You can’t outrun a bad diet, but you sure can boost how many calories you’re burning when running – or working out generally. There are several things you can do to maximize the productivity of your workouts. These calorie burning boosters are easy to implement and require very little change to your normal workout, but boy are they effective.
Here’s how to turn a good workout into a great one.
1. Interval training
Steady-paced cardio is a fine calorie burner. But if you don’t just want to burn calories during your workout, but after too and rev up your metabolism, try interval training. Interval training involves picking up the pace and working harder than normal for 30 to 90 seconds or more and then taking it easy for a similar length of time to get your breath back. Repeat this on/off protocol four to ten times according to your current level of fitness.
This increases the overall intensity of your workout and also triggers an effect called EPOC which is short for Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption which is the term used to describe an exercise-educed elevation in metabolic rate. In short, interval training not only burns more calories while you are doing it but also in the hours that follow. So forget steady paced cardio and try interval training for serious calorie burning.
In strength training, most workouts involve doing one set, resting a moment and then doing another set of the same exercise. This means that a typical hour of strength training can involve as much as 30-minutes sitting around resting. This isn’t particularly efficient use of your time, nor is it the best way to burn calories.
When doing supersets, you perform two exercises back-to-back which essentially halves your rest time and means you can get more exercise done in your allotted training time. More work completed equals more calories burnt per workout. For best results, pair up opposing muscle groups or muscles that are anatomically far apart e.g. bench press and seated rows (opposites) or squats and biceps curls (anatomically far apart).
3. Circuit training
Circuit training involves performing a series of exercises back to back with little or no rest in between. The exercises can be bodyweight, free weight, machine or whatever you like so long as you move briskly from one to the next. This sustained high intensity workout burns a lot of calories – considerably more than a more sedately-paced workout.
Arrange your exercises so that you spread the effort equally around your body and can maintain a high workout pace. For example, do an exercise for your legs, then arms, then core, and repeat. This give syour muscles a little time to recover before working them again, and allows you to workout with little rest. While you can easily design your own circuit workouts, most gyms also offer circuit training classes. It’s intense, but totally worth it!
4. Exercising on an Empty Stomach
Exercising first thing in the morning on an empty stomach or any other time you are in a fasted state is thought to burn more calories, especially fat. Because your blood sugar is low when you are in a fasted state, your body is more likely to use fat for fuel as there is no readily available carbohydrate.
While this can be an effective protocol, if exercising in a fasted state means that you are unable to exercise as hard or as long as normal, this may not be for you. However, if you find you are able to exercise as normal despite being fasted, you should experience greater fat loss exercising on an empty stomach. Fasted exercise is ideal if you are a “morning person” but make sure you consume a healthy breakfast afterwards to promote post-exercise recovery.
5. Cardio after strength training
In the same way that fasted cardio forces your body to burn more fat for fuel, doing your cardio after strength training is thought to torch more fat too.
When you lift weights, you use the carbohydrates stored in your muscles – a substance called glycogen. Once depleted, your body’s main source of fuel is fat. Doing cardio after strength training means that you are forcing your body to rely on fat for fuel, especially if you do full body strength training workouts. For extra effect, follow your strength training with a brief but intense interval training session – just 20-minutes should do it.
6. Compound exercises
There are two main types of strength training exercises – isolation exercises and compound exercises. Isolation exercises such a calf raises and biceps curls only involve movement at one joint and use small muscle groups working alone. Compound exercises like step-ups, squats, lunges and push-ups, use multiple joints and muscle groups simultaneously.
Compound exercises burn more calories than isolation exercises simply because more muscles are called on to work together at the same time. Make sure your strength training workout boasts 80% or more compound exercises to maximize calorie burn.
7. Stand up!
Seated leg curls, seated chest press, seated biceps curls… all popular and effective exercises to be sure. But if you want to maximize the calorie burning effect of your workout, stand up while you exercise. Standing up engages your leg and core muscles in addition to the muscles you were targeting with the exercise, which will result in more calories being burnt.
Choose freeweight or cable exercises over machines and you should find you can stand up for just about every exercise you do. Also, rather than sit down between sets, try standing up or walking around between sets instead. This small change will result in even more calories being burnt.
8. No more passive rests
Unless you are supersetting or doing circuits, you probably don’t do much between sets of your strength training exercises. This “down time” is a wasted calorie burning opportunity. Instead of just passively waiting to start your next set, be active. Slot in some cardio.
You can jump rope, do some calisthenics like jumping jacks or jogging on the spot, hop on an exercise bike… anything will do so long as you avoid simply standing still. Any additional physical activity that does not detract from your workout will be beneficial.
9. Get NEAT
Even the most active exerciser only probably clocks up three to five hours of exercise a week. The rest of the time, 165-odd hours, most of us are predominantly sedentary. That’s a heck of a lot of time during which our calorie burning thermostats are turned down super low.
Top up your weekly exercise by boosting NEAT (short for non-exercise activity thermogenesis). NEAT is the calories you burn for everything that doesn’t involve sleeping, eating, or sports-like exercise. NEAT activities include basic get-it-done type activities such as gardening, physical labor, and climbing stairs, as well as “activities” such as fidgeting. NEAT can account for as little as 15% of the calories burnt throughout the day in the very sedentary and up to 50% in very active individuals. Research suggest that boosting NEAT activity can increase daily caloric expenditure by as much as 350 calories per day. So get on moving!
Walk for transport or pleasure, take the stairs and not the elevator, stand up whenever you can, do some gardening, dance, play with your kids or dog, wash your car by hand – do anything that requires movement. NEAT is an important and entirely underrated way of burning calories. The calories burnt sure add up. Over the course of a week NEAT can easily exceed the calories you burn exercising. And the great thing is you can do it anywhere, any time.