Get Fit, Lose Fat

By Sookie Sing

The components of a good fitness programme are cardio, resistance, and stretching. These are important for weight loss, too, though the balance needs to be exactly right.

To make your body slim and healthy, you must have two goals in mind. Firstly, you should aim to reduce the amount of fat on your body. Secondly, you will tone the shape of your muscles so you have a firmer figure. This will also turn your body into a more efficient fat-burning machine.

To help you with the first step - fat-reduction- you need to adjust the balance of calories you take in each day with those you expend. While your daily calorie intake may well decrease, the number you expend will certainly increase as you perform fat-burning cardio work. Cardio training, like running or fast-pace walking, burns calories fast. It also improves your cardiovascular strength in particular, the condition of your heart and lungs. Cardio training is what really burns fat. So, although it doesn't work in isolation, it is the most important part of the plan's workouts. Cardio training - or aerobic exercise, as it's sometimes called - includes any activity that gets you out of breath. So, running and fast-pace walking, cycling and swimming all quality as types of cardio work. Cardio training makes your heat and lungs work harder, and this improves not only your physical fitness. It boosts your energy levels. Improves your concentration, and reduces your risk of heart disease, too. Most importantly for those aiming to lose weight, cardio burns fat.

S you go about your day-to-day business, your body is drawing upon its most readily available sources of energy - these are its fat reserves and the reserves of sugar it has in your blood and muscles. At time like this, it uses them in roughly equal proportions. However, as soon as you ask your body to work harder, it needs the most immediate form of energy it has, and this it takes in form of sugar. Although your body's now using proportionately more sugar than fat to fuel itself, it's still burning fat, and more fat than if you were simply going about your usual tasks.

Effective fat-burning

In the workouts, you will need to perform cardio work in two different ways. The first, constant-pace training, has you working at a steady pace over a longish period - on day 1, for instance, you'll be walking at a constant pace for 25 minutes.

Interval training is the second way. Here, you'll alternate in the same session between short periods of low-intensity cardio training (walking) and short periods of high-intensity cardio training (running). This combination of constant-pace training and interval training makes your body burn fat in the most effective way it can. And the reason it works is that it raises your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the rate at which your body is calculated to burn calories when it's at rest.

Your optimum training zone

To burn fat efficiently, you also need to work within your optimum training zone, which is between 70% and 90% of your maximum heart rate (MHR). Calculating your MHR may seem like a bit of bore to begin with, but you'll soon find you can recognize what heart rate you're working at by the way you feel, and there'll be no need for you to keep stopping and measuring it.

To work out your 100% MHR, assume that when you were born it was 220 and that it's going down by each year. So, a 35-year old has an MHR of 185(220 - 35). With a calculator, you can then work out the MHR percentage you need. For example, the 80% MHR for a 35-year old is 148 (0.8 x 185). This figure represents the maximum number of heart-beats per minute a 35-year old should have during cardio work at 80% MHR. The only other thing you need to know is how to take your pulse. Find the pulse point at your wrist by following the line of your thumb and placing two fingers (not your thumb) about 2cm (1in) below your wrist joint. Count for 15 seconds, then multiply by 4 to get your heart-beat per minute figure.

There are advantages to following the weight loss plan than just losing weight. The plan works by getting you fit. So, as you're losing fat, you're also conditioning your heart and lungs, and helping ward off stress - related disorders.

One other point to bear in mind is that the weight loss plan is designed to bring about weight loss, and a significant change in your shape (and, incidentally, your health) may well not be reflected in an equally significant change in your body weight.

The reason for this is that your body weight does not take into account the make-up of your body the proportions of aft, muscle, bone, tissue, and fluid. As you follow the plan, you'll be losing fat, but you'll also be toning your muscles, which makes them denser and heavier - up to three times heavier than fat, in fact. Muscles weighs up to three times more than fat - so you can change your shape without losing masses of weight.

Forward planning is as important as diet for successful weight loss. Pinpoint potential trouble-spots now, and later you'll resist anything - including temptation. There are times in all our lives when we get home a little later than anticipated and we're hungry. Somehow or other we find ourselves making straight for the fridge door. For many of us this is a make-or-break situation: give into temptation now and we can all easily end up feeling demoralized and down. With some careful organization, however, you can tackle the problem head-on - and satisfy your hunger pangs.

To make sure you stay with the weight loss plan follow these two tips:

Plan your grocery shop and make sure you buy food that you be eating for a few days. It's about planning your shopping trip around food you need. Not only will your fridge be stocked with ingredients for meals that are quick and healthy, but your diet - and your confidence - will remain intact.

Preparing ahead is another aim that should help you put together meals quickly as possible. Read more on what preparation or cooking can be done ahead of time. Most often, it's for dishes where ingredients need to be marinated. These can usually be left in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Many of the dressings, too, can be whizzed up beforehand. You could even get into the habit of making enough for several dishes at a time. They generally keep well.

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