5 things to know about fat loss

If you are gymming hard but not losing weight accordingly, you may not be sleeping enough, says Moumita Chaudhuri

If you are new to fitness and fat loss is your goal, you may be tempted to eat too little and work out too much to make the process go faster. Unfortunately, instead of helping, this may actually hamper your progress. Here are a few things you need to know about weight loss to make the most of your fitness regime.

HIIT the gym

Running on the treadmill is passé. Sure, endurance exercise is great for burning fat, but who has the time to work out for an hour everyday. And let's face it, long sessions on the treadmill are mind-numbingly boring. That is why fitness experts such as Chinmoy Roy swear by HIIT or high intensity interval training. "HIIT is any intense exercise that lasts between 10 seconds to 3 minutes. It is primarily judged by a soaring heart rate that can go up to 90 per cent of the maximum heart rate of a person or even higher. It is immediately followed by a rest of 2-3 minutes. This method can be applied in both resistance training and cardio," says Roy. The biggest advantage of HIIT is that with this routine you burn double the amount of calories in a very short time.

Say you sprint for 200 metres, rest for 3-5 minutes and repeat the process. This cardio-based HIIT helps burn a lot of calories, enhances cardio capacity but does not increase muscle growth, although it does push up your basal metabolic rate (the number of calories your body burns at rest) for the next 24 hours. Now, muscles burn the most calories. "Every pound of muscle you gain will burn an extra 30-50 calories a day. In other words, it hikes up calories spent at rest," says Roy.

You need to build some muscles to see off that fat. Therefore, training with weights is important for both men and women. "It is a myth that lifting weights make women bulky. Getting 'toned' - a favourite with ladies - means building muscles, which obviously cannot be achieved by spending hours on the treadmill or cross trainer or cycle," says Vinit Baptist, founder of Zest Fitness Studio in Calcutta.

Keep stress at bay

Working out in the gym for 2-3 hours a day is not the key to weight loss. Instead "it might produce cortisol, the stress hormone, which will burn our real asset - our muscles," warns Roy. How much is too much? This is where a trainer comes handy - he or she can choose the right exercise for your fitness level. Most of us walk, jog or run to lose weight but a customised fitness routine will definitely get you better results. Working with a trainer will also help you stay committed to your fitness plan.

No spot reduction

Do not do a bunch of sit-ups to reduce belly fat - trainers have gone hoarse repeating that there is no such thing as spot reduction. Instead, do exercises of the lower body that target major muscle groups such as the quads, hamstrings and glutes. Multi-joint exercises like the step up or lunge burns many more calories because it works more muscle groups and will help you lose fat faster - including belly fat.

Sleep well

Sleeping habits play an enormous role in weight loss. "Between 10pm and 2am, growth hormone levels peak and these are the hours when our body repairs itself. Muscle growth, cell development, it all happens during this phase," says Roy. This is also the time your muscles recover from the wear and tear of use. Our psychological repair tends to occur between 2am and 6am. Therefore, you have to have an undisturbed sleep of six to eight hours for best results.

Too little sleep also disturbs the balance between your hunger and satiation hormones, leading you to eat more.

Eat right

The first thing to remember is not to fall for a fad diet. "You should follow a simple rule for weight loss. Keep your protein intake adequate and be on calorie deficit (eat fewer calories than you burn). Dietary fat should be at least 30 per cent of your calorie intake. Ensure you have enough vitamins, minerals, fibre and water," says Baptist.

Some people believe that protein damages the kidney but it not true. We need protein because it builds our muscles. Ideal protein intake is between 0.8 gram and 1 gram per kilo of our body weight. "Have egg whites, grilled or boiled chicken, fish and milk which will provide animal protein. Lentil, soya and nuts supply vegetarian protein. Up to 40 per cent of total calories consumed can come from proteins. Remember to have some proteins post a workout - two egg whites or grilled sausages," says Roy.

As for carbohydrates, shift to cereals like brown rice, whole wheat products, corn and sattoo. Vegetables and fruits would take care of the rest of the carb intake. "Have a carb-rich, pre-workout snack such as a banana, grapefruit juice and a brown bread sandwich. It helps sustain energy," advises Roy. Almonds, walnuts, olive oil and flaxseed are some of the sources of unsaturated fats.

Just gymming will not help you lose weight, make some lifestyle changes too!

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