Gymnasts are known for their fit, thin bodies. In fact, it's rare to see a competitive-level gymnast who is overweight. Therefore, it's only natural that you might want to try the sport to get your own figure into shape. If you're mostly interested in burning fat, there's some good news -- gymnastics could work to your advantage if you also keep a balanced, healthy diet.
If you burn more calories than you eat, you burn fat. Gymnastics is considered a moderate calorie-burning sport because it's an anaerobic exercise, meaning that gymnasts will go through quick and intense spurts of energy with more relaxed periods in between. For example, a floor exercise routine only lasts about 90 seconds, according to NBC News. An average-sized 150-pound person will burn about 300 calories an hour when practicing gymnastics.
Gymnastics requires a great amount of strength in the core, legs, arms and back. Gymnasts wouldn't be able to tumble on the floor or swing on the bars if they didn't work on building their body muscles. Luckily, muscle growth helps with fat loss. This is because muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, according to the Mayo Clinic. So, the more muscle you have -- for example, if you're a gymnast -- the more fat you'll burn.
In addition to strength training, gymnasts use cardio to build endurance and burn fat, if necessary. During conditioning sessions, the University of Utah gymnastics coach instructs his gymnasts to practice interval training -- which is essentially what you see in a 90-second floor exercise routine -- with 10 second sprints on the treadmill, instead of focusing on longer cardiovascular activity. High intensity interval training has proven to be effective in burning fat. (reference 6)
You won't shed fat if you eat more calories than you burn, no matter how hard you train. You should also always eat enough to sustain your activity level, especially because gymnasts are particularly prone to eating disorders, says USA Gymnastics. In addition to eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, it recommends including protein, fats and carbohydrates in your meals. You should limit your healthy fat intake -- like olive oil and peanut butter -- to about 7 percent of your daily calories.
Debbie Lechtman is a writer living in Hartford, Conn. She has a degree in magazine journalism from Syracuse University. In the past, she has worked for major national publications, specializing in fitness and wellness. Currently, she works as a writer and copywriter and is awaiting the upcoming publication of two short stories in literary magazines.