Dragging around extra pounds can really weigh you down, making you feel more easily fatigued and out of breath when you probably shouldn't be. Setting a goal to lose fat and build stamina is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and well-being. With a healthy diet and an exercise routine that includes cardio and strength training, you'll burn fat, build lean muscle and fatigue less easily.
Components of Fitness: Healthy Weight and Stamina
When you do cardio exercise, such as brisk walking, running, riding a bike or using the elliptical machine at the gym, your heart rate rises. Your heart works to pump blood and oxygen to your muscles, so they fatigue less easily. Improved blood and oxygen flow means you can keep going for longer without pooping out.
Just like any other muscle in your body, your heart grows stronger when under stress -- the good stress induced by cardio exercise. With regular bouts of cardio, your heart becomes better able to get blood and oxygen to all your different systems. You can breathe and move more easily and for longer periods of time.
Cardio is also essential for fat loss. Fat gain is primarily the result of excess calories from your diet stored as fat. In order to lose the stored fat, you have to burn those calories and create a caloric deficit, meaning you consume fewer calories than you burn each day.
Because you burn calories while you're doing cardio exercise, you burn stored fat and stay in a caloric deficit, as long as you eat a calorie-controlled diet.
Importance of Building Muscle
Just as you can train your cardiovascular system to increase stamina, you can also increase muscular stamina, which improves your body's overall endurance. When you build muscular strength, you'll find it easier to move and propel yourself forward. It will take less energy, and you'll be less fatigued.
Having more lean muscle mass also improves your metabolism and speeds up weight loss. Your body burns calories building and maintaining muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you'll burn for weight control even when you're sleeping.
Best Workout Routine for Fat Loss and Stamina
There isn't one particular type of routine you should be doing. Rather, there are several components to a well-rounded program to build stamina and burn fat. They include performing both steady-state and high-intensity interval training and performing resistance training for muscular endurance.
Steady-State Cardio and Interval Training
Steady-state cardio is typically done at a moderate pace for 30 minutes or longer. This type of cardio burns calories, is easier on the muscles and joints, and for many people is enjoyable and provides stress relief.
Interval training, also called high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a shorter duration workout that involves alternating periods of intense effort with periods of recovery. For example, on a treadmill after a warm up, you might alternate one minute of sprinting with one minute of jogging for 15 minutes.
Because of the metabolic adaptations caused by high-intensity cardio, HIIT is more effective at burning stored fat in a shorter amount of time than steady-state cardio, according to a study published in International Journal of Obesity in 2008. According to another study published in Journal of Diabetes Research in 2017, HIIT is especially effective at burning belly fat.
However, because HIIT is intense by nature, it places more stress on the body than steady-state cardio so it should not be done every day. Do one to three HIIT workouts per week on non-consecutive days, and more moderate-paced steady-state cardio workouts on other days.
Muscular Strength and Muscular Endurance
Strength is your muscles' ability to lift a heavy load in a short amount of time -- for example, picking up a heavy box from the floor and placing it on a counter. Muscular endurance is your muscles' ability to repeatedly work against resistance for a longer amount of time, for example, pushing a lawn mower or riding your bike up a long hill. As its name implies, muscular endurance training will improve your stamina. However, training for strength is also important for overall fitness and functionality.
A resistance training program that addresses muscular endurance includes exercises for all your major muscle groups -- the chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, abs, back, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves -- performed with less weight and higher repetitions. In addition, use these guidelines to organize your routine:
Take little to no rest between sets: Keep your heart rate up and challenge your muscles to keep going.
Work with intense effort: Train your body to perform for longer under stress by giving every workout your all. Do your lifts quickly and powerfully. This will improve strength and power, as well as endurance.
Do compound exercises: Compound exercises activate more than one muscle group at a time, as opposed to isolation exercise which use a single muscle group. Compound exercises are harder to perform, burn more calories while you're doing them and have greater effects on endurance.
Change up your routine: Going in to the gym and doing the same exercises at the same weight every week won't improve stamina. Challenge your muscles by increasing the weight, reps and/or sets you perform of each exercise, and every workout or at least every couple of weeks, change the exercises you perform.
Developing a Non-Routine
Routine is the enemy of progress. Consistency is more important. Each week, plan to do some type of workout five days a week. It sounds like a lot but you can be efficient by combining your strength training and cardio into one HIIT workout.
To do this, choose several exercises to cover each of your major muscle groups -- for example, pull-ups, push-ups, squats, step-ups and crunches. For five rounds, do one set of each exercise at a weight you can perform for 10 to 15 reps one after the other with no more than 10 seconds rest in between. At the end of each round, do a couple minutes of high-intensity cardio -- run sprints, jump rope, peddle fast on a stationary bike -- then jump right into the next round.
Do this type of workout two or three days a week. Change up the exercises each workout or each week. On the other other days to a longer moderate-paced cardio session.
Don't forget to warm up before each workout and stretch after to prevent injury.
- Journal of Diabetes Research: Comparable Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training and Prolonged Continuous Exercise Training on Abdominal Visceral Fat Reduction in Obese Young Women
- International Journal of Obesity: The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women
- Men's Fitness: 7 ways to boost your endurance and stamina