When it comes to women, exercise, and weight loss, the most common image that comes to mind is the one on the left: sweating on the treadmill at a slow (yet steady) pace in order to get that optimal belly fat burn. After all, everyone knows that ridding yourself of that spare tire requires cardio. And what better way to do it than running?
As such, you see gyms packed with these machines and a host of eager people lining up to use them – that, and a small stampede of joggers all over the city streets. Now, if this describes you I have some good news and some bad news. Let’s start with the bad…
If you’re trying to lose belly fat, running (and cardio, in general) is not the best way to go about it. That’s right. Hitting the treadmill or the streets for a slow 45-minue run won’t give you the quickest results.
So, why does everyone do it?
Because of the widespread myth known as the “fat burning zone” (so widespread, in fact, that it’s even written right on the exercise machines in your gym). Supposedly, running at around 65% of your max heart rate burns the most amount of fat. Of course, that’s not the case. While this low-intensity exercise does burn a greater percentage of calories from fat – it’s the total calories that actually matter. Obviously burning more (i.e. through higher intensity training) will shed more body fat.
And now for the good news…
You no longer have to endure those long, boring cardio sessions to get rid of your belly fat. In fact, you can probably shed more pounds – exercising just 45 minutes per week – rather than every day.
How can this be?
It all comes down to HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training. In a nutshell, by exercising for very short but extremely intense periods of time, you can burn more calories. At the same time (and in contrast to endurance running) you’ll preserve precious muscle. This helps keep your metabolism high, which in turn leads to greater fat loss.
Almost any workout can be modified to become a HIIT workout. Take running, for example. Instead of a long, 45-minute jog do the following:
- Warm up for a few minutes by jogging at a slow pace.
- Next, run as fast as you can for 1 minute – then slow down to a jog for 1 minute. Repeat this 4 more times.
- Cool down for a couple of minutes.
And that’s it – you’re done and it only took you about 15 minutes! Do this a couple times per week and you’ll be amazed by your results.
Now, keep in mind that you’ll burn more calories during the traditional 45-minute workout. But, as soon as you finish, the calorie burn stops. On the contrary, with HIIT you’ll continue to burn calories for hours after you’re done. That’s why it’s more effective. And again, it spares lean mass which supports your metabolism (not to mention it spikes your Growth Hormone which helps build even more muscle).
You can also kick things up a notch by incorporating resistance training into your HIIT workout. For example, you can do a circuit of different exercise machines: one that hits your legs, then back, then chest, then core. Do a set of 8-10 reps on each machine without resting. Then, take a 3 minute break and do it again. Repeat for a total of 3 times.
By doing this, you get the benefits of HIIT while really training your muscles. And that’s a far better workout than cardio could ever give you – not to mention a much more effective way to burn belly fat and get that flat stomach we all long for.