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Which Fat Loss Method Should I Follow? An Analysis of Common Fat Loss Training Methods
As a personal trainer in Singapore, the majority (I would guess 90%!!) of my clients come to lose some body fat. With all the obesity we have, fat loss should concern everyone.
Several really good coaches have come out with excellent fat loss guides, methods and training programs. So how do you choose?
In this article, I will discuss my own experience with various fat loss protocols.
NOTE: ALL methods below will not be effective without proper nutrition. You need to eat enough protein, vegetables, fruit and healthy fats to make this stuff work.
It has been thought that you need about 3-4 hours of physical activity PER DAY to overcome a poor diet and still lose fat. In our sedentary lives we have to eat right for fat loss or it just won’t happen.
Method 1 – Long, Slow, Distance Training (LSD)
Stair climbers, elliptical trainers, jogging, swimming, whatever. The main idea here is, “let’s burn as many calories as we can during exercise”, and “let’s make sure as many of those calories are from fat”. From an aesthetic perspective, the thought is “long distance, endurance athletes are thin, so to get thin we need to do LSD training.”
In theory this makes a lot of sense. LSD burns a lot of calories because it can be done (as the name suggests) for a LONG time. A greater percentage of the calories burned are fat because of the “zone” where these activities are done. However, the recovery is easy and you won’t burn any calories outside of your exercise time.
During my time in the armed forces, long runs were very popular. While training for a half marathon, we ran 12, 14 and 16 km every week. What happened?…I became thin and weak. “Well, at least he got lean” you’d think, but I didn’t get THAT LEAN.
I had marginally visible abs, but nothing like the ripped look you might expect from so much endurance training. I also lost 30cm off my broad jump and a few tenths of a second off my sprint times.
My bad experiences are the norm for people who use this method. In addition, LSD takes a lot of training time and it takes more and more as you get “better” and have to increase the distances and kilometers.
It’s not just about experience as a personal trainer in Singapore, Science also supports these experiences. For fat loss, LSD is not even an improvement over diet alone.
An example of an LSD training program would be 45 minutes of swimming 2x a week, and 45 minutes of jogging 2x a week.
Does it work? – No, it is not effective and takes a lot of time.
There is a place in rehab and therapy for LSD, but not for fat loss.
Method 2 – Metabolic Disturbance Training
The main idea of metabolic training is to create as much “disruption” to the body’s systems, so that we burn calories throughout the day, not just when we do the exercise. In addition, it maintains and builds muscle itself and that is important when losing fat.
This disruption is so great that one study shows 9 times greater fat loss for this form of training compared to LSD training. And the exercise time was lower for the metabolic training group.
They did just such an intense training during that exercise time that the body burned above normal calories for up to 38 hours after the training session. WOW. The calories burned BY exercise was about 1/2 of the LSD group, but the total calories burned was much higher.
What’s happening? A lot of disturbance of the state of the body, so a lot of adaptation. That adjustment is fat loss.
I have used this method extensively with clients and myself as well. It just works. Fat melts off. The workouts are short (1 hour or less) and challenging. I have clients who easily lose 10 kg of fat in 2 months.
Here is a sample of a metabolic fat loss workout that was performed just a week ago by one of my fairly strong clients. Note A1, A2 etc mean that the exercises are performed one after the other, a “super-set”. All exercises are done with a 3 sec lowering and 2 sec lifting timing.
A1: Stiff Leg Dead lifts x 12 reps rest 45s
A2: Push-ups with one arm x 6 reps/side rest 45s repeat A1 Total 5 super-sets
B1: Seated Cable Rowing x 12 reps rest 45s
B2: Barbell Lunges x 10 reps/side rest 45s Repeat B1 total 5 sets
C1: Stability ball sit ups x 12 reps no rest
C2: Shoulder external rotation x 15 rest 30 sec Repeat C1 total 3 sets
The training ended with 10 minutes of interval sprints on a stationary bike. The total training time was about 60 minutes.
Does it work? YES!. This is THE preferred method of fat loss for my personal training clients. Results are pretty much guaranteed, the body just can’t hold fat when it works like this.
Method 3 – Interval Training
This method burns calories, and creates significant disruption and post exercise calorie burn. The downside is that it doesn’t do as well at maintaining/building muscle as resistance training (but it’s not as bad as LSD). Interval training can really range from a sprint (90-100% of your best) + a walk (20-30%) to a brisk walking pace (75-85%) + a jog (40-50%) or anything in between. .
I use a type of interval training for all clients who want fat loss. It is not as demanding on recovery as resistance training, so it can be added to most training programs.
An example interval session would be:
10 sec sprint cycle (100% effort) followed by, 20 sec slow cycle (30% effort) repeat 20-60 times depending on conditioning level. It only takes 10-20 minutes, but it’s really effective.
Another example of a lower intensity (not as effective, but less demanding on recovery skills and can be done more often) –
30 seconds fast cycle (80% effort) followed by 30 seconds slow cycle (30% effort) repeat 10-20 times
Does it work: Yes. Intervals are a valuable fat loss tool in any training program. Not as good as method 2, but intervals can be added for added effect.
Method 4 – Strength Training
This method focuses on preserving as much muscle as possible while preventing fat loss through the diet. The weights that are lifted remain heavy and the repetitions per set low. The idea is to ensure that we lose little to no muscle or strength during the fat loss phase.
My experience of this is not from personal training clients, but rather a personal one I had for my own diet. On a low calorie diet I didn’t do intervals or LSD training because I just wasn’t eating enough calories to support that kind of training. I went down to about 5-6% body fat and had the “ripe look”. If I had used another type of fat loss training method, my muscle mass would have decreased and that would have been terrible news on a reduced calorie diet. Exercise volume (total weight lifted) should be kept low as we match this type of training with a lower calorie diet. But the weight training should use heavy weights to maintain muscle.
An example workout would look like this
A: Barbell Squat 3 reps x 6 sets 120s rest between sets
B1: Barbell Row 5 reps x 3 sets 90 sec rest
B2: Military Press 5 reps x 3 sets 90 sec rest
C: Step up 5 reps / leg x 3 sets 90 sec rest
Does it work? Yes, but the workout does not burn as many calories and the disorder is not as much as metabolic training (method 2).
So far all I have given are the 4 main methods in use today. “So what should I use?” You asked. OK It depends on who you are.
For a beginner to intermediate client (1 year of hard training or less) with a fat loss priority, use method 2 and 3 together. 30-40 minutes of metabolic training + 10-20 minute intervals will do the trick.
For an advanced client (great technique, strong for their body weight), use method 2, 3, and a sprinkling of 4 (1 in every 6 to 8 training sessions. 40 minutes strength/metabolic training + 10-20 minutes intervals
For athletes in metabolic sports (many around) who need to lose a little fat, use method 2 with a little 4. Sports training will take care of the “interval” requirements.
For athletes in a power/speed sport (sprints, throws, weightlifting) who need to make a lower weight class, use 4 with a little 3. Let a calorie-reduced diet take care of the fat loss. Use training to maintain strength, power and speed. Also keep the intervals in the high intensity range. If yoursporttraininghastemporunningorsprints,youcancutoutoftheintervals.
Hope this clears up any misconceptions about training for fat loss. Again, you need to eat clean for fat loss. Make your goals quickly and wisely.
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