One of my on-going projects for Men's Fitness magazine is to find out the truth behind the numerous fat loss myths that you hear about in the gym every day. Here's one of my past columns...
If I told you that there was one secret exercise that could magically reduce the fat from one of your trouble spots, then I'd be lying.
Fat burning isn't like building muscle. When you strength train to build muscle, you only make gains in the specific muscles that were trained ('spot gaining'). But no exercise has the ability to burn fat from one specific area only (also known as 'spot reducing'). When you exercise, you burn fat from all over your body. Doing ab crunch after ab crunch won't help you lose your belly fat any better than doing squats.
The best approach to fat loss is one that includes three major components. The first and possibly most important component is nutrition. It is so important for people to follow good nutrition principles when they are trying to improve their body. If you haven't already heard these basic recommendations for fat loss nutrition, here are the 5 best fat loss nutrition tips:
1. Eat several small meals per day, rather than 2-3 large meals.
2. Monitor your food intake using fitday.com.
3. Determine how many calories you should eat per day to maintain your bodyweight.
4. If you want to lose fat, start by reducing your food intake by 200 calories per day below your maintenance level and add 3 workouts per week using the exercise techniques discussed below.
5. Stop eating processed foods and replace all sweetened beverages with water. This can quickly reduce your food intake by many, many calories.
The second component is resistance training. Small exercises like ab crunches are less effective than squats for fat loss. When you choose efficient and effective exercises like squats over ab crunches, you train more of your muscles and therefore get more results in less time. With squats, lunges, presses, and rows, you'll build the foundation for a lean physique while burning more calories and fat than you would by spending 30 minutes on your abs alone.
The third component is interval training (interval training is a form of cardio training). I prefer intervals to traditional cardio because we have simply found them to be more effective than slow duration cardio sessions. If you train someone for performance, then they will develop the physique they desire. Intervals and resistance training are the best two methods for performance and fat loss. That's no coincidence and should come as no surprise to those that read my newsletters.
Craig Ballantyne trains athletes and executives in Toronto, and writes for Men's Fitness magazine.