You see a lot of articles in magazines and online about exercising to burn off excess bodyfat and yes, it does help. But it's not the only, nor even the best way to lose fat. To reduce bodyfat you need to be in a calorie deficiency, and following a healthy diet is your most powerful weapon in that battle for a number of reasons …
First, let's quickly look at the physics involved. Calories are a measure of stored energy contained to varying degrees within each type of food, and when ingested it takes 3,500 calories to add one pound of bodyweight. Your body uses some calories every day for internal functions, plus to power you through your daily activities. If you consume fewer calories than needed, your body converts some of its stored calories to make up the difference. If you feed it more calories than it burns, it will store the extra as fat to keep those calories available when food becomes scarce.
The best way to burn fat is a combination of calorie restriction and exercise, to hit the problem from both fronts. So why is lowering your caloric intake more effective than exercise for burning fat? Because the main purpose of exercising is to build strength, muscle and endurance, not burn fat. At best, an hour on a treadmill each day will burn about 500 calories an hour or less, depending on your bodyweight, the speed and the angle of incline. Over the course of a week, if you run for an hour every day you've burned 3,500 calories – one pound's worth of fat. Unfortunately most people will find the energy expenditure leads them to eat more, negating the effects. This explains why you see the same people using the treadmills in the gym year after year with little or no impact on their bodyfat levels.
But what about lifting weights? Weightlifting builds muscle, and muscle burns calories 24 hours a day, right? Yes – each pound of lean muscle you have burns about half a calorie per hour, 24/7. But that's just 12 calories per day – 10 extra pounds of muscle will only burn off a pound or so of fat per month. And once again, this often means an increase in appetite to go with the efforts required to build that extra 10 pounds of muscle.
So while exercise IS a part of the overall picture, both for optimal health and for burning bodyfat, the largest gains can be made by EFFECTIVELY managing your calories through a healthy nutrition plan. Note the emphasis on 'effectively' managing your calories – simply cutting way back in your daily calories is dangerous and counter-productive. Your body will go into 'starvation mode' if you suddenly stop eating for an extended period and will react by slowing your metabolism down drastically, thwarting your efforts to burn bodyfat.
While every body is different and each person's metabolism is different, start with this general rate: daily caloric intake for men should start at about 12 calories per pound of bodyweight, while for women it should be 10 calories per pound. Pick a reasonable bodyweight goal for your height and gender and use that as your starting point. So if a man wants to burn fat and get down to 175 pounds, he wants to start at 2,100 calories per day. A woman wanting to get back to 120 pounds would start consuming 1,200 calories per day.
Give that level a few weeks to see what effect it has on your bodyfat levels, then tweak it a bit up or down as necessary to reach, and maintain your goals. No, you will not lose fat as quickly as on some of the better fad diets, but you'll lose it safely while learning to maintain the new weight and avoid the yo-yo diet cycle so many are trapped in.
Pay attention to WHAT you eat as well, not just how much you eat. Carbohydrates are converted to glucose in the liver and then transported through your body by insulin from your pancreas – too many carbs makes your body produce that much more insulin to try and control your blood sugar levels, and if the extra glucose is not absorbed by your muscles it will be by your fat cells. Do not avoid carbs either, though – you need a balance of all 3 macro-nutrients – carbs, protein and healthy fats. Instead opt for healthier carb sources like rolled oats instead of sugary cereal, sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes and have extra vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts when you're hungrier. For snacks, have an apple or an orange instead of chips or chocolate bars.
By following a healthy diet and making exercise a regular part of your weekly routine you can hit your goal weight, get rid of the excess bodyfat and maintain the healthy weight that's just right for YOU. And you'll be helping to stave off or reduce the severity of type-2 diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Do not put it off – get started on your own healthy nutrition lifestyle right away!