1. Getting those Zzzzz’s
most people “What’s the best way to burn more fat” and they’ll tell you to eat less and exercise more. Whilst exercise and food are key contributors, to fat loss this formula is missing a key component: sleep. Not getting enough sleep raises your cortisol levels. High levels of cortisol lead to rapid weight gain, lower metabolism, increased appetite, sugar cravings and belly fat (1). A recent study found that stress-related cortisol release contributes to central fat, psychological stress and risk for disease in otherwise healthy women (2). Levels of cortisol should be high in the morning and naturally drop in the evening when you’re preparing for sleep. However, for many of us, this balance is out of whack due to only getting 5-7 hours of sleep. Aim for 8-9 hours of sleep in a dark room without exposure to artificial light.
2. Do what you suck at
Inefficient movements or movement you aren’t good at, results in more fat burned. For example, if you’re a runner, the better you get at running the less effective running becomes as a fat burning tool. So burning more fat means changing exercises before you get good at them. When we aren’t good at particular movements energy leaks out causing a greater demand on our body. The end result? More total fat burned. So if your go-to cardio equipment is the cross trainer then hop on the Stairmaster and suck at it. If you always do barbell back squats followed by a rest period, go do some front loaded squats and add in some kettlebell swings and suck at it (with correct form that is).
3. Happiness is in the hormones
Women’s hormonal profiles are very different than men’s. Women have higher levels of progesterone and oestrogen and therefore tend to store more body fat around the hips, butt and thighs So, the ratio of estrogen and progesterone needs to be balanced, as does their balance with other fat loss related hormones like cortisol and insulin. Progesterone works against the action of cortisol (a good thing) while estrogen works against the action of insulin (another good thing). However, The modern day life of stress, reduced sleep, elimination of fats in the diet, chronic cardio and excess sugars are causing an imbalance in these hormones. Resulting in high levels of cortisol and insulin, which drain progesterone and reduce the production of estrogen. This creates excess belly fat . To decrease the effects of cortisol and insulin, reduce grains and starches and see paragraph one getting those Zzzzz’s.
4. Get out of the gym
Driving to the gym to then step on the treadmill or other cardio machines is, for the most part, a waste of your valuable time. Gripping the treadmill for dear life as you ramp up the incline to 10% is both ineffective and pointless. Don’t get me wrong; aerobic exercise has its place, it’s just not in the gym. A recent study found that exercising outdoors resulted in greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and a reduction in feelings of tension and depression than exercising indoors (4). So grab some friends and take a hike or a long walk. The reduction in stress and anxiety will reduce cortisol and the flight-fight response, which will enable you to burn off more fat.
5. Ditch the diet
Dieting makes you fat (6). We’ve been hardwired to believe that we need to be on the newest diet, known as the yo-yo effect. The problem with most of these trends is that they are unsustainable in the long term. When we eat a low number of calories, our body takes that as a sign of starvation and puts our engine (metabolism) into first gear.
It’s not about eating less; it’s about eating more! Yes, you read that correctly, as women we need to eat more than what we have been told by the pressures of media, society and the fitness industry. That doesn’t mean more food followed by a restrictive pattern. It means more nutrient-dense food on a daily basis. We need to eat enough to support strength training, daily tasks and other demands of everyday life. So stop sipping that slimming shake with an ingredient list the length of a book and chose whole foods packed with nutrients.
6. Not all exercise is created equal
Step away from the cardio zone and opt for exercises that make you use your muscles. Dieting and cardio, without strength training, will result in muscle loss. Strength training is the magic bullet to fat loss. Muscle is metabolically active meaning it constantly requires energy (calories) to sustain it. So, if you don’t use your muscles regularly, your body will choose to burn muscle and keep the fat. And let’s be honest; nobody wants to lose muscle, they want to lose fat. It’s the driving force behind revving up your metabolism. Opt for bodyweight, kettlebells, resistance bands, TRX, or anything to get your muscles working.