein, fat, and carbohydrates) and keep your daily carbohydrate percentage under 30%. This will keep your insulin levels lower, thus sending the signal to your body to burn fat for energy. This leads to the next tip.

#2:  The only hormone in your body that tells your body to store fat is insulin. Most Americans daily food consumption keeps insulin levels high (a diet comprised mostly of carbs). Think of it like this…you want your body to stop “hearing” the message from insulin to store fat. This means you have to stop insulin form talking to your body. This means you have to stop inviting insulin into your body. Shifting your diet to consuming protien and healthy fats and very little carbs keep the gag on that chatty insulin. The more time you spend without high levels of insulin in your body, the more time your body is spending time in fat burning mode. So you think snatching a candy from your workmate’s candy jar 6 times a day in harmless? Think again….each time you spike that insulin, it can take up to 2 hours for the insulin levels to lower. If you do this 6 times a day times 2 hours, you are spending 12 hours of the day in fat storage mode. Point made.

#3:  Work smarter not harder. As a former endurance athlete, I can attest to spending a ridiculous amount of time each week working out. And I can attest to the fact that my body fat levels did not reflect those hours. I was like many of you thinking the more time I spent in the gym, the more calories I would burn. This is has been by science. A major study research study released in 2017 determined that  humans burn about the same number of calories regardless of activity level.  In other words, exercising more does not significantly increase your daily calorie burn. The body is very good at adjusting and preserving energy. So bottom line is, if you are relying on exercise to “make up for” poor nutritional choices, you are out of luck. Yes, exercise is very important for overall health and does help improve important things related to weight loss, like insulin resistance, metabolic rate and body composition, but it will not be the factor to make you lose a lot of body fat. The only way to do this is with nutrition. You may be feeling very defeated about this news, but I see it as a positive. This means you don’t have to spend hours in the gym! You don’t even have to go to a gym. My rule of thumb is to do something active every day for at least 30 minutes and ensure I am getting some sort of strength training at least 2 days a week. Not because I am relying on it to lose weight, but for the health benefits that come with exercise. So if you hate the gym, that’s ok. Go for a long walk. Try something new like a ballroom dancing class, an indoor rock climbing gym, or try that pole dancing fitness place. Whatever floats your boat and makes you sweat for at least 30 minutes, do it!

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