Cut back on pre-training snacks
All too often amateur runners get carried away with carbo-loading and then wonder why they can’t seem to burn fat no matter how much they train. While excess carbohydrate consumption can help boost energy levels before a marathon, it simply isn’t necessary before shorter training runs. Scientists at the University of Texas found that runners displayed significantly lower levels of fat metabolism when they had a pre-training snack. Thankfully the same study found that eating halfway through a workout does not have the same negative effect, so feel free to use energy gels for an added boost in the middle of your run.
To really start burning fat, you need to stop training exclusively on flat routes. As well as burning more calories due to the increased effort required to propel yourself forward, hill training is actually safer than regular running, as the increased angle reduces the impact on your joints. Research carried out at South Dakota State University confirmed the fat burning powers of hill training, and also found that it leads to increased overall performance in future runs. Use short hill sprints for maximum fat burning. Find a steep hill, and perform 10-second uphill sprints in sets of four to six ‘reps’. Walk back down the hill slowly as your recovery period.
High intensity interval training
It’s time to say goodbye to the ‘I don’t have time to run’ fat burning excuse. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is all the rage in the weight-loss world at the moment, and for good reason. With short, explosive bursts of running at around 90 per cent of your maximum heart rate, you instantly enter the ‘fat burning zone’. This, according to research published in Cell Metabolism, is because intense training activates fat burning genes while you work out, and increases your metabolism afterwards. For a simple 30-minute HIIT session, try alternating one-minute sprints with four-minutes of jogging in between.
Add rest periods
It might seem counterintuitive to take a rest in the middle of your training session, but according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology this could be the key to burning fat. The Japanese researchers asked two groups of participants to complete a one-hour cardio workout, with one group exercising for the full 60 minutes while the others rested for 20 minutes halfway through. Despite exercising for less time, the second group actually burned more fat than the first. The scientists behind the study theorised that the break in between the exercise sessions meant that fat metabolism was accelerated higher than it was through continuous exercise.
Scientists in Tokyo recently discovered that how much fat you burn on your next run is completely dependant on what you do before it. Through testing various fat-burning methods, they discovered that the most efficient technique for weight loss is to exercise with weights before going for a run. In their study, when participants took part in a resistance training session before running, they lost more weight during their run than those who did no preparatory exercise. As well as prepping your body for improved fat loss, working out with weights before cardio helps to strengthen your cardiovascular system.
Track your eating habits
The golden rule you need to follow to burn fat with running is a simple one – burn off more calories than you take in. That means you can ignore what the scales are telling you, as the muscle you gain from running might actually increase your weight slightly. Instead, you can ensure you’re burning fat by calculating how many calories you eat throughout the day. Whether you do it manually or with a digital calorie counter, totting up the calories you take on board allows you to accurately work out how many you need to burn off to banish excess fat.
Learn to love the long run
Not every training session has to be about raw speed. Long, steady runs have always been a mainstay of marathon training, but they could also be the secret behind losing excess pounds. As well as burning more calories during the session itself, running for over 30 minutes will drastically increase the rate at which you continue to burn fat when you have finished training. In one study published in the Canadian Journal of Sport Sciences, runners who trained for an hour saw a 500% increase in post-run calorie burn when compared to their half hour sessions.