How to Burn Fat Naturally: Tips, Tricks, and Workouts

How long have you been struggling with reaching your goal weight? Have you trusted trendy diets and weight loss supplements without success?

Forget the crazy diets and here-today-gone-tomorrow fitness gadgets. These are the scientifically proven ways to burn fat naturally.

Cold Showers for Fat Loss

man taking cold shower

Taking a cold shower in the morning to start your day has gained popularity thanks to celebrities like Joe Rogan endorsing it as a productivity hack. Those focused on longevity use cold exposure via cold showers to improve the immune system and to lower the risk of all-cause mortality. Cold showers might also be useful for weight loss.

While additional research is needed, some studies suggest that cold showers can help to promote the development of brown fat, which supports caloric expenditure, glucose utilization, and weight loss.

White fat accumulates throughout the body, especially the midsection, and increases the risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease. Brown fat, on the other hand, takes up less room to store energy-rich fat. Brown fat is necessary to generate heat, and it burns calories during this thermogenic process. [5] [6]

The effectiveness of fat burning and brown fat development seem to be even more promising when incorporating the Wim Hof breathing method with cold showers.

How Long Should You Take a Cold Shower?

Jumping into an ice-cold shower for the first time can be quite the task. I recommend starting with the last 30 seconds of your shower and gradually increasing your exposure time. The goal is to take a cold shower from start to finish every day, but this could take weeks to work up to this. The important thing is to be consistent.

Here’s an example of how you can build up a tolerance to cold showers while promoting the benefits it provides:

  • Week One: Last 30 seconds
  • Week Two: 45 seconds
  • Week Three: One minute
  • Week Four: One minute and 15 seconds
  • Week Five: One minute and 30 seconds
  • Week Six: One minute and 45 seconds
  • Week Seven: Two minutes
  • Etc.

 

Fat Loss Workouts (at Home)

When fat loss is your goal, I recommend building a workout that focuses on the following three types of exercise in this order: high-intensity interval training (HIIT), strength training, and flexibility training.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT

As the name implies, HIIT workouts focus on a high level of intensity and a short duration, taking between 15 and 30 minutes. 

Most HIIT workouts consist of six to ten exercises that are performed in rapid succession with no break until you have completed the full list of movements. 

Studies suggest that short bursts of all-out-effort workouts are better for burning fat and losing weight than traditional gym routines that take about an hour to complete. 

HIIT workouts produce a heightened level of caloric expenditure during the workout, but also for hours afterward. Some experts believe that HIIT elevates the level of excess post-oxygen consumption in the body. EPOC is when the body must work to stabilize the oxygen deficit created during the HIIT workout. It is an accelerated level of calorie burning that continues for hours after you finish exercising.

HIIT can also promote lean muscle growth. It’s not as effective for building large mass as traditional hypertrophy training, but you can put on a decent amount of defined muscle with HIIT. [1] [2]

Strength Training

Strength Training

Both HIIT and strength training are forms of resistance training, but the difference is that the latter uses dumbbells, barbells, and other forms of external resistance to increase muscular strength. 

In some studies, strength training is recommended as a superior method of weight loss over aerobic exercise. If you focus on aerobic exercise only, you risk losing important lean muscle tissue. By focusing on strength training, you build lean muscle tissue while burning excess calories. [3]

What’s more, lean tissue mass burns more calories than fat mass.

At this point, you might be wondering why I recommend HIIT first and not strength training. HIIT isn’t traditional aerobic exercise. As mentioned above, HIIT workouts actually promote muscle growth, which eliminates the risk of doing too much endurance exercise and losing your hard-earned muscle mass.

The combination of HIIT and strength training is the ideal one-two punch for maximizing weight loss while promoting lean muscle gains.

Flexibility Training

Hands down, one of the most neglected areas of fitness is flexibility and mobility exercise. It’s not as glamorous as the workout that burns 1,000 calories, but it’s just as important as it is the final piece to the fitness puzzle.

Flexibility training promotes recovery, reduces injury risk, and supports blood flow. Proper circulation is essential when your goal is weight loss because adipose tissue (fat mass) has been shown to have notoriously bad blood flow. By increasing the circulation through fat tissue, you increase the amount of stored fat that can be utilized as fuel. [4]

Do you prefer to work out at home? Before you shop, check out our article on the best overall gym equipment for home use.

 

Intermittent Fasting and Weight Loss

Much like cold showers, intermittent fasting has become a popular way to promote several benefits including better focus, improved bodily functions like insulin sensitivity, and weight loss.

Intermittent fasting is a system of abstaining from eating and drinking caloric beverages for a set number of hours, and then only eating during a small window of time. The three most popular methods are the 16/8 system, Warrior system (20/4), and the 24/1 system.

Intermittent fasting has plenty of science highlighting its benefits, especially for weight loss. Since there is a smaller feeding window, you have less time to eat during the day and this naturally leads to fewer calories consumed.

Studies show that intermittent fasting can increase resting energy expenditure or the number of calories that are burned while at rest. What’s more, hormones that promote fat loss are released in greater numbers during fasting. [7]

How to Practice 16/8 Intermittent Fasting

With this system, you fast for 16 hours each day. That means no food and no caloric-based beverages. Only water, plain tea, and black coffee is allowed. During an eight-hour feeding window, you eat your meals for the day.

Most people start fasting at 8 p.m. and then begin the feeding window at 12 p.m. the next day. Once 8 p.m. rolls around, fasting starts again.

You can practice the 16/8 system every day of the week, but newcomers to fasting usually start out with Monday through Friday.

If you’ve never fasted for 16 hours before, it might take some practice. I recommend drinking plenty of water as soon as you wake up to give your body the impression that the stomach is “full.” Personally, I save the plain coffee for the last two hours of the fast as this is when I find I need it the most.

If you’re really struggling with the last few hours, consider using an amino acid supplement. Most have less than 20 calories, allowing you to get most of the benefits of the fast. Don’t rely on this trick over the long-term though.

How to Practice the Warrior (20/4) Intermittent Fasting 

Similar to the 16/8 method, the Warrior system of intermittent fasting requires you to fast for 20 hours and then eat all of your meals within a four-hour window. This would be the next level to graduate to once you’re comfortable with the 16/8 method.

Most people begin fasting at 6 p.m. and then start the feeding window at 2 p.m. the next day. Same rules apply; no food or caloric beverages until you reach the feeding window.

This method of IF is usually paired with the Warrior Diet, which focuses on healthy and natural selections such as lean meats, raw vegetables and fruits, raw nuts and seeds, and superfoods like coconut oil and spirulina.

How to Practice 24/1 Intermittent Fasting

While it might sound easier, the 24/1 system can be more challenging for most people. Instead of fasting for 16 hours five to seven days per week, the 24/1 system has you fasting for a full 24 hours but only one day per week.

The starting time for the fast is a bit more flexible, and you can base it on your preference. For example, I find that I’m more productive in the morning and afternoon when I’m following the 16/8 or 20/4 systems, so I tend to start my 24/1 fast at 7 or 8 p.m. 

You can eat up until you start the fast. Using my example, I eat until 6 p.m. and officially start my fast at 7 p.m., not touching food until 7 p.m. the next night. If it works better for you, eat an early breakfast and then start your fast an hour after that.

Low-Carb, High Protein Diet

The popularity of the ketogenic diet has put low-carb diets back in the spotlight for a good reason: they work well for weight loss. 

Low-carb diets have been shown to be more effective for manageable weight loss as long as the carbohydrate sources are replaced with high-quality protein and fat sources. What’s more, the carbohydrates that you do eat should come from vegetables and fiber-rich sources. [8]

 

Importance of Protein

Protein-rich food choices such as chicken breasts, eggs, and Greek yogurt promote weight loss in two keys ways. First, protein is more satiating than carbohydrate, which means you’ll feel full longer, and naturally, you’ll eat less throughout the day. 

Second, protein is essential for lean tissue growth. If you’re following the workout recommendations above, you’ll want to support muscle recovery with healthy sources of protein. The more lean muscle tissue you have, the more calories you burn while at rest. [9]

Learn how much protein you need per day to build muscle.

 

Importance of Fat

Healthy sources of fat like coconut oil or fish oil supplements have been shown to trigger fat loss – but not necessarily weight loss. In other words, healthy fat sources can promote a reduction in fat, but the individual’s overall weight might not change much on the scale. 

However, there are other ways to measure progress during weight loss such as measuring inches or the ratio of fat mass to lean tissue mass. [10]

Sleep 7 to 9 Hours for a Healthy Weight 

The easiest way to lose weight is to get enough sleep. Studies show that skipping on sleep increases levels of ghrelin, which is a hormone that stimulates appetite and encourages overeating. At the same time, a lack of sleep will lower levels of leptin, a hormone that shuts off your hunger.

Each night, you should aim for no less than 7 hours of sleep. By doing so, you promote the healthy and stabilized production and release of hunger hormones.

What’s more, fat-burning growth hormone is released in its greatest quantity between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. [11]

Can You Spot Reduce Fat?

Finally, let’s address a common question about weight loss: is it possible to spot reduce fat? In other words, can you target a certain area to lose fat over other parts of the body?

There is conflicting research regarding the idea of exercising one part of the body and experiencing fat loss. However, what has been shown is that temperature plays an important role in promoting fat oxidation.

Studies show that by increasing the temperature of a specific area such as your stomach and THEN exercising that area, there is increased fat burning. This is due to improved levels of blood flow. As I mentioned above, adipose tissue or fat mass has been shown to have poor circulation. [12]

Increasing the temperature of certain body parts can be done with a sauna, high-intensity warm-up, or a thermal belt. The thermo belt is traditionally wrapped around your core, which is why it’s popular for people who want to how to lose belly fat at home. But it can easily be used on your arms and legs.

It’s important to understand that this method isn’t a magic bullet for fat loss. Rather, it is a way to encourage natural and healthy weight loss. Reaching your goal weight won’t happen overnight.

References

  1. Boutcher SH. High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. J Obes. 2011;2011:868305. doi:10.1155/2011/868305.
  2. Blue MNM, Smith-Ryan AE, Trexler ET, Hirsch KR. The effects of high intensity interval training on muscle size and quality in overweight and obese adults. J Sci Med Sport. 2018;21(2):207‐212. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2017.06.001.
  3. Kristen M. Beavers, Walter T. Ambrosius, W. Jack Rejeski, Jonathan H. Burdette, Michael P. Walkup, Jessica L. Sheedy, Beverly A. Nesbit, Jill E. Gaukstern, Barbara J. Nicklas, Anthony P. Marsh. Effect of Exercise Type During Intentional Weight Loss on Body Composition in Older Adults with ObesityObesity, 2017; 25 (11): 1823 DOI: 10.1002/oby.21977.
  4. Frayn, K. Regulation of fatty acid delivery in vivo. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. 1998;441:171-9.
  5. Ravussin Y, Xiao C, Gavrilova O, Reitman ML. Effect of intermittent cold exposure on brown fat activation, obesity, and energy homeostasis in mice. PLoS One. 2014;9(1):e85876. Published 2014 Jan 17. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0085876.
  6. Endocrine Society. “Cold exposure stimulates beneficial brown fat growth.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140623091949.htm>.
  7. Zauner C1, Schneeweiss B, Kranz A, Madl C, Ratheiser K, Kramer L, Roth E, Schneider B, Lenz K. Resting energy expenditure in short-term starvation is increased as a result of an increase in serum norepinephrine. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jun;71(6):1511-5.
  8. Foster GD, Wyatt HR, Hill JO, McGuckin BG, Brill C, Mohammed BS, Szapary PO, Rader DJ, Edman JS, Klein S. A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. N Engl J Med. 2003 May 22;348(21):2082-90.
  9. Loenneke JP, Wilson JM, Manninen AH, Wray ME, Barnes JT, Pujol TJ. Quality protein intake is inversely related with abdominal fat. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012 Jan 27;9(1):5. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-9-5.
  10. Noreen EE, Sass MJ, Crowe ML, Pabon VA, Brandauer J, Averill LK. Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010;7:31. Published 2010 Oct 8. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-31.
  11. Beccuti G, Pannain S. Sleep and obesity. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011;14(4):402‐412. doi:10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283479109.
  12. Stallknecht B1, Dela F, Helge JW. Are blood flow and lipolysis in subcutaneous adipose tissue influenced by contractions in adjacent muscles in humans? Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Feb;292(2):E394-9. Epub 2006 Sep 19.
David Sautter
How to Burn Fat Naturally: Tips, Tricks, and Workouts

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