ASK A TRAINER: “Can I Lose Fat during a 20 Minute Workout?”

zzzzzzzz lift and bitch 033Ask a Trainer Question of the month!

Hey D! I just read your last post on Lianne’s blog about belly fat. Now there is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. I had an idea for another topic, although I’m sure you already have thousands; it is something I’ve always wanted to know: “Do you need to exercise for more than 30 minutes at a time to burn fat?” There are so many different time saving exercise programs out there now, like Tabata, 20 minute interval training etc. As a busy mom, I’m intrigued by this concept of the shorter workout, but am not sure that it would actually burn fat.

Thanks D,

Great question Vanessa. I am sure you are not the only one who has been confused by the massive overload of crazy fitness regimes being pitched to consumers on a daily basis!

I will start off by answering with the most infuriating response: IT DEPENDS!
There are so many individual factors involved:
1) Is the person already active?
2) What is their current body composition?
3) What is their fitness goal?
4) What does their daily life consist of? Do they deliver mail or sit at a desk all day?-NEAT/NEPA. [Your basal metabolic rate (BMR), plus the thermic effect of the foods you eat, added to something often referred to as Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT), or Non-Exercise Physical Activity (NEPA), makes up your energy requirements for each day.]

These are things I would consider before I would decide which fitness program is the most optimal for a particular client.

If you are a newbie you will experience a huge response no matter what activity you choose to engage in as you are burning more calories than you did previously. Eventually your body will adapt and then you be required to do the following to continue to get results by doing exercise alone: a) exercise with greater intensity, b) increase the duration of the workout, or c) Increase the frequency of your workouts. This is not to say that 30 minutes is a waste of time; I have achieved super awesome results in a 30 minute workout. However, this was combined with a good solid nutrition program, adequate sleep, and stress management protocol.

Now we move on to the most important factor in FAT LOSS—FOOD. NUTRITION IS KEY! Weight/fat loss doesn’t happen during a workout; it happens when you recover. How you eat plays a massive role, and research indicates that 80% of success is attributable to food, whether the outcome is fat loss or muscle hypertrophy.
Translation: you can’t workout and then sit on your ass all day, and you can’t forget about that post-workout “booster juice” (or donut). It still counts, and you might even be negating your whole workout if you indulge!

calorie chart














If you are a 150lb woman and are doing 30 minutes on the elliptical or a circuit workout, then you might only be burning 246 calories. That’s about how much a banana and a tbsp of peanut butter would amount to—not very much in the big picture! Here is an activity chart to show approximately how many calories an activity will negate.

So you see, I could go on and on about this topic. The point is that no matter how much time you have to exercise, find something you like to do, and that you will do consistently and JUST DO IT! Stop overthinking what is better and start doing what you can handle week by week as any activity is good activity ( or you can hire me and get your ass kicked weekly–sorry Vanessa, shameless personal training pitch!).

Love ya,

Deanna Harder: Fitness Leadership Diploma, CSEP-CPT (Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology-Certified Personal Trainer), and Figure Competitor

This entry was posted in Ask a Trainer and tagged , by feministfiguregirl. Bookmark the permalink.

About feministfiguregirl

I am a 51-year-old professor named Lianne McTavish who receives as much satisfaction from working out at the gym as from publishing my academic research. About eight years ago, I decided to combine my two primary identities (scholar/gym rat) to create "Feminist Figure Girl," a fictional character who both analyzes and participates in bodybuilding. I competed in my first figure show in June of 2011, and then wrote a book inspired by the process, published by SUNY Press in February 2015. In this blog I will write about and consider my ongoing research on the body, while regularly making fun of myself. I recommend that you start reading my first post from August 2010 (available on the home page), instead of backwards from the most recent one, in order to get the full FFG effect.

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