Is Aerobic Training the Only Way to Burn Fat?

“I have read in popular magazines that aerobic training is the only way to burn fat. Is this true? If not are there other ways to burn fat, if so what are some?”

Perhaps I do not read these popular fitness magazines that solely claim aerobic training is the only way to burn fat because when I tried to find examples of a magazine claiming this, I fell short which was a pleasant surprise. However, I have seen this misconception first hand while working with friends and family. We live in a faced paced culture where every problem ideally has a single and simple solution. For example, if you are hungry you can grab a quick meal at one of the dozens of restaurants that are in your town, or if you need to talk to someone you send them a text 10 seconds later. Instant gratification and simple single solutions rule our everyday lives, so it makes sense that some people believe there is a single method to reducing body fat. So why cling on to aerobics as the way to do it? My theory is we are more likely to attempt to add a new habit to our lives than change an old one. Old habits include the food we eat and the drinks we drink, so we are likely to turn toward exercise, a habitual addition, to burn fat. From there I believe we turn toward exercises that we can easily measure or perceive the outcome of. For aerobics it is easy to measure the amount of calories burned, thus we get some instant gratification after seeing our calorie count after a workout. We of course know that what we gravitate toward isn’t always true.

Fortunately ‘Top 10’ lists have become very common in the fitness world and seem to be the common format for fat loss articles. These lists eliminate the concept of there being a single way to lose fat. Nevertheless, the common theme in many of these lists are the websites and magazines choose content over proven research, and some suggestions are loosely scientifically backed or simply opinions. Sometimes recipes make it into the list stating that a certain food or meal will burn fat. It’s good that the fitness community is no longer pinpointing one way to lose fat, but there is still a long way to go before insignificant or false methods are fully eliminated from these lists.

Although green tea and apple cider vinegar were discussed more often than eating a balanced diet, thankfully most lists include at least [sometimes loosely] one tip about each of the following: aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise, and nutrition. Anaerobic exercise is a great way to accelerate fat loss but it is often misunderstood. A relatively common belief is by doing an anaerobic exercise for a particular muscle group you can spot reduce fat in that area. The fitness magazines are doing a better job not spreading this myth, yet it still shows up in some blog articles. Since fat loss is a metabolic process, we can use aerobic exercise to increase our metabolism by increasing muscle mass. The more lean mass we have, the higher our resting metabolic rate is, meaning we require additional calories to sustain ourselves. This extra calorie requirement paired with a static diet can decrease body fat. Nutrition is another common way to reduce body fat, and is often underestimated. When people aim for calories burned with conducting an aerobic workout, they often fail to recognize that perhaps the largest gains can be made by changing their eating habits rather than changing their exercise habits.

I have not recently seen any magazines claiming aerobics are the only way to burn fat, but that doesn’t mean the misconception isn’t out there. Like the new ‘top 10’ lists are showing us, there are many ways someone can lose fat with anaerobic exercise and good nutrition being two of the top ways besides aerobic exercise.

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The Difference Between Being Fat and Overweight

I was recently asked what the difference between being fat and being overweight is. Below is a picture I got from Pinterest, there are many like it. Notice the woman on the right looks skinny and fit, while the woman on the left looks like she may be carrying a few extra pounds. This is the same woman at the exact same weight.

Let’s assume this woman is an even 5 feet tall. At 5 feet 130 pounds her Body Mass Index (BMI) would be 25.4. BMI uses your height and your weight to assign your body a numerical value. Any value from 25 to 30 is considered overweight. Above 30 is obese while below 25 is the normal range and eventually the underweight range. If you are the woman in the picture below, assuming a height at 5 feet, you would be considered overweight in both pictures according to your BMI.

The difference is BMI doesn’t take into account how your weight is distributed. Muscle is more dense that fat, meaning a pound of muscle takes up less space that a pound of fat. If you are carrying 5 pounds of fat then it will have a noticeable difference in the way you look while 5 pounds of muscle may be barely noticeable. That is how it is possible for both of the pictures below to be the same person at the same weight. But even though they are both considered to be overweight, the body time on the right would not be considered fat. This is because of the muscle difference. This is common among people who lift weights. People who lift weights may be very healthy, fit, and skinny, but will often be considered overweight due to all of their lean muscle mass.

 

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How Knowledge is Power in Nutrition – Things Worth Sharing

In this diabetes centered TED talk by Dr. Wendy Pogozelski you will learn how even the experts in the medical field sometimes disagree. When it comes to nutrition, knowledge is power and it’s important to learn and know what works best for you. If you want to learn more about diabetes or learn about your overall glycemic load (how many carbs you can eat), then this talk is worth watching.

You Won’t Believe what this Simple Nutritional Change will do for Your Health

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Both of these plates may look almost the same, but the plate on the right has 30% more calories, 50% more fat, and 850% more sodium. This shows us the importance of making good decisions about sauces, seasoning, and alternatives.

You have a dilemma. After a long day at work, you come home to discover the two plates shown on your table ready to eat. You would love to just dig in, but you also realize you’ve been watching your health and need to be careful about what you eat. Both plates look nearly identical. Each has 2 servings of meat, 2 servings of rice, 3 servings of vegetables, 1.5 servings of fruit, and a serving of dairy. But upon further inspection, you realize something is literally a bit salty about one of these dishes. You realize that the meal on the right has 30% more calories, 50% more fat, and 850% more sodium. You decide to eat the meal on the left. But how do two nearly identical meals have such different nutritional contents? Also, why should you care?

The differences between the two meals are as listed: pork vs chicken, light vs regular yogurt, not salted vs salted for taste, “reduced sodium” soy sauce vs no soy sauce, added sugar to sweeten the smoothie vs no added sugar, processed and packaged white rice vs whole brown rice, and boiled rice vs stir fried rice. If there is one thing I want you to learn from this article is that when it comes to food, there is always a “versus”. You always have options for adding an additional ingredient or substituting foods, and by substituting the right foods and using the right ingredients, the same meal can be significantly healthier for you. Let’s discuss each of these food showdowns.

Pork vs Chicken: Pork has about 25 more calories than chicken per serving, and about 3 times as much fat. By switching from pork or beer to fish or chicken, you can significantly decrease the amount of fat you are consuming.

Light vs Regular Yogurt: Both of the yogurts used in the two meals were very sweet, dessert tasting yogurts. However, the light yogurt had 90 calories per serving as opposed to 150 calories per serving, contained only 80 mg of sodium as opposed to 190 mg of sodium, and was fat-free compared to its counterpart which packed a couple grams of fat. Switching from normal to light yogurt is a good way to cut back on overall calories, fats, and sodium without eating less. We will discuss why you might want to do this later in this article.

Salted vs Not Salted for Taste: The meal on the right was lightly salted for taste. Just 1/4 teaspoons of salt contains 580 mg of sodium which is 25% of your recommended maximum daily sodium intake. A light salting of your food will more than likely skyrocket your sodium quota (and your blood pressure).

“Reduced Sodium” Soy Sauce vs No Soy Sauce: Many people enjoy eating their rice and vegetables with soy sauce and purchase a reduced sodium soy sauce thinking it is healthy. One tablespoon of reduced sodium soy sauce has 570 mg of sodium, almost as much as the 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Just two tablespoons spread out among your meal can put you at 50% of your daily max value for sodium.

Added Sugar to Sweeten the Smoothie vs No Added Sugar: When you go to a restaurant and order a smoothie, they will normally add simple syrup, a solution that is mostly just sugar and water. Most fruits already have enough natural sugars to make them sweet, so next time you make a smoothie at home, try making it with just fruit blended with water. This will help keep the calories down, and will still taste very good.

Processed and Packaged White Rice vs Whole Brown Rice: White rice is often fortified to have about the same benefits of brown rice, but the point to make here is if you take a food that you can but fresh and whole, and then package it, the company is almost always going to add sodium to increase the shelf life of that product. Choosing processed over whole foods will almost always increase your sodium intake.

Boiled Rice vs Stir Fried Rice: When you stir fry rice, you are adding additional oil, thus you are adding additional fat and calories into your diet. The extra oil in the right side meal saw a significant increase in calories just from the small amount of extra oil it took to stir-fry the rice. This doesn’t take into account any added ingredients that are usually added to rice such as egg and additional vegetables.

So why is increasing your calories, fat, and sodium bad for you? To keep it short, increased calories may lead to weight gain, increased fat may lead to heart disease, and increased sodium may lead to high blood pressure. By not eating an excessive amount of calories, fats, and sodium, you will likely stay free of illness, as well as look and feel better. That is why it’s important to be very cautious about how much you salt your foods, how much salt is in the foods you are purchasing, and that we look for alternatives to high-fat foods such as replacing pork with chicken. Also, be aware of what sauces and seasonings you are adding to your foods. Ketchup, BBQ sauce, steak sauce, and soy sauce are just a few examples of sauces that will add extra sodium and calories to your meal. This happens in restaurants all the time! What your eating may look and sound healthy. However, they may have added excess oil and salt to make it taste better.

The same meal with a few non-cosmetic changes can make or break your diet, always be on the lookout for hidden nutritional contents such as additional sodium, fat, and calories.

Author: Scott Van Hoy