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Top tips to help you get lean


Want to swap your fat for muscle? Trainer and high performance manager of Oakleigh Chargers Football Club Ben Sharpe and director of MP Studio Luke Archer share their lifestyle tips to help you lean out.

1. Get enough shut-eye: aim for 7.5 to nine hours of sleep per night for optimal recovery and hormonal balance. 

2. Office know-how: manage your stress levels, increase your calorie burn and reduce your chances of muscle wastage by going for regular walks throughout the day, or asking the boss for a stand-up desk. “If a person is sitting at a desk all day, their energy requirements are much less than someone who has a physically demanding job,” says Archer. “We generally switch off our muscles, sit back, slump or have no need to use our muscles. And which group of muscles do we switch off most? The glutes – which are the largest muscles in the body.”

3. Eat well, eat often: eating smaller meals more often will aid in boosting the metabolism, while plant foods are important to insulin sensitivity. “The more your plate looks like a rainbow of colorful fruit and vegetables at every meal, the faster your results will come,” says Archer. 

4. Hydrate: drinking cold water regularly throughout the day can boost your metabolic rate by up to 30 per cent according to Archer. “Our body is made up of 70 to 80 per cent water – so it’s no wonder we need it so often to function properly,” he says. 

5. Prioritise strength-based training: your lean muscle mass has the greatest impact on your ability to burn fat, so be sure to incorporate three to four full-body weight sessions per week. A weighted circuit with lower loads, higher reps and limited rest will keep the heart rate elevated to increase muscular endurance while burning body fat.


NEXT: Working out but not seeing results? Here are 10 ways to boost your calorie burn at the gym.




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Fat burning tactics


It provides the best bang-for-buck that will not only fast-track you towards a healthy body but also give you the toned features that can give you the appearance of being slimmer.

This is because resistance training – using free-weights or resistance machines – fires up your internal furnace, which will continue to burn fat long after you’ve walked away from the gym and are lying on the couch. In fact, studies have found that after an intensive resistance workout, your fat-burn may continue for as much as 34 to 48 hours. Now that’s reward for effort.

Importantly, a resistance session doesn’t take that long either. You will have arrived and left the gym while the jogger is still plugging away on the treadmill.

“You may have been told that exercising at a comfortable pace is best for fat loss because you are working in the ‘fat-burning zone’,” says Julia Buckley, personal trainer and author of The Fat Burn Revolution. “This is just plain wrong. People who say this are confused by the fact that training at low intensities causes the body to use more fat than glycogen for fuel while you are exercising. But what they don’t realise is that high-intensity exercise causes more fat to be burned in total when you take account of afterburn. Plus, with this type of training, the next time you eat, the calories from your food will be used to replace the glycogen you used up rather than stored as fat.”



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The real fat burning zone

The fat-burning zone is sometimes thought of as the exercise intensity where the major fuel is fat. At around 65 per cent of your maximum heart rate (an intensity that can be achieved both in the weights room and traditional cardio variations) the body finds it easier to break down fat cells for energy than at higher intensities where it turns to carbohydrates.

The kicker: your high-intensity workouts keep the calorie burn going for the next 24 hours – adding six to 15 per cent more calories to the overall workout energy expenditure according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

Confusing? A more reasonable explanation of the fat-burning zone combines the correct nutritional approach and exercise intensity to create the ideal scenario for fat loss.

How to become a fat burner

Rule number one: a caloric deficit. “It all comes down to energy in versus energy out at the end of the day,” says celebrity personal trainer Alexa Towersey.

But fewer calories doesn’t necessarily equate to higher fat loss. Recent research at Maastricht University found that a diet of 500 calories a day for five weeks resulted in a similar weight loss to a diet of 1,250 calories a day for 12 weeks, but a much larger percentage came from lean muscle mass (18 per cent and 7.7 per cent, respectively).

On top of this, you need to adjust your macronutrients to prioritise fat burning. “To burn fat you need to eat fat,” says Towersey. “Lots of people who go on diets reduce their carbohydrates but don’t increase fats, and when you’re without both fuel sources you start to feel really crappy and the body starts burning muscle for fuel.” A double negative, considering lean muscle is vital for both maintaining metabolism and avoiding a ‘skinny-fat’ aesthetic.

Fats and carbohydrates are the body’s two major sources of energy, so, theoretically, when you take carbs away the body is forced to turn to fat for fuel. “Your primary objective dictates whether you need to include starchy carbohydrates in your diet or stick to a diet higher in fat. If body composition is the goal, you don’t want to consume both in high amounts,” says Towersey.

Fat often isn’t the body’s first choice when it comes to efficient energy production, as it requires more oxygen – and, hence, metabolic effort – to break down than carbohydrates. Thus, tricking your body into burning fat isn’t without its pitfalls.

“The body has to learn how to metabolise fat efficiently first, which can take a few days through to a few weeks to come into effect, depending on the individual… people often have negative experiences initially with removing carbohydrates from their diets – the first three or four days are usually very lethargic,” says Towersey. “You need to ask yourself whether you’re training for performance, where recovery is required, or whether you’re training for body composition,” says Towersey.

PRO TIP: Although it may be tempting to add in carbs before a cardio session or on your cheat days, the number one rule of the fat-burning zone is consistency. “Cheat ‘weekends’ can often be very damaging, especially beginner clients,” says Towersey. “If your body is still not familiar with utilising fat for fuel, any short-term gains made during the week can all be undone over a two-day cheat. The body is not yet efficient enough at adapting metabolically in order to switch back to fat-burning mode come Monday.”


NEXT: 5 scientific ways to burn more fat


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How to stop yourself from overeating



It’s easy to over-dramatise the odd extra helping as a ‘binge’ or ‘blowout’, but if you are consistently eating more than your body needs, there may be good reasons. 

The stick: Macro shortfall

The human body’s drive for protein is so powerful that it will keep consuming food until its protein needs are met according to a University of Sydney study. As protein intake decreases, kilojoule intake increases, researchers reported.

The fix: Consume 15 to 20 per cent of daily kilojoules from high-quality, low-fat protein sources. Lean meats, legumes, fish, eggs and tofu all qualify.

The stick: Multitasking

Whether it’s the portion sizes at your local, a bout of intense work stress or mindless nibbling in front of the telly, there’s a whole gamut of reasons why we eat more than what we need or when we’re not hungry at all . 

The fix: Try to eat intuitively – only when you’re hungry. Focus on eating when you feel hungry and stopping when you feel full. 

The stick: Overwhelm

Research suggests that when we can choose from a wide variety of foods, we generally eat more. Under the ‘smorgasbord effect’, new flavours are thought to stimulate appetite while bland or monotonous menus bore us into disinterest. 

The fix: Limit yourself to a few choices.

NEXT: Kick start your clean eating journey with our 10 step guide to cleaner eating



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How to lose the last two kilos


They say the last two kilograms are the hardest to lose, but we’ve found a loophole.



Calculate your baseline

Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories you’d burn per day if you were to lie in bed 24/7. It’s based on various factors including your height, age and body composition (a higher muscle to fat ratio will burn more calories even at rest). To calculate your BMR, plug your deets into this equation (known as the Harris-Benedict equation): 

BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in years)

e.g. a 30-year-old female measuring 167 cm tall and weighing 54.5 kg would compute 655 + 523 + 302 – 141 to get a maintenance level daily calorie need of 1,339, or 5,624 kJ, per day (multiply calories by 4.2 to convert to kJ lingo).

STEP 2. 

Body audit

If your numbers come in low, don’t panic. In addition to what you burn to maintain basic bodily functions, you need to add your other energy usage. What you want to work out how many kJs you’re burning on average per day, and how many kJs you need to cut to lose your target kilos, is your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which comprises BMR (65 per cent), physical activity and thermic effect of food. 

To calculate your TDEE, multiply your BMR by your activity level according to these numbers.

Sedentary = BMR x 1.2 (little or no exercise, desk job)

Lightly active = BMR x 1.375 (light exercise / sports 1–3 days/week)

Moderately active = BMR x 1.55 (moderate exercise / sports 6–7 days/week)

Very active = BMR x 1.725 (hard exercise every day, or exercising 2 times/day)

Extra active = BMR x 1.9 (hard exercise 2 or more times per day, or training for marathon, or triathlon, etc.)

e.g. If your BMR is 1,339 calories, or 5,624 kJ, and you’re lightly active, your activity factor is 1.375, making your TDEE 1.375 x 1,339 or 5,624, or 1,841 calories/7,733 kJ. In theory consuming 7,733 kJ each day (or 54,129 kJ a week – there’s no penalty for zig-zagging to accommodate a dinner party) will maintain your current weight.

STEP 3. 

Budget crunch

Based on the 0.5 kg a week deemed optimal, you’ll need a cumulative deficit of 14,700 kJ a week (there are 14,700 kJ in half a kilo of body fat). A weekly deficit of 7,350 kJ will translate to loss of 0.25 kg per week. Aim to eat approximately the same amount of kJs each day, but don’t get obsessive. If you want to go out for parma (around twice the kJs in a Lean Cuisine dinner), shoot for 1,000 kJ less than your loss needs the following day and you’ll come out square. 

STEP 4. 

Loophole phase 

You can’t out-train a bad diet because it’s so much easier to consume calories than burn them. (A flavoured milk packs in more than an hour’s workout burn in a few gulps.) Yet exercise can give you an extra food allowance. By burning 400 calories in spin class, you can still eat 7,080 kJ and lose your half a kilo a week.

Looking for more weightloss tips? Check out Alexa Towersey’s top fat loss tips



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Eat like a warrior

Keep your energy levels up throughout the day with Sheena-Lauren

‘s Warrior Recipes.


Chocolate protein and coconut porridge

BEST FOR: A mini boost before an end-of-day workout or if you need something in your tummy pre-early morning workout. (Sheena-Lauren recommends fasted morning workouts, but if you can’t fathom powering through without something to nibble, bite off a bit of brekkie and save the rest for recovery.)

“The oats provide a great sustained release of energy to power you through the morning. They are a great source of fibre to help curb mid-morning munchies,” Sheena-Lauren says.

What you’ll need

  • ½–1 cup traditional rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 30 g chocolate protein
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp rice malt syrup

What you’ll do

Combine the oats, coconut milk and chocolate protein in a bowl. Ensure the oats are completely covered with coconut milk. Place in the fridge overnight to soak through. Sprinkle with chia seeds and add one tsp of rice malt syrup.

Sip on a protein shake

BEST FOR: Knocking out niggling hunger near the end of your workout.

“I sometimes sip on this throughout my morning workout if I find myself getting hungry, and I finish it post workout,” Sheena-Lauren says.

What you’ll need

  • High-quality whey protein or alternative

What you’ll do

Add a 20 g to 30 g scoop of protein powder to a shaker and top up with water. Shake thoroughly.

Spicy eggs and sweet potato

BEST FOR: Post workout recovery

“The eggs are a great source of protein for muscle repair and the sweet potato serves as a fantastic low-GI complex carbohydrate, replenishing energy stores to keep you feeling full and keep you on the go for the rest of your day,” Sheena-Lauren says

What you’ll need

  • 200 g sweet potato, grated
  • ½ red chilli, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp coconut oil

What you’ll do
Add the grated sweet potato to a fry pan with coconut oil on low heat. Add chilli and garlic. Continue to cook on low heat and toss regularly for approximately 20 to 30 minutes or until soft. Poach two eggs. Plate up the sweet potato, add the poached eggs on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Add a 20 g to 30 g scoop

Start the Summer Warrior Challenge today.


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