How does fat loss work? An interview with industry expert Paul Orridge
When it comes to fitness and fat loss, there will always be debates around practices, techniques, diets or approaches, and because we’ve had people asking us about this subject on more than a few occasions, we’ve decided to sit down with Paul Orridge and ask him a few burning questions.
How does excessive fat affect someone’s health?
Excessive levels of body fat are associated with an increased risk of a considerable number of serious diseases and health conditions, among which: high blood pressure (hypertension) , high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (Dyslipidemia), Type 2 diabetes, stroke, bladder problems, body pain and difficulty with physical functioning, sleep apnoea and breathing problems including asthma, mechanical ventilator constraints, complications with pregnancy, mental illness such as depression or even premature death.
Some people argue that when it comes to fat loss, diet accounts for 90% of the effort – what’s your take on this?
It is well established that the most effective fat loss interventions combine restrictions in energy intake with increased energy expenditure. However, the precise contribution of either will vary between individuals. For example, the energy restriction for someone with a limited capacity for physical activity may account for 90% of the energy deficit needed for fat loss. For other people, it may be 50/50, 60/40, etc. To create the daily 500kcal energy deficit needed to lose the recommended amount of body fat per week of 0.5-1kg, it is generally recommended that we restrict energy intake by 200-300 kcals and increase energy expenditure by approximately the same amount.
What is the most effective form of exercise for fat loss?
The traditional approach has been to focus on the use of steady state cardiovascular exercise, but in recent years evidence has emerged to support the use of alternative modes, such as high intensity interval training (HIIT) and metabolic resistance training (MRT). Which is best? In reality, a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work. For example, for some fit and highly motivated clients HIIT and MRT may be the most suitable methods to help them to reduce their body fat levels, but would such an approach be appropriate for a very obese, de-conditioned client at risk or suffering from health issues associated with obesity? Therefore the most effective form of exercise will be the one most appropriate for each individual client, based on their needs, abilities and preferences.
What are the most common myths about fat loss and how do we bust them?
Two the most common myths associated with exercise and fat loss are ‘spot reduction’ and the ‘fat burning zone:
It may seem logical that if we carry fat in a certain area of the body then by exercising that part we could reduce the fat in that area. For example, a common belief is that performing abdominal exercises will specifically reduce the level of fat in the abdomen. However, the results of numerous studies have shown that spot reduction exercises are no more effective than general aerobic exercise for reducing body fat levels.
For example, a 20 week cycling programme reduced abdominal fat stores to a greater degree than those of the legs. If spot reduction worked, one would expect the fat stores of the legs to be more greatly affected by cycling than those of the abdomen.
The idea of spot reduction is very attractive for both cosmetic and health reasons, but the research shows it doesn’t work.
The fat burning zone
You may have heard that the most effective way to reduce body fat levels is to exercise in the ‘fat burning zone.’ This concept has come about due to a misunderstanding regarding the optimal exercise intensity at which your body uses a greater percentage of fat as fuel and how your body reduces its body fat stores with exercise.
In short, at lower exercise intensities your body uses a greater percentage of fat as fuel than at higher intensities. However, the amount of body fat you lose due to exercise is determined by the total kcal expenditure and not by the fuel source. High intensity interval training is typically performed at a higher intensity than the fat burning zone but has been shown to be more a more efficient way of reducing body fat stores than lower intensity exercise.
Paul Orridge BSc (Hons) has a first class honors degree in exercise and health and over 20 years’ experience within the fitness industry. In this time he has performed a variety of roles including personal training, lecturing and writing. As a personal trainer, Paul has conducted several thousand training sessions, and has taught over two thousand exercise professionals. He has developed and presented a variety of fitness related courses for a number of industry providers and now works as technical expert developing learning resources for the health and fitness industry.
Paul’s work is based on his practical experience gained working with a diverse range of people from very unfit, overweight individuals to highly conditioned elite athletes, and is underpinned by the latest research.