Q. No matter what I do, I can't lose those last few pounds of fat. I've tried everything! Help!
I know you're frustrated! Our bodies cling to those last couple pounds of fat like a baby clutches a bottle. There are many schools of thought on how to best burn stubborn body fat, but I've had the best results using empty-stomach cardio. I've used this method with my clients and on myself; I can honestly say it works.
Empty Stomach Science
Researchers at England's University of Birmingham did a study where they measured the fat-burning effects of eating and not eating prior to exercise. One group engaged in an hour-long cardio session without eating and the other group ate a small meal before their 1-hour cardio workout. Athletes who exercised on an empty stomach burned more fat than those who ate before hitting the treadmill. This extra fat loss occurs because your body doesn't have any carbohydrates to use for energy, so it'll tap your fat stores for battery power.
Warning: empty-stomach cardio may cause involuntary flexing!
Slow Your Roll
While this information is great, it's important to remember that doing cardio on an empty stomach does not mean that you should go kill yourself on the track as soon as you get out of bed. Instead, make sure your fasted workout is steady-state cardio at about 60% between 20-and-30 minutes. If it exceeds half an hour, eat a piece of fruit. You won't have the strength and endurance to do high-intensity work and doing it might do more harm than good because you could end up losing lean muscle mass instead of fat.
If you do decide to try empty-stomach cardio, be mindful of your body. If you feel dizzy, are sweating excessively or feel nauseated, stop training! The "no pain no gain" mindset probably isn't the best one to have for this type of training. Dry-heaving never helped anyone.
If I Were Your Trainer
If you're struggling to lose the last bit of stubborn fat, your friendly neighborhood Ripped Dude has a plan for the last 4-to-6 weeks of your fat-loss plan:
- Try a 10 calorie-per-pound diet.
- Do empty stomach cardio for 20-to-30 minutes at a slow pace 4-or-5 times per week. Do this on top of your regular workout regimen.
- Monitor your weight and body-fat percentage each Monday morning. If you drop 1-to-2 pounds per week, keep going. If not, drop 100 calories from your diet until you are able to lose 1-to-2 pounds per week.
- Van Proeyen, Karen. Effects of training in the fasted state. "Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise." June 2010.