How to successfully burn body fat

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Dietitian Susie Burrell says that when it comes to burning body fat and long-term weight loss, consistency is key. 

While there is plenty of information around about diets and nutrition, the specific steps required to not only increase the amount of body fat you are burning, but to support weight loss long-term is not always so clear. So if your goal is to lose some serious body fat, for good, here are the key steps you need to take.

Get honest about what you really eat

When it comes to fat loss, calorie intake remains the most important thing to consider. Too many calories and you will not utilise fat stores for energy no matter how ‘healthy’ you are and too few calories and metabolic rate will slow over time. For many of us the issue with calories is that they slip into our diets without us realising. An extra snack bar here, a handful of nuts there and a few bites of someone’s leftovers and all of a sudden we have consumed 200-300 extra calories a day; which can be the difference between weight loss and not.

Take control of your daily calorie intake by limiting yourself to eating a set number of times each day and be mindful of your portions. Logging calories too can help control mindless munching. As a general rule of thumb, small females will need 1200-1400 calories at a minimum to support weight loss while men 1600-1800.

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Know your macros

While more extreme diets such as keto require carbs to be kept very low, for those including carbs in their usual diet getting your macros right is a key aspect of optimising fat metabolism. Too few carbs will reduce metabolic rate while too many will prevent fat being mobilised in the body to be burnt.

For slow but sustainable weight loss (half to one kilogram a week) the average person will need 30-40 per cent of their calories from carbs, up to 30 per cent from protein and no more than 30 per cent from food fats. It is difficult to calculate these ratios but online programs such as ‘myfitnesspal’ can help you to see where your macros are coming from and how you may need to adjust them to maximise weight loss.

Get your timing right

When it comes to fat loss, the time we eat our meals is extremely important. Not only are calories consumed in the second half of the day more likely to be stored, as a result of hormonal shifts that our bodies are programmed for, but naturally we tend to sit down more throughout the second half of the day, hence burning fewer calories.

In food terms this means we are much better to enjoy are larger two meals early in the day, whilst keeping our final meal light with a hand-sized serve of lean protein and plenty of vegetables. Most importantly allowing for at least 12 hours overnight without food to further help to optimise fat metabolism.

Allocate enough time

Depleting the body’s fuel stores so you are burning a larger amount of fat takes time – at least three to four days and it then again takes time to mobilise stored fat to be burnt. This means that sustainable weight loss takes time, at least a week or two to see a one to two kilogram loss, and up to three months for a 10 kilogram loss.

In real life though we expect instant results and after a day or two of healthy eating are disappointed when the scales have not moved. This means if you really want to lose weight for good you need to allow enough time and keep your expectations realistic. Dietary consistency over time will yield results but changing your diet every few days or alternating between periods of perfect eating before eating binges will ultimately prevent the drop on the scales you are looking for.

Get enough movement

While exercise is an important component of weight loss helping us to burn more calories overall but also to help boost metabolic rate, in modern life even more important is maintaining a basic level of movement. It is not uncommon for full-time employees to move as little as 2000-3000 steps each day and when movement is this low you will not lose weight – even if you go to the gym every day.

The human body needs a basic levels of movement every single day, as well as regular exercise, which means aiming for at least 10,000 steps each day to support weight loss long term.

Susie Burrell is a nutritionist. Follow her on Twitter: @SusieBDiet