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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.
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.
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.
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.