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Struggling to lose weight? Fitness expert shares five key ways to ‘shift stubborn fat’

Dr Michael Mosley's radical new dieting approach

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Maintaining healthy body weight isn’t just an aesthetic thing, it is also crucial to keep vital organs healthy and ward off potentially fatal conditions. For people who are overweight or obese, losing weight can help to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers. However, the journey to achieving a healthy weight can be daunting at the beginning.

According to Steven Virtue, fitness development manager at Total Fitness, there are some key ways you can alter your diet and fitness routine to “maximise fat loss in a healthy way”.

He said: “Whilst exercise is undeniably important and offers many fantastic benefits to our overall health, research shows us that losing fat cannot be achieved by exercise alone.

“You cannot ‘out-train’ a bad diet and increasing your level of exercise whilst still eating junk food will not facilitate fat loss.

“Therefore, it is essential to create a diet plan and exercise routine that complement one another.”

Five tips to help you “shift stubborn fat”

Pick up the weights

Although cardio-based workouts are undeniably good for helping to boost endurance and reduce overall body fat, Mr Virtue points out the importance of building muscle too.

He said: “Adding resistance to your workout with weight training can help the body preserve fat-free mass, which has been shown to increase the number of calories your body burns whilst resting.

“Consistent weight training, that is safe yet challenging for your body, will also help you to build lean muscle – this, combined with the fat loss, helps to create a more toned and sculpted physique.”

According to the fitness expert, this type of training has been shown to be “effective for losing body fat”.

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Incorporate HIIT into your workout routine

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, a form of cardiovascular training that sees people alternating between short periods of intense exercise and brief recovery periods.

Usually, this is done until the point of exhaustion.

Mr Virtue explained: “Not only is HIIT a great way to boost your mood, but research shows that the increased metabolic rate, caused by strenuous and high intensity exercise, can last up to 38 hours, meaning your body will burn significantly more calories in a resting state.”

Though some HIIT workouts are for more experienced people, there are ways the fitness routines can be amended for those just dipping their toes into this world of explosive training.

Mr Virtue said: “HIIT, particularly the longer circuits or more complex combinations, can be intimidating to beginners.

“However, there are simple and short HIIT exercises that you can start with: squats, sit-ups, burpees and mountain climbers are all fantastic exercises to try for 30-second intervals with a 20-second rest.”

Adjust your diet

Having a good diet is “fundamental” for weight loss according to the Total Fitness expert.

He said: “In fact, the latest research suggests that 80 percent of your fat loss is dependent on a good diet, which shows why many people struggle to lose fat despite frequent exercise.”

Though it sounds simple, in order to lose fat, Mr Virtue says people need a calorie deficit.

He explained: “This is when you consume slightly fewer calories than you are burning which in turn makes your body tap into the stored body fat for extra energy.”

However, even when pursuing a calorie deficit it is important you are getting enough energy and nutrients to fuel your body.

Don’t just focus on the gym

Although your exercise regime is a crucial component of weight loss, having a more active lifestyle, in general, will drive you towards your goal at a much quicker pace.

Mr Virtue said: “Increase your daily activity levels with simple lifestyle changes: avoid driving short distances and try walking instead, use stairs instead of lifts, or take up hobbies that involve movement, such as climbing or swimming. If you are struggling to stay motivated to be more active in day-to-day life, then combine this with socialising and seeing loved ones.

“For example, you could suggest swapping your next afternoon in the pub for a trip to a beautiful nature spot where you can enjoy a long walk and picnic.”

Allow time for rest

Picking up the pace isn’t the only way to encourage fat loss. In fact, according to the fitness expert, getting plenty of rest is also vital.

Mr Virtue said: “When trying to meet fitness goals, it can be tempting to try to push your body to its limits with a rigorous and relentless training schedule. However, this is not the most effective way to lose body fat or maintain a healthy exercise routine.

“Too much vigorous exercise without enough recovery days can lead to overtraining which actually causes your body to store more fat, due to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol.

“Listen to how your body feels and what it needs – if you feel particularly lethargic or achy then vigorous exercise is probably not the best idea. Instead, consider an activity that will allow you to rest whilst also benefiting your mood, such as reading or meditation.

“Sleep is also crucial to the fat-burning process – aim for at least seven hours of quality sleep per night and ensure that you have an optimum environment for falling into a deep state of sleep.”

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