Yes, it’s true that exercising first thing in the morning burns more fat during the exercise session. And yes, we burn a greater percentage of calories from fat at low intensities, for example, when we are sleeping or walking at 55% of our maximum heart rate. But on the other side, we burn more total fat calories after, but not during, high intensity workouts for 24 and up to 48 hours later.
Here are the reasons. Fat is utilized at all times as is protein and carbohydrate. The percentages of each that are used shift depending on our level of fitness, intensity level and diet (including time from the last meal). At the end of the day, it comes down to the balance of fat and energy. If, after 24 hours, you have used all of the fat you have consumed, it will not be stored and you will maintain your weight.
Thus, exercise is an important aid in creating caloric balance and, if losing fat is a goal, your focus should not necessarily be on the fat you burn during your exercise session, but the amount burned throughout the day, as well as the fat consumed. Of the three factors (fitness level, intensity and diet) that affect the three choices of fuel (carbs, protein or fat), intensity level makes the most impact. At lower levels of intensity, fat is the predominant fuel your body burns. But as exercise becomes more strenuous, fat is burned, although at a lesser rate than carbohydrates. But, the rate of fat used is higher during strenuous exercise, because the metabolic rate increases faster than the percentage of fat used decreases. You may have to think about that a little, but in the long run more fat is burned with higher shorter intensity.
The fitter you are and the more intensely you exercise, the better you will utilize fat due to a faster metabolic rate and the use of a higher percentage of calories from fat. There are several reasons to exercise in the morning on an empty stomach, but the bottom line is to exercise when it feels best for your body. Be consistent. Remember, the fat you are consuming should be balanced with the fat and calories you are expending. As a rule of thumb, never add fat to your diet. There’s plenty of naturally-occurring fat in foods. Focus on getting in regular workouts to experience the wide range of benefits available from exercising, including burning fat.
Regular exercise is good for your overall health but diving head first into an advanced exercise program is not encouraged. It can even be dangerous if you don’t avoid some common mistakes.
If you’re a beginner, your body isn’t prepared for the types of strains exercise can place on it. As a result, engaging in an exercise program with little foresight and planning can lead to burnout, frustration and injury. Maximizing your workout takes a combination of motivation and the correct information.
So here are the 10 most common mistakes that can be easily avoided.
- Skipping the warm-up. Muscles need time to adjust to the demands placed on them during exercise. Before hitting the gym or jumping into your regular cardio workout, you should take a few minutes to gently walk, cycle or whatever you choose to prepare the body for heavier activity. Breaking a light sweat will get your blood pumping, warm up muscles and ligaments, greatly reduce your risk of injury and increase the effectiveness of your workout.
- Skipping the cool-down. Due to time constraints, many people head straight to the showers after their last repetition or as soon as the timer on the treadmill dings. Instead, take a few minutes to lower your heart rate close to its resting rate. This will reduce your risk of injury and give you a few minutes to incorporate some relaxation into your routine.
- Not stretching. Flexible muscles are far less likely to be pulled than tight ones. Stretch before a heavy workout or after your workout as a warm-down. It’s a good idea to warm up muscle before stretching to reduce your risk of injury. Regular stretching greatly increases your flexibility.
- Lifting too much too fast. Placing demands your muscles are not prepared to handle is the best way to injure yourself. Gradual, progressive resistance is a far more effective and safe way to increase muscle strength. You should select a weight that allows you to do 10-15 repetitions. If you can’t do 10 reps, the weight is too heavy. If you can easily do 15, then increase the weight by five percent.
- Using too light a resistance. If you are doing over 15 reps or have not increased your resistance in over two weeks, it is time to progress. If you want to improve, you have to keep your muscles stimulated. If you continue to do the same weights with high reps, you will maintain your current physique and not advance.
- Being a Weekend Warrior. The mistake of the person who tries to fit a week’s worth of exercise into a Saturday afternoon! For weight loss, it’s more effective to sustain a moderate workout for longer periods of time than to exercise intensely for only a few minutes. For others, the expectation that a workout must be intense to be effective can lead to burnout or injury while others abandon their training altogether.
- Waiting until you are thirsty to drink. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty because you are already dehydrated at that point. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout. I highly recommend starting your day with a glass of water.
- Using bad form. It’s much more effective to choose a lower level, speed or weight and perform the exercise properly than it is to go too fast or too heavy and use poor form and momentum. Lower the intensity to the point at which you can maintain good posture. An example of poor form would be leaning on the Stairmaster handrails or swinging the dumbbells during a bicep curl.
- Resting too much. While it’s true you don’t want to overdo it, taking too much time in between exercises can decrease the training benefits and set you up for injury. Allow for about 30 seconds between toning exercises — which is usually just enough time to move to the next station and set up. You should exercise intensely enough to work up a light sweat, get your heart beating and feel a sense of satisfaction for having completed your workout.
- More is better. It’s not necessary to spend over an hour doing cardiovascular exercise. Studies show that the risk of injury outweighs the benefits after 60 minutes. Sessions of around 45 minutes most days of the week are recommended for weight loss.
Time is a precious commodity and with the fast-paced, urgent world we live in, most people push their needs – including exercise – to the bottom of their to do lists. You may not have thought of it this way, but exercise saves you time and will most likely add longer and stronger years to your life. Read on for 10 tips to make time for exercise and 6 ways to express your workouts. Taking a little time for exercise will surprisingly help you manage other areas of your life. Some of the positive effects include lifting your mood, boosting your self-esteem and reducing your stress. Exercising gives you a healthier focus.
- Make an appointment – Schedule activity in your planner 1 month in advance and keep that commitment the same way you would any other meeting. When you go to schedule other activities, do so around your workout session. If it’s necessary to cancel a workout session, reschedule it immediately for another time during the day or for the very next day.
- Plan Ahead – Cook on Sunday night for the week. This way, you can head to the gym after work and still come home to a healthy cooked meal. This will help you stay on track for your meal plan as well as your exercise schedule. For best results, both your meals and activities need to be planned for and should not be left to chance.
- Workout at Lunch – A workout break will refresh you for the second half of the day and is known to boost brain power. You will be more productive after recharging your body with exercise than working through your lunch and eating at your desk. Live with no regrets!
- Get Support – Let your significant other know your exercise schedule ahead of time, so there are no conflicts or guilt when it comes time for working out. Inform your employer of your goals and ask for some flexibility in your schedule. For example, come in later and work later, so that you can get in your morning run.
- Stick to Your Schedule – Set you watch or palm pilot to go off when it’s time to exercise. Then stop what you are doing and take 30+ minutes to exercise. You will be more productive finishing up tasks after you worked out versus trying to work through a situation knowing you did not keep your commitment to yourself.
- Make an Investment – Consider signing on with a personal trainer, joining a gym or purchasing home gym equipment. Making an investment is likely to help you make a time commitment. Knowing that you have a trainer waiting for you will increase your chances of showing up. Signing up for an online personal trainer and comprehensive fitness program can do the same.
- Always be Dressed to Move – You never know when the opportunity will arise to go for a walk or hit the gym. Keep your sneakers in your car at all times, lay out your workout clothes or pack your gym bag the night before. Eliminate excuses and always be prepared for opportunities to exercise.
- Engage in Intermittent Sessions – Take several 10-15 minute walking breaks throughout the day. By days end, you could have completed 60 minutes of cardiovascular activity, and the health benefits are the same as continuous exercise.
- Eliminate Time Wasters – Take a look at your 24-hour schedule and see where you can eliminate some time wasters. Can you multi-task, be more efficient or watch less TV? You only need to dedicate 2 percent of your week to exercise. You are worth it!
- Set Yourself up for Success – Get up 30 minutes earlier — then you don’t have to make excuses for the rest of the day. Morning exercises have the highest compliance rates, as do those who exercise with a partner.
- Reaching your goals does not have to mean hours in the gym. You can express your workout routine and still maximize your results. Below are ways you can get the most out of the time you do dedicate to fitness.
Get enough Sleep! None of us can build muscle and lose fat without getting enough of it. Trying to get between 7-9 hours is optimal, but everyone is a little different, so that number can deviate a bit. But what cannot be changed is our hormonal response during specific sleep cycles.
Sleep cycles last approximately 90 minutes. Growth Hormone (GH), largely responsible for muscle growth, is released during REM sleep. Most GH is released in the first REM cycle. Each REM cycle gets longer throughout the night but GH release doesn’t increase after that first cycle. (You could consume a small pre-sleep protein -a combo of Whey & Casein- to take advantage of this GH release as the presence of protein is necessary for muscle maintenance.)
Another way of taking advantage of your hormones is picking the time you wake up. If you arise at the top of a sleep cycle you should feel the most rested. Therefore, wake after 6 hours, 7 ½ hours or 9 hours for maximum benefit.