Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How Many Calories Do You Need to Burn for Fat Loss?

By Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Author, Turbulence Training

If you depend on classic aerobic cardio for fat loss, you
probably spend 30 minutes on a machine trying to burn a set number
of calories.

But does that work?

Does burning 500 calories per day cause you to lose 1 pound of fat
per week?

Well, according to science, it should. But if it did, you probably
wouldn't still be reading this article.

Back in the day, I used to write a column on fat loss myths for
Men's Fitness magazine. Here's a classic weight loss topic I covered.

Myth: I need to burn 500 calories each workout to lose fat.

Possibly one of the worst inventions for fat loss was the
calorie-counting monitor on treadmills, elliptical machines, and

Because of these, millions of men and women now obsess about the
number of calories burned per session. You've probably even been
one of those people, watching it creep up ever so slowly during a
slow-cardio session. All the while knowing that you can wipe out a
30-minute, 300-calorie treadmill session with one fell swoop of the
Krispy Kreme hand.

Too many people are brainwashed into thinking that if they don't
burn 300-500 calories per session, then they won't lose fat. After
all, that is what you've been told time and time again in those
fluffy fitness/fashion magazines.

The problems with this approach to fat loss are numerous. First
off, it's difficult to say if the calorie counters are even
accurate. A story on CBS news showed that cardio machines
overestimate calorie burning by up to 20%.

Next, depending on slow cardio for advanced fat loss is relatively
useless and at the very least, inefficient. It takes a long time
for you to burn a lot of calories and one study showed that men who
only used cardio training for weight loss ended up with a reduced
resting metabolism. You are basically undoing the calorie burning
by depending only on cardio. On the other hand, guys in the same
study that used strength training didn't suffer a reduced metabolic

So what is the solution to burning fat in a faster, more efficient
method? The answer is to use strength and interval training to burn
fewer calories in less exercise time, but with a more intense form
of exercise.

Your body will burn more calories after exercise (when you use
intervals) than it does after you do slow cardio and your
metabolism will stay high. Some experts refer to this as the
afterburn effect. How do you do intervals? Well, you could sprint
for 30 seconds and rest for 90 seconds and repeat that for 6 sets -
using the bike preferably or treadmill if you are experienced with

Within that short time frame the intervals will cause your muscles
to go crazy with activity (I call it a metabolic turbulence). This
crazy metabolism boost causes lots of calorie burning after
exercise to get your body back to normal. The result is you would
end up burning more fat and more calories in the post-exercise
period as your body tries to get things under control.

Now there is one time where you'd want to count calories, but that
is when you are counting up and determining how many calories you
eat per day. Again, you can wipe out an entire workout's work in
less than a minute simply by eating garbage. Without some structure
and discipline to your nutrition, there is nothing that even my
programs can do to help you lose fat.

So exercise nutrition control and interval training. These are the
two anti-calorie counting methods that will help you lose fat and
get lean.

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