How to Burn Fat: Reduce Body Fat Fast
If you want to be shredded for Summer, you know it’s all about burning body fat to get lean. We’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to reducing body fat quickly but safely. Before you crack on, read this.
Is Getting Lean The Right Goal For You?
Almost every fitness fan wants to lose body fat at least once in their life. Whether it’s for a shoot, a show, or a special occasion, getting lean is a cool goal. But is it right for you right now?
The fundamentals of fat loss are pretty simple. On paper, it comes down to maths. But of course simple doesn’t always mean easy. Don’t forget that you’re a human, not a computer, and humans have emotions and stress to contend with.
Before you embark on a fat loss phase, run a quick life audit. Do you have a supportive circle around you? Are your daily routines in check? Is life stress relatively low? Can you separate your self-worth from your body composition?
The most successful fat loss journey comes when you can enjoy the process, not just the end goal.
What Is Body Fat And Why Is It Important?
It’s impossible to achieve 0% body fat (and incredibly difficult to get to single digits). Why? Because our bodies need a healthy amount of fat to stay alive.
It’s important that you realise this at the start of your fat loss phase. The healthiest way to get lean is not to set an arbitrary body fat % goal at all. But if you are really keen to have a % in mind, be realistic and remember that you need some fat to be healthy.
You should also remember there’s a difference between losing weight and losing body fat. To lose weight, you simply need to see the number on the scale go down. This could mean weight loss from fat, but it could also be affected by muscle, water, food volume and loads of other variables.
If your goal is getting lean, you must aim to reduce fat mass (and maintain muscle mass).
Why Is Some Body Fat Healthy?
Body fat is necessary for:
- Balancing hormone levels
- Storing vitamins from food
- Regulating body temperature
- Good reproductive health
- Brain and nerve function
- Healthy metabolic rate
What Is The Different Between Essential Fat, Subcutaneous Fat, And Visceral Fat?
Body fat is a type of tissue in the body. We all have essential fat, subcutaneous fat (stored under the skin), and visceral fat (around the organs).
Essential fat is found in the nerves, brain, bone marrow, and in the membranes around your organs. As the name suggests, it is essential to your life and health.
Subcutaneous fat is the body fat you want to lose if you are getting lean. When you lose subcutaneous fat, you get slimmer, drop dress sizes, and look tighter. When we talk about “body fat percentage”, we are referring to subcutaneous fat.
Visceral fat is internal fat stored inside your abdomen and around your major organs (liver, kidneys, heart, pancreas). As you can imagine, too much of this kind of fat poses significant health problems, including increased risk of stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
What Is A Healthy Body Fat Percentage?
So now you know that you need some fat (essential and subcutaneous) no matter how ripped you want to get. But how much body fat is healthy for men and women?
Healthy body fat ranges actually change throughout your life, so what’s healthy for you now will not be the same in 10 or 20 years’ time.
Body fat recommendations also differ between the sexes, because female bodies need more body fat for ovulation and have body fat in breast tissue.
Healthy body fat for women:
Age 20-39 – 21%-33%
Age 40-59 – 24%-34%
Age 50-79 – 25% – 36%
Healthy body fat for men:
Age 20-39 – 8%-20%
Age 40-59 – 11% – 22%
Age 50-79 – 13% – 25%
What Body Fat Percentage For Visible Abs?
A lot of people will set a goal of visible abs as a way to measure the success of their fat loss phase. In our opinion, this isn’t a good way to go about it. For one thing, some people have more developed abdominal muscles than others. And what does “visible abs” mean, anyway?
If your goal is getting leaner, aim to get your body fat percentage into the lower half of the “healthy range” for your age group. And always remember, you need essential fat to live!
Measuring Body Fat
There are lots of ways to measure body fat, some more accurate than others. For some of these methods, you need a qualified practitioner or a specialist facility. Choose a method that fits your lifestyle and doesn’t get too caught up in the specific numbers.
Callipers are the easiest way to measure subcutaneous body fat and can be reliable when done by an experienced person. It’s pretty difficult to use callipers on yourself with any accuracy. Callipers measure skinfolds at 3 or 7 sites on your body (the triceps, above the hip bone, thigh, abdomen, chest, near the armpit and beneath the shoulder blade are also measured).
Advantages: affordable, quick, portable
Disadvantages: requires experience to be accurate
Underwater weighing compares your weight on dry land to your weight underwater to estimate your body fat percentage.
Advantages: quick and accurate
Disadvantages: lack of availability, impractical
DEXA is an accurate way of measuring body fat and gives you very detailed information about the amount of body fat in different areas of your body. But it does involve an x-ray and obviously means you have to travel to a facility that has a DEXA machine.
Advantages: accurate and detailed, also gives information about bone density
Disadvantages: lack of availability, cost
The Bod Pod uses Bottom of Form
air displacement plethysmography to estimate body fat percentage based on your body density against air pressure. It involves sitting inside a small chamber (wearing a swimming cap) for a few minutes.
Advantages: accurate, pretty quick, no water involved
Disadvantages: lack of availability, cost
Bioelectrical impedance places electrodes on your skin and sends small electrical currents into your body. How the currents pass through different tissue gives the body fat reading. There are various types of bioelectrical impedance devices available.
Advantages: Quick and easy, can be used at home
Disadvantages: huge variation in accuracy, fluid intake affects readings
Top Ways to Lose Body Fat Quickly and Healthily
You probably already know that a calorie deficit is the most important part of losing fat. But there’s much more to it than that. How should you eat to lose fat? What kind of workouts are best for fat loss? Is diet or exercise more important?
Fat loss workouts
What are the best gym workouts for getting lean? The truth is, there’s no such thing as a fat loss workout. But strength training will definitely help you maintain muscle and develop a great shape.
This 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis of diet, exercise, or diet + exercise concluded approaches combining diet and exercise were more successful than diet alone. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4429709/
Do some kind of resistance training at least 3 times a week. This might be free weights, functional fitness, CrossFit, bodybuilding style training, or using strength training machines.
Be sure to train all the major muscle groups throughout the week. A great way to get this done is to cover squats, hip hinges, vertical and horizontal press, vertical pull, and horizontal row movements.
Cardio for fat loss
Can you lose body fat without doing cardio? Yes, you can, but aerobic exercise like running, rowing, or cycling will make it easier to get lean. This isn’t because cardio workouts have a special fat-burning magic. It’s simply because cardio uses calories and increases the total amount of calories you burn during the day.
Choose the form of cardio you enjoy most and can fit into your lifestyle. If this means going for a run, great. If you find it easiest to add on some machine cardio when you’re at the gym, do that. If you really like going for fast walks, that’s great too. Choose something that gets your heart rate up and increases the calories burned throughout the day.
The key with all training during a fat loss phase is to keep it manageable. Remember, you will be eating in a slight calorie deficit. So make sure you can recover from training and keep your appetite in balance.
Nutrition for fat loss
Energy output (calorie burning through exercise and activity) is important for fat loss. But diet and nutrition is even more critical. The fact is, you simply can’t lose fat if you are eating more than your body needs. So you could train twice a day and do 2 hours of cardio, but you still won’t get lean if you are eating excess calories.
The very first thing you need to do for a fat loss phase is figuring out your calories. Base this on your current BMR (basal metabolic rate), activity levels, and TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). This is the number of calories you need to eat to maintain your weight. You could use an online calculator – try this one https://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html
To lose fat, you need to eat less than this. It’s up to you how much less you eat. If you really need to lose fat quickly, you will need to have a larger calorie deficit. If you have time (or an open-ended goal), you can afford to use a smaller deficit.
The best diet for fat loss
There is no such thing as fat burning foods. Low carb, intermittent fasting, vegan, and strict meal plans may all help you lose fat. But the key with all of them is that you are able to get in a calorie deficit and be consistent with it.
It’s common sense to limit processed foods and fill your diet with as much nutrient-dense food as possible because this type of natural food won’t use up all your calorie allowance. Imagine if you tried to lose fat eating ice cream and chips. You could do it, but you wouldn’t be able to eat much food at all.
On the other hand, if you fill your diet with lean protein, vegetables, whole grains, and some healthy fats, you’ll be able to eat much more food by volume. And that will keep your mind and your stomach happy!
Protein is an important part of your fat loss nutrition plan. Protein only contains 4 calories per gram, it is the most satiating macronutrient, and it builds muscle – which will help you with your body transformation.
Start losing fat
If you’re fired up to start getting leaner, figure out your starting fat loss calories and work out how long you want to diet for. Then decide how you will manage the “calorie burn” side of the equation. Do you want to do formal cardio or HIIT-style workouts? Would you rather increase your step count? Or do you have a really active lifestyle?
Plan out some healthy, filling meals that help you stay within a calorie deficit. Start tracking your calorie intake (or at least your food portions) so you know what’s working and what needs to change.
Tell a good friend, partner, or training buddy about your exciting new goal. Then get ready to buckle up and head into your fat loss phase. Just in time for Summer!