In the new year, our thoughts turn to getting in shape or getting in better shape. Good news: there are some relatively easy ways to speed up your fat loss and encourage your body to tap into its fat stores more rapidly. What follows is an explanation of certain techniques that can help you accelerate your fat loss as the new year begins.Increase the “Intensity” of Your ExerciseIntensity refers to the level of effort you exert during exercise. High-er-intensity exercise helps you get leaner much faster. How do you know if you’re ex-ercising intensely enough? There are a couple of ways to tell.
With aerobic exercise, you should be breathing hard but still be able to carry on a labored conversation. This indicates that your body is processing a significant amount of oxygen. When more oxygen is “extracted” by your muscles, more stored fat and carbohydrate can be used to supply energy.Another way to determine aerobic intensity is by monitoring your heart rate. For best results, you should exercise at a level suffi-cient enough to raise your heart rate to 70 to 85 percent or high-er of your maximum heart rate (MHR).
MHR is expressed as 220 minus your age. For example, sup-pose you’re 40 years old, and you start an aerobic exercise program. Your maximum heart rate is 180 (220 – 40). You should work out at an intensity such that your heart reaches between 126 and 153 beats a minute (70 to 85 percent of 180 beats per minute = .70 x 180 = 126, or .80 x 180 = 153). If you’re a newcomer to aerobic exercise, start out in the lower end of your range. Gradually increase your intensity so that you reach the higher end of your range as your body becomes more aerobically fit.Higher-intensity aerobic exer-cise burns more fat. To illus-trate what I mean, let’s look at two examples. First, suppose you walk for about 45 minutes at about three miles per hour, el-evating your heart rate to about 65 percent of its maximum — a moderate level of intensity. At this intensity, you’re burning a total of 216 calories — 108 calo-ries from carbohydrates and 108 calories from fat.In the second example, you pick up your pace by walking 4 miles per hour and elevating your heart rate to 75 percent of its maxi-mum. In the same 45-minute period, you’ll burn a total of 288 calories — 176 calories from carbohydrates and 112 calories from fat. So at the higher inten-sity level, more of your energy comes from fat (112 fat calo-ries versus 108 calories).1
Increase Your Strength Training IntensityIntensity in strength training re-fers primarily to the demand you place on your muscles — in other words, how much weight you lift or how many repetitions of an exercise you do. For great-er intensity, you must challenge your muscles to lift more weight or do more repetitions each time you work out. Working your muscles hard ultimately leads to more lean tissue and less body fat.Shift Your Body into a Fat-Burning Mode By Perform-ing Aerobics after Strength TrainingYou can shift your body into a fat-burning mode faster if you perform your aerobic exercise after strength training. Lifting weights causes your body to draw on muscle glycogen for fuel. During a 30 to 45-minute training session, you can use up a lot of glycogen. Afterwards, your body is glycogen-needy — the perfect time to start your aerobics. Theoretically, your body then starts drawing on fat-ty acids for energy during the aerobics. You’ll burn more fat, and get leaner as a result.
Lose More Fat by Increasing The Duration of Your Aerobic WorkoutFor various reasons, some people just can’t push for higher intensi-ties. If you’re one of them, don’t despair! Simply increase the dura-tion of your aerobic workout. The longer you work out aerobically — 45 minutes or longer — the more fat you’ll burn.Lose More Fat by Increasing the Frequency of Your WorkoutsYou can burn more fat by increas-ing the number of times you work out each week. If you’ve been ex-ercising aerobically three times a week, gradually work up to four or five times a week. You’ll burn more calories. Many of those calories will be fat calories, especially if you’re working out at higher intensities.Take Gradual StepsIt can be tempting to work out harder and longer or add more ex-ercise sessions — and do it right away. But proceed with caution or else you could hurt yourself. Make small upward increments in inten-sity, duration, and frequency, and you’ll be gratified by what you can accomplish.
1. Chester J. Zelasko, “Exercise for Fat Loss: What Are the Facts?” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 95 (December 1995): 1414-1417.