Ready for spring break?

Are you ready for spring break yet, or are you still working on dropping those last few pounds? If you fit into the latter category, don’t worry; you’re in good company. After all of the winter weather we’ve had lately, it seems more people than ever are planning a beach getaway. As we get closer to warm weather, you will find many people trying to get into the best shape they can for the swimsuit season. While there is no “magic bullet” to get rid of a stubborn trouble spot, there are a few tricks that can help you burn more fat than you normally would.

If you are trying to burn fat, the fundamental thing you need to do is modify your nutrition to some degree. Simple sugars, refined flour and alcoholic drinks all cause your body to store fat. They also prevent you from being able to burn fat. I always recommend that people avoid these items as much as they can. If you normally eat a large amount of sugar or drink alcohol often, you will be amazed at the difference cutting these out will make. As an example, it is estimated that if the average American stopped drinking regular sugared soda, she/he would lose 10 pounds.

Next, you should be exercising. If fat burning is your primary goal, then you should do some resistance training before your aerobic exercise, e.g., lift weights before doing cardio. During resistance training, your body uses stored sugar in your muscle cells for energy. When you do cardio, your body can burn either sugar or fat. By decreasing the amount of sugar in your muscles by lifting first, you will burn more fat while you are on the treadmill. If you want to take full advantage of this, you will work your muscles to the point of complete muscular exhaustion.

There are not many supplements on the market that help you burn fat. If you are looking for every possible advantage, there is one supplement that can help: caffeine. It has been shown to aid in the release of fatty acids, but only in people who have not developed a tolerance. So, if you have to have your morning cup of coffee, it probably will not help you. You don’t need to take large doses of caffeine to benefit: Drinking a cup of coffee 45 minutes before you start exercising is plenty.

One last technique is to work out first thing in the morning. If you can exercise within the first 30 minutes of waking, it will result in a slightly higher amount of fat being burned. It is not a drastic difference, but it will be higher. Unfortunately, many people who exercise in the morning do not get this benefit. If you start your day with a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice and then head off to the gym, you will not burn any fat. This is due to the sugar in the orange juice. It will shut down your fat-burning hormones and you will ultimately break down muscle tissue. If you want to implement this strategy, be sure to avoid sugar in the morning.

Burning body fat is not complicated, but it does take discipline. How much you lose is completely dependent upon how well you integrate these techniques into your own routine. If you are dedicated, you will definitely see results. If you want to lose a few pounds but not completely restructure your life, try making a few changes. You will still see results, just not as dramatic. Finally, remember that you did not put on 20 pounds overnight and they will not come off overnight. Be patient with yourself and try to keep your expectations realistic. You are doing fantastic if you are losing 1 or 1 pounds each week.

Jared Carter, CSCS, owner of Move Forward Fitness Personal Training in the heart of Philadelphia, has been helping clients reach their goals for the past eight years. He can be reached at or at [email protected].