How to burn fat

Implement these 9 fat-burning tips that use exercise and diet and watch the body fat melt like the butter you’re no longer using.

How to burn fat

The human body is a remarkably adaptable machine. Even if years and years of neglect have allowed pound after pound of fat to fill out your frame, you can rid yourself of that lard at a much faster rate than you brought it on board. In that sense, time is your side!

Take these nine easy-to-implement tips to heart, and progress will come in a hurry!

1.В Stay Off The Scale

That you can gain muscle and lose fat is one of the reasons I stress to people not to follow the scale. Body composition and how you look in the mirror matters more than what the scale says.

How to burn fat

You could train hard and eat right and build five pounds of muscle and lose five pounds of fat, and what will the scale say? That you still weigh the same.

Frustrating, even though you’ve made good progress. Use the scale as a guide, but how you look in the mirror, how you feel, and how your clothes fit are much better indicators of your progress.

2.В Reduce Your Calories Gradually

If you’re looking to lose fat, don’t make huge calorie cuts. This will kick your body into starvation mode, reducing your metabolism and making it more difficult to burn off the fat.

To prevent this metabolic slowdown and allow your body to burn fat at an optimal rate, make smaller calorie reductions every week or two.

3.В Vary Your Caloric Intake

This is another way to outsmart your body and continue to lose body fat without lowering your metabolism.

By varying your caloric intake every few days instead of eating the exact same amount of calories every day, keep the starvation mechanism in check and continue to burn fat.

“Although in today’s society food tends to be accessible and abundant, our bodies are designed to store as much energy as possible to prepare for times of scarcity. One way the body does this is by adjusting its metabolic rate based on calorie intake.

If you stick with the same calories every single day while dieting, your body will adjust by lowering metabolic rate to prevent you from burning off too much body fat. It’s all aboutВ hormones.

When leptin levels are high, your metabolic rate stays high; when leptin levels drop, so does your metabolic rate.

When calories are low and steady, leptin levels fall and so does metabolic rate. Eating higher calories on some days and lower calories on others helps to keep leptin levels up.”

4.В Train With Weights

How to burn fat

Resistance training helps with fat loss in a number of ways. Weight training itself burns calories. Studies also show that, unlike aerobic exercise, weight training increases the calories you burn at rest for up to 39 hours after your workout.

Plus, the more muscle your body has, the more calories you burn each day.

Even if your goal is solely to lose body fat, you need to train with weights. This will help prevent any of the weight you lose from being muscle.

Were that to happen, your metabolism would slow, stalling your fat-loss efforts and turning you into a skinny-fat person.

Yes, even someone with anorexia can have a high body fat percentage.

5.В Do High-Intensity Intervals (HIIT)

How to burn fat

This means alternating a brief period ofВ high-intensity exerciseВ with brief rest periods.

The result: better results in less time.

One of my favorite interval methods isВ jumping rope. You may need to practice a bit on this one. After a brief warmup, I’ll jump rope as fast as I can for 10-20 seconds, followed by a half a minute at a slower cadence.

Always warm up before intervals, by the way. If you’re not in the best shape, start withВ cardioВ of low or moderate intensity. You might also want to check with your doctor.

6.В Eat More Fat

Consuming enough of the good fats will help you lose fat, build muscle, and recover faster from your workouts. Healthy fats also have myriad health benefits, including being good for your heart.

So which fats are “good” fats? The polyunsaturated ones (especiallyВ omega-3s), such as those fromВ fishВ andВ nuts, and the monounsaturated kind, such as those fromВ peanut butter,В olive oil,В egg yolks, andВ fish oil.

7.В Cut Carbs

The attention focused on low-carb diets has divided many people into “pro” and “anti” low-carb camps. Whichever side you’re on, the bottom line is that reducing your carb intake—especially sugar and starches—when trying to lose fat will help.

Those carbs you do consume should come from sources such asВ oatmealВ andВ vegetables.

The timing of your carb intake also affects fat-burning. “I recommend tapering down carbohydrates by 3 p.m.,” saysTeam Bodybuilding.comВ member Ashley Johns, also known by the BodySpace handleВ Hottie-I-Am. “Consume most of your carbs in the morning and around your workouts.”

8.В Increase Your Protein

IncreasingВ proteinВ intake will increase your metabolism and help to maintain your muscle mass, all of which helps withВ fat-burning. In fact, your body burns more calories when you eat protein than when you digest either fats or carbs.

This may explain why the fat-burning effects of eating more protein were confirmed in a study published in the American Journal of Physiology. One group was fed a high-protein diet (just over 1 gram per pound of body weight per day) while the second group consumed an amount closer to the lower recommendation of the RDA (recommended dietary allowance). The group eating the higher-protein diet burned the most fat.

Yes, you read that right, Grasshopper: Many dieters actually gained muscle mass without working out, simply by eating a high-protein diet.

9.В Eat 6 Smaller Meals Per Day, Not 2-3 Feasts

This will ensure that you supply your body with the nutrients necessary to build muscle and burn fat.

Bonus: Your resting metabolic rate increases. It will also prevent your body from kicking into “starvation” mode, which can happen when too much time elapses between meals.

If this happens, your body will start burning muscle for energy and increasing your body-fat stores, as well as slowing down your metabolism. This is the exact opposite of what you want to happen.

Don’t be the kind of person who complains about your situation but never does anything to improve it. Don’t become “happy” with the status quo of being miserable. Now use this knowledge to take action!

Exercises That Burn the Most Fat

Tips for Doing Fat-Burning Exercises

Many people who want to lose weight through exercise often wonder what exercise burns the most fat. If you ask different weight loss experts, you will probably get different answers. Generally, there are three types of exercises that burn the most fat. These consist of cardio exercises, resistance training or strength training, and a combination of both. There is probably not one exercise that burns the most fat and most trainers will recommend doing a combination of cardio and resistance training exercises to get the best results.

Exercises That Burn the Most Fat

Swimming

Swimming is probably one of the best exercises that burn the most fat because just like cross-country skiing, it is a cardio exercise that involves full body exercise. It also makes a great cross-training for other aerobic exercises. You can burn up to 400 calories in just 30 minutes of doing the breast stroke.

How to burn fat

Burpees

Burpees consist of a full body exercise that can be done at home. This form of aerobic exercise is often used in strength training because it helps tone your core muscles, your upper body muscles as well as the legs at the same time. Doing burpees can help you burn approximately about 200 calories in 30 minutes.

Jumping Lunges

Jumping lunges are great for toning the thigh muscles. The momentum you use to jump in between the lunges can be a big calorie burner at about 459 calories per hour.

Side Planks with Leg Raises

This exercise specifically targets the muscles of the outer thigh, the obliques, and the deltoids. It requires great strength as well as whole body coordination to accomplish. You can burn as much as 300 calories per hour with this move.

How to burn fat

Jumping Jacks

This is a simple cardio exercise that anyone can do at home. It is an excellent way to increase your heart rate quickly. You can do these between sets of strength training to boost the number of calories you burn. You can burn up to 204 calories per hour with this all-time favorite exercise.

Stair & Elliptical Machines

These simple exercises use machines for accurate and better performance. Step Aerobics is one of the favorite cardio exercises of women. It mainly targets your hips, glutes, and legs. You can burn up to 400 calories in 30 minutes. Elliptical Trainer is another excellent cardio exercise that also helps improve your endurance. You will burn approximately 300 calories in 30 minutes.

How to burn fat

Spinning & Cycling

Spinning is a high-intensity workout that uses music to mimic a challenging bike ride using images of hills and valleys with varying speeds. A group instructor assists in the process. Spinning burns up to 612 calories per hour.

Bicycling is another great cardio exercise that can be done indoors using a stationary bike or outdoors with a real bike. The amount of calories you burn may depend on the speed and resistance you use. This can vary between 250-500 calories within 30 minutes.

How to burn fat

Power Yoga and Pilates

Power yoga is a challenging workout consisting of vigorous, fitness-based approach to yoga. It involves the use of your entire body, and emphasizes on building strength. Power yoga can help you burn about 300 calories in one hour.

Pilates is a unique system of exercise that is designed to improve core strength and increase flexibility. It also promotes total body balance as well as weight loss. On the average, doing one hour of Pilates (intermediate level) will help you burn about 380 calories.

Some people like to use a portable training device called the TRX suspension trainer, which controls gravity and your body weight while you perform several exercises. TRX classes involve doing consecutive strengthening movements at high-intensity. According to Harvard Medical School, a resistance training session done for 30 minutes can burn about 180 to 266 calories. Below are 10 best TRX exercises:

BodyPump classes combine cardio and strength training using barbells, complete with upbeat music. Classes are conducted by professional trainers and consist of rigorous workouts designed to raise your heart rate burn up to 600 calories in one hour, depending on the intensity of your workouts.

How to burn fat

Tips for Doing Fat-Burning Exercises

Do not exercise when you are hungry. You are more likely to burn more calories if your body has been fed. Here’s what to eat before and after a workout.

Always begin with a warm up. Warm muscles burn more fat.

Begin your workout early. This habit can increase your likelihood of exercising threefold.

Increase intensity gradually. Do strength training exercises for 30 minutes at least three times a week to burn more fat. Once your body fat is under control, you can proceed with two weight training sessions per week to help you maintain muscle tone.

Surprise: Everyone has some belly fat, even people who have flat abs.

That’s normal. But too much belly fat can affect your health in a way that other fat doesn’t.

Some of your fat is right under your skin. Other fat is deeper inside, around your heart, lungs, liver, and other organs.

It’s that deeper fat — called “visceral” fat — that may be the bigger problem, even for thin people.

Deep Belly Fat

You need some visceral fat. It provides cushioning around your organs.

But if you have too much of it, you may be more likely to get high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and certain cancers, including breast cancer and colon cancer.

The fat doesn’t just sit there. It’s an active part of your body, making “lots of nasty substances,” says Kristen Hairston, MD, assistant professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

If you gain too much weight, your body starts to store your fat in unusual places.

With increasing obesity, you have people whose regular areas to store fat are so full that the fat is deposited into the organs and around the heart, says Carol Shively, PhD, professor of pathology-comparative medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

How Much Belly Fat Do You Have?

The most precise way to determine how much visceral fat you have is to get a CT scan or MRI. But there’s a much simpler, low-cost way to check.

Get a measuring tape, wrap it around your waist at your belly button, and check your girth. Do it while you’re standing up, and make sure the tape measure is level.

For your health’s sake, you want your waist size to be less than 35 inches if you’re a woman and less than 40 inches if you’re a man.

Having a “pear shape” — bigger hips and thighs — is considered safer than an “apple shape,” which describes a wider waistline.

“What we’re really pointing to with the apple versus pear,” Hairston says, “is that, if you have more abdominal fat, it’s probably an indicator that you have more visceral fat.”

Continued

Thin People Have It, Too

Even if you’re thin, you can still have too much visceral fat.

How much you have is partly about your genes, and partly about your lifestyle, especially how active you are.

Visceral fat likes inactivity. In one study, thin people who watched their diets but didn’t exercise were more likely to have too much visceral fat.

The key is to be active, no matter what size you are.

4 Steps for Beating Belly Fat

There are four keys to controlling belly fat: exercise, diet, sleep, and stress management.

1. Exercise: Vigorous exercise trims all your fat, including visceral fat.

Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days a week. Walking counts, as long as it’s brisk enough that you work up a sweat and breathe harder, with your heart rate faster than usual.

To get the same results in half the time, step up your pace and get vigorous exercise — like jogging or walking. You’d need to do that for 20 minutes a day, 4 days a week.

Jog, if you’re already fit, or walk briskly at an incline on a treadmill if you’re not ready for jogging. Vigorous workouts on stationary bikes and elliptical or rowing machines are also effective, says Duke researcher Cris Slentz, PhD.

Moderate activity — raising your heart rate for 30 minutes at least three times per week — also helps. It slows down how much visceral fat you gain. But to torch visceral fat, your workouts may need to be stepped up.

“Rake leaves, walk, garden, go to Zumba, play soccer with your kids. It doesn’t have to be in the gym,” Hairston says.

If you are not active now, it’s a good idea to check with your health care provider before starting a new fitness program.

2. Diet: There is no magic diet for belly fat. But when you lose weight on any diet, belly fat usually goes first.

Getting enough fiber can help. Hairston’s research shows that people who eat 10 grams of soluble fiber per day — without any other diet changes — build up less visceral fat over time than others. That’s as simple as eating two small apples, a cup of green peas, or a half-cup of pinto beans.

Continued

“Even if you kept everything else the same but switched to a higher-fiber bread, you might be able to better maintain your weight over time,” Hairston says.

3. Sleep: Getting the right amount of shut-eye helps. In one study, people who got 6 to 7 hours of sleep per night gained less visceral fat over 5 years compared to those who slept 5 or fewer hours per night or 8 or more hours per night. Sleep may not have been the only thing that mattered — but it was part of the picture.

4. Stress: Everyone has stress. How you handle it matters. The best things you can do include relaxing with friends and family, meditating, exercising to blow off steam, and getting counseling. That leaves you healthier and better prepared to make good choices for yourself.

“If you could only afford the time to do one of these things,” Shively says, “exercise probably has the most immediate benefits, because it gets at both obesity and stress.”

Sources

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: “Assessing your weight and health risk.”

Mayo Clinic Women’s Health Source, June 2011.

Dedert, E. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 2004.

Hairston, K. Obesity, published online June 16, 2011.

Hairston, K. Sleep, March 2010.

Heinrichs, M. Biological Psychiatry, Dec. 15, 2003.

Kilpeläinen, T. Nature Genetics, published online June 26, 2011.

Lewis, T. American Journal of Epidemiology, June 1, 2011.

Noble, R. Western Journal of Medicine, April 2001.

Slentz, C. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism, published online Aug. 16, 2011.

Carol Shively, PhD, professor of pathology-comparative medicine, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC.

Kristen Hairston, MD, MPH, assistant professor of endocrinology and metabolism, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC.

Tuomas Kilpeläinen, PhD, assistant professor, The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, Copenhagen University; former epidemiologist, Institute of Metabolic Science, Medical Research Council, Cambridge, U.K.

Cris Slentz, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, Duke University, Durham, NC.

The fat burning zone calculator estimates your target heart rate for the greatest amount of fat loss (oxidation). Keeping your heart rate in those values will allow you to maximize your body’s ability to lose weight and burn fat while exercising.

Do you want to know how many calories you burn during training? Check our calories burned calculator!

Target heart rate

Your heart rate is one of the best indicators of how hard your body is working when exercising. Target heart rate is the desired range your heart rate should be in during the performance of a physical activity, which enables your heart and lungs to receive the greatest benefit they can from the workout.

This theoretical range varies among people, and depends mostly on age; however other factors, such us physical condition, sex, and previous training, also may have an influence.

Fat burning heart rate

You might have seen the “fat burning zone” written on treadmills, cycle ergometers, ellipses and other equipment. Have you ever wondered where does comes from? Well, we have the answer for you! The fat burning zone is simply the range of heart rates that is ideal for fat loss. It can be calculated as a 60-80% of your maximal heart rate.

If you want to find out more about other heart rate zones, check out the target heart rate calculator.

Fat burning zone calculator

Fat burning zone calculator estimates your target heart rate for weight loss using 3 different methods:

60-80% of your maximum heart rate

Zoladz method, which defines exercise zones by subtracting values from your maximum heart rate (MHR):

THR = HRmax − Adjuster ± 5 bpm ,

where the adjusters for the fat burning zone are equal to 40 and 50.

Karvonen method, where you need to know your resting heart rate (RHR) to calculate your target heart rate, using a range of 60–80% for the intensity:

THR = ((MHR − RHR) × % intensity) + RHR

where MHR-RHR can be also defined as a heart rate reserve.

How to calculate fat burning zone? – an example

Let’s try to calculate the fat burning heart rate range for a person that is 35 years old with a resting heart rate of 60.

  1. We need to calculate their maximum heart rate first, where:

MHR = 185 2. We can now calculate the fat burning heart rate zones using 3 different methods:

  • 60-80% of maximum heart rate:

fat burning zone: [60% x 185] – [80% x 185]

fat burning zone: 111 – 148 BPM*

  • Zoladz method:

fat burning heart rate: [185 – 50 ± 5] – [185 – 40 ± 5]

fat burning heart rate: 130 – 150 BMP

  • Karvonen method:

fat burning zone: [((185 − 60) × 60%) + 60] – [((185 − 60) × 80%) + 60]

fat burning zone: [125 x 60% + 60] – [125 x 80% + 60]

fat burning zone: 135 – 160 BPM

* BPM – beats per minute

Seems complicated? Not with our fat burning zone calculator, which allows you to obtain your results in just a few seconds!

Heart rate for weight loss

You have found out how to calculate fat burning zone, but do you really need to lose weight? Check our BMI or ideal weight calculators to find it out.

Even if you do not need to change your weight, remember that physical activity is really important, as it helps us to maintain both our physical and mental health, and can prevent us from contracting such diseases as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

If you are not sure if you meet your daily recommendations for physical activity, check our MET minutes calculator. And last but not least – remember about a healthy diet!

How to burn fat

For people trying to lose weight, it might feel as if all fat is the same. But there are two different types of fat: visceral and subcutaneous. Subcutaneous fat is the jiggly fat visible just under the skin.

Subcutaneous fat is normally harmless and may even protect against some diseases . Visceral fat is fat that surrounds the organs. Though it is not visible from the outside, it is associated with numerous diseases.

It is possible to lose both subcutaneous and visceral fat. While subcutaneous fat loss might be the goal for people who want to fit into smaller clothes, losing visceral fat improves health.

Fast facts on losing subcutaneous fat:

  • If the fat is visible or can be pinched, it is subcutaneous fat.
  • Subcutaneous fat is not necessarily a risk factor for health issues.

How to burn fat

Share on Pinterest Subcutaneous fat sits under the skin, as opposed to visceral fat which surounds the organs.

Everyone has some subcutaneous fat, but lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise, as well as genetics, affect the amount of subcutaneous fat each person develops. People are more likely to accumulate both visceral and subcutaneous fat when:

  • They are sedentary, or spend a lot of time sitting.
  • They get little or no aerobic exercise.
  • They have little muscle mass.
  • They eat more calories than they burn.
  • They are insulin resistant or have diabetes.

Research increasingly suggests that subcutaneous fat can play a protective role, particularly in obese people with a lot of visceral fat. However, subcutaneous fat can be a sign of visceral fat. People with lots of subcutaneous fat often also have lots of visceral fat.

Both types of fat can be difficult to lose. Some factors that make fat hard to lose include:

  • Insulin resistance: Visceral fat is correlated with insulin resistance, which can make it hard to lose both visceral and subcutaneous fat.
  • Weight loss strategies: People with lots of subcutaneous fat often make the mistake of trying to spot-reduce the fat by, for example, doing lots of abdominal exercises. This strategy is less effective than trying to burn fat throughout the body.
  • Inflammation : Some research suggests that visceral fat releases cytokines that increase inflammation . This inflammatory response is linked to weight gain and may increase subcutaneous fat.

Burning visceral fat can also burn subcutaneous fat. For optimal health, it is wise to target visceral fat.

Recognizing the interaction between visceral and subcutaneous fat is key to shedding subcutaneous fat. Fitness strategies that burn fat in general, as well as those that counteract the negative effects of visceral fat, can maximize success.

The role of diet in losing subcutaneous fat

To lose weight people need to eat fewer calories than they burn. However, the specific foods eaten matter.

Protein, for example, helps people feel fuller longer. Eating more protein can make it easier to stick to a diet and reduce cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods.

Carbohydrates and sugar are linked to diabetes, visceral fat, and metabolic issues. Some research suggests that excess carbohydrate consumption can cause abdominal fat, both visceral and subcutaneous. Replacing some carbs with higher-protein options can boost metabolism, reduce fat storage, and prevent metabolic issues.

Exercises to burn subcutaneous fat

Subcutaneous fat is one way the body stores energy . This means that burning subcutaneous fat requires burning energy in the form of calories. The exercise routines that are most effective at doing this include:

  • Aerobic exercise and cardio: This group includes most fitness routines that increase the heart rate, such as running, swimming, and jumping rope. The more intense the routine and the longer it is performed, the more calories it will burn.
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT): HIIT is a way to increase the fat-burning power of aerobic exercise . It involves short bursts of activity followed by periods of lower activity. For example, a HIIT routine might include running for 1 minute, followed by a 2-minute walk, then another 2 minutes running or doing another intense exercise, such as jumping rope.
  • Strength training: Strength-based exercises, such as weightlifting, burn little or no fat. However, muscle burns calories, so building muscle is one strategy for boosting metabolism. People with more muscle burn more calories, even when they are not exercising.

Other lifestyle strategies for fighting subcutaneous fat

Mental health matters for people trying to lose weight. Chronic stress causes the body to continually release a hormone called cortisol. In small, short-lived bursts, cortisol is harmless. But prolonged exposure to cortisol can undermine weight loss. This means that managing stress may help in the effort to shed subcutaneous fat.

Cortisol is particularly harmful to weight loss in people who eat a high-sugar diet . People experiencing bouts of stress should also avoid stress-eating, particularly eating a lot of sweets and carbohydrates.

We have your ultimate guide to muscle and fat—your two power players for a strong, healthy shape.

What Is Muscle + Types of Muscle

Everyone has two different types of muscle: type 1 (slow-twitch) fibers and type 2 (fast-twitch) fibers. “Slow- twitch fibers control endurance. They’re what you use for activities like running long distances and low-impact aerobic workouts like Zumba,” says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery. Fast-twitch fibers are used for shorter, explosive movements like squat jumps or sprints. They fatigue more quickly and require more recovery time. While type 1 fibers remain about the same size even after you tone, type 2s get larger as they get stronger, so working them is key if you want muscle definition. “If you only focus on training one type, you’re missing out on half the perks,” Olson says. (Up next: 7 Common Muscle Myths-Busted.)

What Is Fat + Types of Fat

Fat is a little more complicated. You have white fat, which includes subcutaneous and visceral kinds, and brown fat. Subcutaneous fat is the pinchable stuff around your hips, breasts, butt, belly, and thighs that gives you curves. And yes, it has functional benefits: “Subcutaneous fat is your largest energy reserve,” says Labros Sidossis, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology and health at Rutgers University. “It also helps regulate body temperature and cushions your internal organs.” This type of fat is so essential that your body is wired to hang onto it, which can make it tough to lose.

Visceral fat hides out under the white fat in your midsection. “Its purpose is to protect organs like your liver and intestines,” Olson says. “But too much visceral fat increases inflammation, raising your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure,” she adds. Any woman with a waist circumference of more than 35 inches likely has an unhealthy amount of visceral fat. (Here: five really important things to know about body fat.)

Finally, there’s brown fat-the kind you actually want more of. “It burns calories instead of storing them,” Sidossis says. Exercise may help the body make more brown fat by producing a hormone called irisin, which activates it, according to research published in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism. And vigorous workouts may even prompt white fat to temporarily turn into a type of brown fat known as beige fat, which also burns calories.

The Muscle-Fat Connection

Like a car engine, your muscles need fuel to move. In fact, the majority of the energy you use during the day is for powering your muscles, which have hundreds of essential purposes besides helping you crush it in the gym, like keeping your heart pumping and maintaining your balance. One of the best sources of that energy is fat. It contains 9 calories per gram, while carbohydrates, another top fuel source, contain just 4 calories.

But your body is fickle. It likes to pick and choose its gas. “You tap fat for energy when you do low-intensity activities like typing on your computer or going for a walk,” says Keith Baar, Ph.D., a professor in the department of physiology and membrane biology at the University of California Davis. “But as you increase physical intensity and your muscles start demanding fuel faster, your body switches to burning carbs, which are quicker to break down into energy.”

How to Burn Fat and Build Muscle with Your Workouts

You’ve heard of the “fat-burning zone,” an exercise intensity of about 50 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate, thought to be below the threshold where your body will start burning carbs. It turns out, though, that cranking up the intensity can lead to more fat loss in the end. “You want to burn as many calories overall as possible during your workout so that afterward your body will be forced to use fat to help your muscles recover,” Baar says. “That’s how you get the biggest burn.”

Intensity is only part of the equation, however. These six strategies will help you build muscle and torch fat more effectively.

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Here’s what happens when the body starts converting stored fat into usable energy.

How to burn fat

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Many of us may be considering “burning some fat” so we feel better in our bathing suits out on the beach or at the pool. What does that actually mean, though?

The normal fat cell exists primarily to store energy. The body will expand the number of fat cells and the size of fat cells to accommodate excess energy from high-calorie foods. It will even go so far as to start depositing fat cells on our muscles, liver and other organs to create space to store all this extra energy from calorie-rich diets — especially when combined with a low activity lifestyle.

Historically, fat storage worked well for humans. The energy was stored as small packages of molecules called fatty acids, which are released into the bloodstream for use as fuel by muscles and other organs when there was no food available, or when a predator was chasing us. Fat storage actually conferred a survival advantage in these situations. Those with a tendency to store fat were able to survive longer periods without food and had extra energy for hostile environments.

But when was the last time you ran from a predator? In modern times, with an overabundance of food and safe living conditions, many people have accumulated an excess storage of fat. In fact, more than one-third of the adult population in the United States is obese.

The major problem with this excess fat is that the fat cells, called adipocytes, do not function normally. They store energy at an abnormally high rate and release energy at an abnormally slow rate. What’s more, these extra and enlarged fat cells produce abnormal amounts of different hormones. These hormones increase inflammation, slow down metabolism, and contribute to disease. This complicated pathological process of excess fat and dysfunction is called adiposopathy, and it makes the treatment of obesity very difficult.

When a person begins and maintains a new exercise regimen and limits calories, the body does two things to “burn fat.” First, it uses the energy stored in the fat cells to fuel new activity. Second, it stops putting away so much for storage.

The brain signals fat cells to release the energy packages, or fatty acid molecules, to the bloodstream. The muscles, lungs and heart pick up these fatty acids, break them apart, and use the energy stored in the bonds to execute their activities. The scraps that remain are discarded as part of respiration, in the outgoing carbon dioxide, or in urine. This leaves the fat cell empty and renders it useless. The cells actually have a short lifespan so when they die the body absorbs the empty cast and doesn’t replace them. Over time, the body directly extracts the energy (i.e., calories) from food to the organs that need them instead of storing it first.

As a result, the body readjusts by decreasing the number and size of fat cells, which subsequently improves baseline metabolism, decreases inflammation, treats disease, and prolongs lives. If we maintain this situation over time, the body reabsorbs the extra empty fat cells and discards them as waste, leaving us leaner and healthier on multiple levels.

David Prologo is an associate professor in the department of radiology and imaging sciences at Emory University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How to burn fat

How would you like to magically burn off about 40 calories in the next 15 minutes, without even breaking a sweat? Want to try? Okay, here’s what you do:

Go into the bedroom. Open up the closet. Look inside. Anything need to go to the dry cleaner? What about that pashmina you spilled New Year’s bubbly on? Toss it in the laundry bag. Straighten a few hanging items and refold your sweaters so the inside of your wardrobe doesn’t look like you had to flee the paparazzi. Good job. Now have a seat.

Ta-da! You’ve just smoked 40 or more calories in less time than it takes to put on your makeup, and all you did was neaten up your clothes. Magic, right?

Well, not really. You see, your body is already primed to be a fat-burning machine. All you need to do to start changing your body’s shape is tune up that fat furnace and get it revving at maximum efficiency so you’re burning even more fat while going about the mundane rituals of life.

What Is Metabolism?

This fat-burning magic comes from your metabolism, a word you’ve probably heard tossed around a lot but maybe don’t quite understand. What is metabolism? Simply put, it’s all the various chemical reactions that happen inside your body, 24-7, that keep you alive. It’s food being turned into energy and that energy being burned off to keep your hair growing, your heart beating, your liver pumping out bile, your lungs transferring oxygen into your bloodstream and your intestines turning Amstel Light into urine (not that there’s a huge leap there).

It’s the engine room of your individual starship, your never-ending calorie burn. And while you may imagine that the majority of your calories get burned while you’re engaged in some strenuous activity like riding a bike, diving into a pool or getting jiggy with your honey, you’re actually burning most of your calories, well, just keeping the lights on.

In fact, think of metabolism as your caloric 401(K) program. It’s not going to give you instant gratification, like hitting a slot machine jackpot. It’s a long-term strategy, but it’s a sure thing: Invest in it and you’ll get slow, steady, effective returns that will keep you happy and healthy for years to come.

Now, like any long-term investment, it needs a little maintenance from time-to-time. Learn the smart ways to tweak your metabolism, improving your burn just enough to gain even more over the long haul. (Or to borrow what they say in financial circles, it’s time to work less for your calorie burn and have your calorie burn start working for you!)

Prepare for a few surprises, starting with.

Why Burning Calories in the Gym Is a Waste of Time

Well, stay with us here. Burning calories in the gym is great. But the energy you expend while you’re in the gym isn’t as simple as those tired old LED readouts on the treadmill might make it seem. See, we all have three “burns” that make up our metabolism.

Burn One

Basal (resting) metabolism: Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) accounts for 60 to 70 percent of your overall metabolism, and surprisingly, it’s the number of calories you burn doing nothing at all: lying in bed staring at the ceiling or vegging on the couch watching TV. As we said earlier, it’s fueled by your body’s inner workings—your heart beating, your lungs breathing, even your cells dividing.

Burn Two

Digestive metabolism, or thermic effect of food (TEF): Simply digesting food—turning carbs into sugar and turning protein into amino acids—typically burns 10 to 15 percent of your daily calories. Digesting protein burns more calories than digesting carbohydrates or fat—about 25 calories for every 100 consumed. Digesting carbohydrates and fat burns about 10 to 15 calories for every 100 consumed.

So pause a moment to think about this: Between 70 and 85 percent of the calories you burn every day come from either eating or just hanging around doing nothing.

So, what about the other 15 to 30 percent?

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