Questions & Answers

Burn your fat - training methods for burning fat


When choosing between fat burning training methods, you should be asking the following questions: What should I do? When? For how long? How often? There are multiple good answers for all of them, as all the methods have their advantages and their drawbacks at the same time. People’s aims and possibilities are not entirely the same, so it is quite difficult to determine one perfect solution that applies to everyone. At this point, the starting notion should be: anything is better than nothing. With this idea in mind, you can choose from among some training techniques explained in the following sections, considering multiple factors, like personal aims, time schedules, available training equipment and your physical development.

What should we do?

Short, high intensity interval cardio training

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is gaining ground really fast among existing training methods. This workout strategy alternates periods of short, high intensity exercises with short, low intensity recovery periods. Usually, intervals fall between 30-120 seconds, while the entire exercise should take about 15-25 minutes overall. Researches have shown that HIIT results in higher post-workout energy consumption than moderate, consistent intensity cardio exercises, which means that the rate of burning calories stays high for longer periods of time. There are some risks to bear in mind though, especially for beginners, people in bad physical shape and those who are not conscious of their own medical condition. Nevertheless, because of the relative nature of intensity, the risk is moderate and easily manageable, but the advantages are apparent. In addition, risks are smaller for those who are already fit.

Metabolic weight training

By now, it is widely believed that metabolic weight training is a really effective form of exercise. As opposed to traditional bodybuilding exercises, it is executed with lighter weights but is done for a longer period of time. However, it is not regarded as a traditional cardio activity, nor is it a monotone and slow cardio training, as it is a more intensive type of workout. Metabolic training is capable of burning an outstanding amount of calories, accelerates fat burning throughout the body and is similar to HIIT in the sense that it also induces beneficial hormonal reactions. Be aware that metabolic training results in muscle loss in itself, because muscle building – and maintenance – can only be attained by trainings based on heavier weights and fewer reps with longer pauses. This is why a successful fat reducing – muscle maintenance workout program must contain both heavy and metabolic weight training.

Cardio training with moderate lengths and intensities

When doing cardio exercises for a moderate duration (30-45 minutes) at the upper limit of the aimed pulse zone (moderate intensity), body fat can be burnt very effectively. Additionally, the training is followed by some rise in calorie burning, though not as dominantly as in case of HIIT.

Long, low intensity cardio training

The advantage of a long duration – at least 60 minute – cardio is that more calories are burnt from fat and the overall amount of burnt calories is relatively high. However, intensity and duration are inversely proportional, so even though the training is longer, the intensity can only be lower at the same time. Even though this kind of cardio burns more fat than carbohydrates, the burnt amount of calorie per unit of time is lower, and this method has no practical advantages in post-workout metabolic acceleration. As explained, this practice is recommended for fat burning to those beginners who are incapable of sustaining a higher intensity training regime. Under these conditions, this particular type of cardio is not too time efficient. Hiking and walking is ideal for those who are not particularly fit or are older, (seriously) overweight or are suffering from orthopaedic problems (joint issues). Otherwise, there is no point to do one hour or longer cardio training sessions, once it is possible to burn the same – or more – amount of calories with less time invested, or with a different technique. Not to mention the beneficial effects of post-workout metabolic acceleration.

When should we train?

Cardio in the morning on an empty stomach

One of the most popular fat burning techniques is doing cardio training in the morning on an empty stomach. Many bodybuilding and fitness competitors apply this method when aiming for a lean physique, and it is also recommended by trainers. On the other hand, some experts tend to warn that the risk of muscle mass loss is way too high and claim that in a 24 hour time span, the actual time of cardio training is not a deciding factor when considering the burning of calories. Low blood sugar and stored carb levels in the morning mean that the body is in its perfect condition to burn fat, but because of high cortisol (hormone that breaks down muscles) levels, the chance of muscle burning is much higher. As a result, the potential benefits and risks are equally high when following this training method.

Cardio in the morning after a protein shake

A good way to prevent potential muscle loss is to have a small meal in the morning, containing only protein, or to have a protein shake instead. It lowers the risks by suppressing cortisol levels and preventing muscle break down while providing all the benefits due to low blood sugar and insulin levels.

Cardio in the evening

Many bodybuilders and dieters do cardio training late at night but refrain from eating a single bite after workout so that the amount of burnt fat is maximised. This method has its own benefits too, but these results are moderate to say the least, while risks are quite high. Late night exercising is even prone to disturb your sleep cycles and regeneration rates. By the time you fall asleep, the speed of metabolic processes fall back to savings level, so you’ll miss all the post-workout benefits of metabolic acceleration. The risk of losing muscle mass is exceptionally high.

How often?

Regarded as an effective fat burning program, daily cardio workout is usually supported by two arguments. Firstly, more training means more burnt calories. Secondly, frequent cardio helps maintain high metabolic efficiency, as there are no longer inactive periods between exercises. These advantages are hindered by present risks of overtraining or/and muscle mass loss. Furthermore, the risk of aerobic adaptation rises if a higher frequency in training is maintained for a longer period – as the body becomes more efficient, meaning that the same amount of training burns fewer calories over time. When considering all the benefits and risks, it becomes apparent that shorter but more frequent exercises provide a better benefit to risk ratio.