How to Burn More Fat with Less Effort

Short Sprint Intervals Can Assist Weight Loss

People exercising on stationary bikes in fitness class.
Sprint intervals on an exercise bike aid in fat burning. Hero Images/Getty Images

Burning more fat with less effort is the Holy Grail of weight loss, isn't it? Enticing headlines heralded research by an Australian team at the University of New South Wales that promised the secrets of burning fat with less effort.

Sprint Intervals Burn More Fat

The study group of 45 obese women did around eight seconds of sprinting on an exercise bike, followed by 12 seconds of light cycling in rotation for twenty minutes. For comparison, another group of women exercised at a continuous, regular pace for 40 minutes. The cycle group lost three times as much fat as other women who exercised at a continuous, regular pace. The women lost most weight off the legs and buttocks over the 15 weeks of the study.

The team leader was Associate Professor Steve Boutcher, Head of the Health and Exercise Science program in the School of Medical Sciences at the university. Dr. Boutcher said the impressive result was probably an effect of body chemicals called catecholamines, which are produced in substantial quantities when we exercise intensely. Adrenaline and noradrenaline, the main catecholamines, act to break down fat stores and burn them. So far, so good.

Can Intensity be Sustained?

The results were presented at meetings of the Heart Foundation and American College of Sports Medicine. Discussion emerged on internet websites and chat groups. The results seem impressive so far and the researchers suggest the idea of rotating high-intensity and low-intensity exercise could be applied to other activities such as jogging. Even so, from a practical perspective, some doubt must exist that overweight people will maintain such an intense exercise regimen without supervision. Eight seconds sprinting, 12 seconds off for 20 minutes is a tough exercise routine for anyone.

Others point out that this type of interval training for fat loss is not new. Interval training is when you exercise hard for a short time, recover, then repeat the high-intensity exercise. You usually do this for less time than a more sustained, moderate workout. It has to be shorter because it is hard work. Still others say that the amount of energy expended is the key to fat loss, not how you do it. Shortcuts usually don't work.

Burning Fat with a Weights Circuit

Interval training in a weight loss program still has merits. In fact, if you mix weights with an aerobic workout you could have the best combination of all to burn off fat and maintain muscle at the same time. Strictly aerobic, cardio type workouts have a limitation because muscle tends to be lost along with the fat, and preserving or increasing muscle should be one of your goals.

A circuit program is one in which you move from exercise to exercise quickly in order to maximize the intensity and variety of the workout. The well-known franchise Curves uses this principle with exercise machines. Combining interval training and circuit training, including weights and cardio, provides a useful workout for general fitness and weight loss.

So You Want to Burn More Fat? Find out more on fat burning and try my weights circuit program designed to do just that. I have also adapted a weights and aerobics circuit program with simple weights and equipment based on the interval principle, and it's being designed for the home or the gym. Try it out and let me know how it works for you.

View Article Sources
  • Boutcher S, Director of Fat Loss Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Optimal Fat Loss Program at January 2007.