Burning more calories than you consume is the only truly effective method of effecting noticeable and sustainable weight loss.
The best way to burn the most calories is through exercise, but what sorts of exercise are the most effective?
The answer to this pressing question is entirely dependant on your goals and current fitness levels. Instead of focusing on calorie numbers I’m going to investigate the best way to maximise your workouts so that whatever activity you undertake will be more effective in achieving your goals.
Ideally depending on your fitness levels you want to be exercising 3-5 times a week. This is the ideal level of strain to place your body under if you are unused to strenuous physical activity and helps to prevent fatigue and risk of injury. More serious gym-goers can push this up to 6 days a week, or have multiple workouts in a day (say weights in the morning and cardio at night) but an individual should work up to this sort of level slowly and try to avoid burning out by jumping in at the deep end.
Now to the different activities:
Weight Training: This is effective for building muscle and serves to burn calories at the same time (though less than a full cardio session). Do not discount the weights section of your gym however because of this however as lean muscle serves to increase your metabolism so that you burn more calories simply sitting around during the day. To maximise calorie consumption, aim to complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions per exercise with a minimal rest of between 30-90 seconds between sets. A good weights workout will include between 5-8 different exercises.
Cardio: this is the bread and butter of burning calories, and there are a number of options one can approach this with depending on fitness levels and time constraints or even simply personal preference.
Running: simple, easy, and a good calorie burn. This is usually the staple of any cardio session whether on the treadmill or simply jogging outside. Ensure you have adequate footwear however to minimise the chances of impact injuries.
Cross Trainer: like running but with no impact on the joints, again you can get a decent burn with the right resistance level and workout plan.
Cycling: whether a machine or in the great outdoors provides a good burn and tones your legs simultaneously. Generally have to exercise longer however to burn as many calories as when running.
Rowing Machine: Not for the faint of heart, this will provide both a strong cardio workout and a toning effect for both your back and your legs.
Swimming: again another low impact exercise, good if you suffer from joint pains or other injuries.
Length and times:
Now you have chosen your preferred mode of exercise you may wonder what is the most effective method of cardio training to burn the most amount of fat. The answer is that quite simply again depends on your fitness levels. For most beginners the best bet is to work for an extended period of time within the fat burning zone.
The fat burning zone is a low intensity work out which you perform for at least an hour at a time. The object is to keep your heart rate at around 60%-70% of your maximum heart rate (220-your age). A good indicator of this is if you can hold a comfortable conversation with someone as you exercise. This science behind this is that your body burns calories from fat more efficiently at this level of intensity.
However if you feel a bit more brave and are ready to up the intensity slightly, you will find HIIT (high intensity interval training) your best option. This involves exercising for around 30 minutes in total switching between 1 minute stretches of low intensity work followed by 30 seconds of high intensity sprints. This serves to keep your body under constant strain and is scientifically shown to burn MORE calories than steady state exercise in LESS time. It is also shown to boost your metabolism for the rest of the day after you have completed the exercise. This however is a very intense workout and should only be attempted by those who feel they are up to such an undertaking.