The more you exercise, the hungrier you get and so you might eat more or believe you ‘deserve’ to eat more after a good workout. In some cases you might just want to eat more as a reward for having survived the session. It’s important to eat according to our whole day’s activity level, not just according to how hard you’ve exercised in the gym, particularly if you have a sedentary job.
Turn on the afterburners
Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) is the term given to the body’s attempts to recharge and restore itself immediately after a workout, a process that results in additional calorie burn. Research has shown that high-intensity interval training leads to greater EPOC than steady cardio workouts, so turn up the dial with alternate bouts of maximum effort and rest for serious results. Try the Tabata format – eight periods of 20 secs full-out work followed by 10 secs recovery.
Muscle up to slim down
Lifting heavier weights for fewer reps will promote muscle growth, but don’t worry, you won’t end up looking like a novelty circus act because women lack the necessary testosterone to get bulky. The important thing to know, here, is that a kilogram of extra lean tissue will burn an additional 100 calories in 24 hours. If you consider that a resistance training programme can reasonably be expected to add 3kg of muscle mass to your body, this equates to using up an extra 300 calories a day, just by doing your everyday activities. This adds up to a whopping 14kg of fat loss over a year!
Running on empty
Exercising in the morning, on an empty stomach, is a great way to shed fat. Research shows that fasting (which is essentially what happens overnight as we sleep) leads to increased adrenalin and reduced insulin levels, creating an environment that is more conductive to the breakdown of fat for energy.
Working out in the gym can sometimes be a lonely experience, and it’s possible to get into a rut when you attend the same studio classes every week, so give your fat loss hopes a sporting chance by joining a netball, hockey or tennis club, or try football or rugby which are both sports growing in popularity for women. Not only will variation keep you motivated, these sports incorporate the need for repeated bursts of speed (interval training) that we know burns fat.
Alternating your exercises between upper and lower body results in an extra calorie burn because your cardiovascular system has to work harder. Peripheral Heart Action training, as this is known, challenges the heart to keep pushing blood from one extreme to the other, in order to deliver oxygen to fuel the muscles. A routine like this also allows you to move straight from one exercise to the next, as muscle groups get a chance to rest, so you can get your workout done quicker.
Don’t get isolated
Compound exercises require several muscle groups to work together in harmony, as opposed to moves that specifically target one muscle. The beauty of these exercises is that they are more demanding and so will tone your muscles but at the same time burn more calories. Try 15 repetitions of each of the following: squat, chest press, deadlift and lateral pull-downs. Rest for 2-3 mins and repeat once or twice more.
Explode the fat
Also known as jump training, plyometric exercises, which developed in Eastern European athletic training in the early 1970s, involve stretching the muscles prior to explosively contracting them. This type of training mimics the motions used in sports such as skiing, tennis and volleyball so if you enjoy dodging moguls, chasing down ground strokes or charging the net, you’ll love these. And now for the good news – because this type of training is so intensive, it results in high calorie expenditure so is a valuable weapon in your fat loss armoury.
Forget exercises for your arms – really, there’s no need to even worry about them! Press-up, barbell chest press and incline dumbbell press are all chest exercises that will also challenge and therefore tone your triceps. Similarly, bent over barbell row and lateral pull-down are intended to target your back but will also tax your biceps. Focus on the bigger muscles and the little ones will take care of themselves.
Bear the load
Weight-bearing activities, such as walking and running, use more calories than those in which your weight is supported, like swimming and cycling, because you have to support your own body weight. To optimise your calorie burn in the gym, swap the cycle and rower for the treadmill or stepper.
Forget the gym
Believe it or not, your 30-60mins sessions in the gym might not be the most important ingredient in your fat burning endeavours. Recent research has coined the term non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) referring to standing, moving, and even fidgeting during everyday tasks. Scientists have found that this can add up to as much as 350 calories per day, the equivalent of a moderate intensity 60mins studio class. So resist the phone and email at work, go talk to people face to face. Enjoy standing in queues and even on TV nights regularly get off the sofa and move around a bit. As one of the supermarket giants claims, every little helps!