In my life as a fitness professional, I meet lots of women who want to lose weight, “tone up,” release fat, and reduce pain. Ultimately, they want to be healthy. One of the first things they think is “oh, I will start running or doing the elliptical. I will exercise everyday. Then I will lose weight.” Many, many times they lose some weight, but as soon as they get busy they get out of their routine and gain it all back. Why is that?
How to make the body a fat-burning machine is not a mystery to fitness professionals and it should not be to you either. In this article I am going to dispell almost everything you ever read in a “women’s” health mag about exercise. In fact, here is a little secret: Top trainers consider “cardio” exercise a complete waste of time for pretty much all of their clients!
So, why do women keep doing it??
Many women who want to lose fat start running, elliptical-ing, or walking because, hey, its a great way to burn calories, its easy, its fun, right? And its better than sitting on the couch (which IS true).
What people (especially busy women) never consider is how much time they are wasting. Almost every woman I know knows that time is precious to the modern woman, so why would anyone spend time exercising, of all things, and not get long term results out of it??
Being a triathlete myself, I’m thinking that you’re thinking that I am totally full of it, and that thousands of people lose weight running and walking, that its easy and fun to walk with friends, etc. Where do I get off telling people that cardio is a waste of time?
If losing fat and being healthy forever effortlessly is your goal, then you need to re-evaluate, be open-minded, and read on…
In this post, I will tell you
- what really burns fat 24/7 even when you are sleeping
- quick exercise you can do so you CAN burn fat efficiently, sustainably, and effortlessly stay thin and healthy forever
Skinny disclaimer: For most women the end goal is to lose fat so we can be healthy, pain free, happy and mobile. These are the most important reasons for exercising. Looking great and being the envy of our neighbors is a nice perk, but lets face it, we are not vain enough to be really motivated by that.
So let’s get this going…
How much fat is healthy?
First of all, I need to define what is a healthy amount of fat for a woman. Many women out here on the internet are going a little too far (in my opinion) in their fat loss quests. Have you seen their before and after selfies?? And the posts of FIT IS THE NEW SKINNY? with pics of super-cut moms showing off their abs? This makes me want to gag, because
- it shows how truly insecure we are that we need to be prancing around in our underwear on facebook because NOW we think we look good, and
- many times these pics are a result of unsustainable effort! Sure, you’re skinny now…but are you REALLY going to be able to maintain your “lean out” routine? Seriously, this is so unrealistic and demoralizing to everyone else on the planet who is living a real life.
I wish women would just STOP the madness of the pursuit of a “perfect” body and be healthy.
That said, a body fat percent of 20 to 30 is the ideal for women. Women with smaller frames are going to feel more comfortable being closer to 20 and women who are taller are going to be able to better “pull off” BF% in the high 20’s. Personally, I range anywhere from 23-29% and that is probably due to hydration, and maybe like 5 lb variation depending on how much I am exercising. Most people would NEVER guess that I average 25% body fat. The women who are taking selfies and posting on Facebook/websites are:
- flexing their muscles somehow for their pic or sucking it in
- if they really are that “cut” they are probably around 12-18% body fat
- promoting some kind of weight loss product or “fat burning” services, and/or
- spending a lot of time on their fitness regimen
This is nice for them, but not sustainable even by these internet fitness wonder women. So, let’s just get over that fact and move on to more balanced, doable fitness and health.
Okay, I KNOW you have heard this before, unless you have been living in a fitness cave for the last 10 years. The most efficient way to burn present and future fat in your body is for your body to build muscle and GROW.
Everyday our bodies burn energy (aka calories) while we go about our business (even when we sleep!). How do we get them to burn more? By encouraging it to repair and make muscle.
There is a fine line between healthy breakdown and causing inflammation. This is really important to be aware of in your own body. Generally, if soreness is not gone by the third day after a workout, you get sick, you are in pain, you are causing bad inflammation, so STOP doing what you are doing because your body is going to turn into a fat storing machine–I don’t think any woman wants that! EVER! Even if you need to gain weight!
The most amazing thing about our bodies is that we are growing and repairing everyday, almost entirely while we sleep. So, when I say that you get skinny while you sleep, I’m serious and its a scientific fact.
How to efficiently burn fat while you sleep:
Muscle tissue uses energy on a 24 hour basis–all the time, every day, even yes,when we are sleeping! Your heart is beating at this very moment–that is a muscle. FAT = ENERGY. Its actually the most efficient source of energy for muscle to use, especially while you are sleeping.
muscle burns more fat per hour than cardio.
Running and walking can build initial muscle (especially if you are starting from zero) but only to a certain level, which is precisely why most people plateau pretty quickly when they use cardio to burn fat. That’s why you see people in marathon training programs who keep doing marathons, year after year, and they are still fat. There are two things going on with this:
- they are only burning calories for the time they are actually exercising–what, like an hour or more if they are training long distance (vs. 24/7)?
- they are creating a TON of inflammation in their bodies from the breakdown of connective tissue and muscle, and rampant creation of free radicals.
NOTE: This type of muscle breakdown is not helping you to build muscle. Its teaching your body how to store fat because when your body is stressed out and inflamed that’s the first thing it does.
The most efficient way to build muscle is high intensity interval strength training.
(NOTE: Walking in nature to relax is not the same as fitness walking and running, and can be a very important part of losing fat and keeping it off).
Workout that cardio junkies should do (and will love) regardless of whether they are trying to lose fat or not:
Go to a track and run the straight-aways as fast as you can, then walk/jog the turns. Work up to doing that 8 times (which is 1 mile). it should take you about 10 minutes maybe. rest 1 minute. Then, add 10 pushups on the stands 4x with 20 second rest in between each set. rest 1 minute. hold a plank for 30 seconds/rest 20 sec. do 4x. relax. That should take about 20 minutes and that is a kick ass workout. Do that 3 times a week and you will not only be a STRONG woman, fat will melt off you!!!
If you are reading this when you can’t go outside, replace the straight-aways with fast steps, mountain climbers, burpees–anything that you can do all-out.
If you are just starting out or over 50 lbs overweight, please do not run or do high impact exercise yet. This is simply too stressful and counter productive. I don’t want to discourage people from being active, but if you get injured, you ain’t goin’ nowhere, no how. Be smart and stay injury free!
High intensity is different than high impact. Use common sense, personal exertion perception (rate of perceived exertion), or a heart rate monitor, if you’re not sure how hard you should go.
Here’s another great workout especially for newbies:
Rev up your metabolism first thing in the morning with some basic core activities like 20 bridges (one or two leg), planks for 30 seconds, and 10 push ups–do this 2-4 times depending on how much time you have. If you have more time, and you have good knees, add some one leg lunges, or squats in there (10 each). Keep it moving with an interval timer.
This kind of workout will get your blood pumping in the morning or in the evening (after sitting at a desk all day), AND it will safely help your body learn how to burn fat.
The key with efficient, fat-burning training is to do short bursts of exercise with rest. Most people do too long and too hard. Short burst = seconds, not minutes. Avoid: 2 minutes of cardio in between sets of weights for an hour. That is a huge waste of time. Keep it simple and do stuff you like. If you want some other suggestions, leave a comment below.
MAXIMIZING YOUR FAT LOSS AND KEEPING IT OFF FOREVER!
To most women this sounds too good to be true. YES, what you put in your body is a very big piece of the puzzle, especially when you are first starting out. That will be discussed in another article. Maximizing your muscle now will turn you into an energy burning machine, which will allow you to indulge occasionally. And, as with most things in life the younger you start, the easier it is and the easier it is to sustain.
Don’t hate the skinny girl. She works hard to keep her figure (if she is actually interested in her health).
Keeping health and fitness real for all women–Please tell me what you think: leave a message below. Thanks for reading…Elyse