If there is one place that is the hardest to lose fat it’s the abdominal area for men, and the glutes and thighs for women. There is a lot of research that shows that the most effective way to get rid of the fat in these troublesome areas is to train with intense, but short bursts of exercise. This method taps into the anaerobic energy system, more than the aerobic energy system.
This evidence suggests that fat loss is best achieved when the exercise is with a high, but varied intensity, and a relatively large volume. However, this does not mean you have to spend hours everyday in the gym. Less than an hour for each session, a few days a week can produce dramatic fat loss if you are training hard enough. Of course your diet will need to be in order as well, but that isn’t the focus of this article.
The focus of this article is to tell you why you burn more fat when you favor anaerobic-style training, and also to give you some reasons to favor this style of training by lifting weights and doing sprints, rather than spending hours on aerobic exercise in order to achieve fat loss.
There are also a large number of studies that show that high-intensity interval training is the best conditioning strategy for losing body fat. In contrast, one research group that has conducted a number of experiments comparing aerobic and anaerobic training for belly fat loss found that aerobic exercise protocols led to negligible fat loss.
The reason anaerobic interval training works so much better is that it requires the body to adapt metabolically. This means your body is forced to burn fat to sustain the level of intensity being asked of it. It also elevates energy use for more than 24 hours post-workout, which also has an effect on fat loss.
A study completed in 2008 showed that a six-week program increased the amount of fat burned during exercise by 12 percent, and decreased the oxidation of carbohydrate, which creates favorable conditions for losing fat. A 2007 study showed that in as little as two weeks, active women who performed interval training experienced a 36 percent increase in the use of fat for fuel during exercise.
Interval training is so effective for fat loss because it uses a different energy pathway than aerobic exercise does. Aerobic exercise tends to burn carbohydrates first, and it activates pathways that are degrading to muscle. High-intensity exercise, such as weight lifting and sprinting will burn a greater percentage of fat, enhance the body’s production of enzymes involved in fat breakdown, and activate pathways that lead to muscle development.
The other reason anaerobic intervals are superior for belly fat loss is that they increase excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) a large amount. Another study showed that protocols that are more anaerobic in nature produce higher EPOC values than steady-state, aerobic training because the trained muscle cells must restore physiological factors in the cells, which translates to a large amount of energy expenditure.
To further illustrate the point that the above studies have made, here is more information taken from several studies. All of this information proves further the superior fat utilizing effects of anaerobic training, over aerobic training.
A 12-week high-intensity interval training program produced a 17 percent decrease in belly fat in overweight young men. Subjects lost one and a half kilograms of belly fat, and two kilograms of total fat, while building one kilogram of muscle. Fat burning was increased by 13 percent due to the three-day a week program of 20-minutes of cycling, in which the subjects sprinted for eight seconds and then did 12 seconds of recovery, repeating these intervals for a total of 60 sprints. The same program produced two and a half kilogram of fat loss in young women in 15 weeks, and the majority of the fat loss came from the legs and abdominal area. The sprint intervals were compared to a steady-state aerobic program that produced no fat loss.
A 16-week study had trained athletes perform either a sprint interval protocol or steady-state running four days a week. The sprint interval protocol varied each day, but an example of one of the workouts used was 10 intervals of 30-sec sprints with 90 seconds rest. The sprint interval group lost 16 percent, which equaled one kilogram of visceral fat, as well as two kilograms of total fat, compared to the endurance group that lost no belly fat, but did lose one and four tenths of a kilogram of lean mass. The belly fat loss appears to be small, but be aware that subjects were lean, trained athletes to begin with and had less belly fat to lose than more average subjects would have had.
An eight-week interval program that used both high and moderate-intensity intervals decreased belly fat by 44 percent in middle-aged men with type II diabetes. Subjects increased quad muscle size by 24 percent and improved insulin sensitivity by 58 percent. This is a dramatic improvement that highlights the other mechanisms involved in belly fat loss, such as muscle-building, insulin health, and blood sugar management.