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How do I Burn Body Fat?

Shelby Miller
Shelby Miller

To burn body fat, three behaviors must be addressed: nutrition, strength training, and cardiovascular exercise. Proper nutrition is considered to be the most significant factor toward losing body fat and keeping it off. Strength training is another important component, as a body with more muscle burns more calories per day. Finally, cardiovascular exercise, when performed strategically and with an eye toward fat burning, can be yet another key component of effective weight loss.

Many people are aware of the right foods to eat to keep off excess body fat: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins among them. Experts suggest, however, that to burn body fat, when and how a person eats is equally important as what he eats. It is recommended to spread calories throughout the day, consuming five or six smaller meals, or three meals and a couple of snacks, particularly for sedentary individuals. This will ensure that blood sugar and energy levels remain stable and that the metabolism remains elevated, as the body is constantly being given something to burn.

Bodies with more muscle burn fat more efficiently.
Bodies with more muscle burn fat more efficiently.

Similarly, as the storage of excess carbohydrates as body fat is a major cause of unwanted extra weight, it is recommended that at each meal protein and unsaturated fat are consumed in addition to carbohydrates. Accompanying carbs with fat and protein will ensure that the sugars in carbohydrates are more effectively broken down, which helps keep blood sugar, energy, and insulin levels stable as well as deter the cycle of craving more carbohydrates. This will also better satisfy the appetite, so that overall calorie consumption throughout the day is reduced.

Cardiovascular activity is a key component of fat-burning exercise.
Cardiovascular activity is a key component of fat-burning exercise.

Another essential behavior if one wants to burn body fat is to engage in a regular strength-training routine — two days per week at a minimum. As muscle is the body tissue that burns the most calories, the more of it a person has, the more calories he will burn per day, even when at rest. Therefore, even though a strength-training workout at the gym generally burns fewer calories than the same amount of time spent running on the treadmill, the added daily calorie burn from having more muscle is typically more significant than that achieved via cardiovascular exercise. Compound exercises utilizing multiple large muscles are considered more effective than isolated exercises for burning fat, such as pairing squats with shoulder presses rather than working the deltoids or quadriceps individually and in isolation.

Gyms offer several exercise classes to help people burn body fat.
Gyms offer several exercise classes to help people burn body fat.

Finally, cardiovascular exercise can be an important fat-burning tool, but it must be applied properly. First and foremost, cardio is intended to condition the heart and lungs to be better at transporting oxygen, and it can be counterproductive to fat loss if performed in excess. This is because muscle uses a lot of oxygen during exercise, and therefore over time the body may burn muscle during cardiovascular exercise to make itself more efficient at utilizing oxygen, slowing weight loss as the metabolism decreases.

To avoid muscle loss, cardiovascular-training sessions should be kept to 30 minutes in duration or less. Experts also recommend incorporating high-intensity intervals to both maximize fat loss and encourage quicker cardiovascular conditioning. Alternating bursts of higher intensity, such as running for 30 seconds, with moderate-intensity recovery intervals, such as walking for 90 seconds, will help to burn body fat by elevating the metabolic rate and preventing the body from adapting too quickly to the exercise, a major cause of diminished results over time. This should be done a minimum of three days per week for optimum fat loss.

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Discussion Comments


@parmnparsley: I have worked as a certified personal trainer for 10 years and have a degree in exercise science, and I have to disagree with your post. I have never read nor heard nor studied any data regarding superficial versus deep muscle tissue.

I don't believe there is a physiological difference between these fibers in regards to hypertrophy or fat loss. Similarly, it simply is not true that fat loss is the result of using lighter weights. You can achieve fat loss with heavier weights and a lower repetition range; it is the rest periods that dictate fat loss versus hypertrophy.

@Glasshouse: This is a myth that fitness professionals have long fought to dispel. Resistance training a particular part of the body will *not* produce fat loss in that region. Therefore, performing more core exercises will not result in fat lost from the midsection. I want to clarify that it is the combination of full-body strength training, proper nutrition, and cardiovascular exercise that will bring about fat loss, and that we cannot control from where that weight is lost.


@ Glasshouse- Doing your cardiovascular exercises after your strength training is also better for burning fat. You will burn more calories because you will enter your cardiovascular workout with your heart rate already elevated from your strength routine.

My fat burning workout would consist of a 15-minute stretch, 6 core exercises, focused muscle group exercises, and finally 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise.


@ parmnparsley- I would like to add that you should not forget to work your core. Most people see the most weight build-up around their body's core.

You should include exercises that focus on chest, abs, back, and glutei in every workout session. People often see core exercises as the hardest and most miserable exercises, but they are important to maintaining body weight.

Just be sure to work the muscles you can see in the mirror as well as the muscles you cannot. Only developing the muscles on the front of your body can lead to imbalances, and ultimately, injury.


This article really hit the three major points about fat burning. I would like to go into a little more detail about strength training. Light and moderate weight exercises are best to accelerate fat loss. Focusing on higher repetitions and less rest in between sets work the top layers of muscle tissue, the layers closest to the fat layers.

Working the shallow muscle layers will increase the amount of fat burned, and give a toned look to your muscles. Only working on deep muscle tissue can also have the effect of making you look bigger because the deeper the muscle tissue that is worked the more bulk you will put on.

Ideally, you want to do 12-15 repetitions. Once you can consistently do 15 repetitions, you should increase the weight. You should also focus on breathing and keep rest between sets to 45 seconds or less.

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    • Bodies with more muscle burn fat more efficiently.
      By: Rido
      Bodies with more muscle burn fat more efficiently.
    • Cardiovascular activity is a key component of fat-burning exercise.
      By: Dirima
      Cardiovascular activity is a key component of fat-burning exercise.
    • Gyms offer several exercise classes to help people burn body fat.
      By: WavebreakMediaMicro
      Gyms offer several exercise classes to help people burn body fat.