Most people want to cut body fat at some point in their training journey.
A lean, chiselled physique seems to be the goal on most people’s minds – and the driving force behind the global rise in physique and bodybuilding competitions.
But this desire isn’t limited to just bodybuilders.
People everywhere want to look and feel better while enhancing their sporting performance. Dropping some excess body fat is a good way to improve your power-to-weight ratio, after all.
It should therefore come as no surprise that we often get asked: ‘What is the best way to train to lose body fat?’. If this is a question you’ve found yourself wondering, then keep reading. We thought we’d hit this question head-on and look at the science behind the theory.
Exercise vs Diet
The first key point to remember and learn is that our bodies are energy storage machines. We are designed to hang on to energy; what we see as excess body fat, our bodies see as crucial energy reserves. We can call on those reserves in times when food is scarce or unavailable. However, the wonders of the modern age mean this is not an issue anymore.
With this in mind, we can answer the question ‘What is the best way to train for fat loss?’ by flipping it on its head. Instead of focusing on exercise, focus on diet and nutrition. While exercise is a good way to burn energy, if you don’t change your diet, you're fighting a losing battle.
Related: MyFitnessPal: How can tacking your nutrition help you get lean
Finding the right training plan
All forms of training burn energy, but the amounts vary depending on intensity and duration. However, there is some evidence to show that strength and HIIT-type workouts help to support productive anabolic hormones in the body and insulin sensitivity while keeping cortisol levels low. This can aid fat loss, especially in the abdominal area.
This is in comparison to endurance workouts, which increase cortisol and can make maintaining or gaining muscle harder.
To put it another way, think of the bodies of sprinters and CrossFit athletes versus marathon runners and endurance cyclists. Their physiques tend to be very different.
If fat loss is your only goal, we suggest choosing an exercise method that you really enjoy. This will take some experimentation to begin with, while you try out lots of different types of training.
The one you enjoy the most is the one you should stick to; go for that at the beginning. Don’t be afraid to chop and change over time.
This will help you to establish a committed practice, which will always trump a crash diet. As with all things, it’s important to start small and make your practice consistent. Burn out will lead to a rebound.
Training will also help you feel good, which will affect your psychology, stress and anxiety levels in a positive way. That will make any changes to your nutrition much easier to manage.
Once you're into your practice, it’s time to educate yourself on the best ways to drop body fat through nutrition. Our research shows that managing your total calorie intake and eating more fibre and protein can help.
Related: How to design your own training program
Remember: Simple, effective solutions that deliver results should always be your focus.