Updated: Mar 20
In Part 1 of this article, I discuss some of the problems with the ever-popular but very misleading calories in/calories out theory, which states that in order to lose weight you have to eat less and exercise more.
In a nutshell, this theory ignores three important facts:
1. When you exercise a lot, your appetite increases. So you eat more. Which makes it near impossible to lose weight through exercise alone.
2. If you exercise too much, you increase stress levels, which increases cortisol levels. This will amplify your body’s tendency to burn food as fat rather than burning it as fuel.
3. If you eat too little, your metabolism slows down, making weight loss next to impossible
The solution is HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training. Shorten your cardio workouts, make them more intense, and you’ll burn more calories not only during exercise, but after. You’ll find more detail regarding cardio HIIT programs in Part 1.
The other type of exercise that is indispensable for weight loss is strength training. Because muscle-building exercises don’t burn as many calories as cardio exercise, this kind of exercise often gets ignored.
But strength training plays a very important part in becoming slimmer. Read on.
If you work your muscles to fatigue, which should be the goal of your strength training sessions, your muscles will break down. And in the next 24 to 48 hours, they build back up, becoming even bigger and stronger in response to the stress put upon them during your workout. And this rebuilding will burn quite a few calories.
In addition, having bigger, stronger muscles will increase your metabolism. Muscles are the engines of the body, and thus are far more metabolically active than fat. Muscle simply burn more calories.
Healthy weight loss is about losing fat while maintaining, or even gaining, muscle. Increased muscle mass means your body will burn more calories, even at rest.
Furthermore, if you lose weight without exercise, you will lose both fat and muscle. And if you regain any of that weight, you will gain only fat. Then your metabolism will slow down and it will be even harder to lose weight going forward.
You can lose weight without exercising. But your chances of keeping it off, for all the reasons mentioned, will be next to impossible.
So now that we’ve discussed what not to do, let’s talk about what an effective weight loss exercise program looks like.
Putting it all together
The good news is you don’t have to spend hours and hours at the gym. It is unnecessary and can actually sabotage your weight loss efforts.
So if spending hours at the gym doing primarily cardio isn’t the answer, what is? The short answer is this:
Instead of performing aerobic exercise for hours, make your cardio exercise sessions short but intense. Try a HITT cardio session, as mentioned in Part 1. And include a well-rounded resistance training program. This will allow you to burn calories, increase metabolism and decrease overall stress levels in a way that is helpful for weight loss.
What does this look like?
Strength training: Target the major muscle groups, performing 2-3 sets of 12 reps or so. Include functional exercises that emphasize core stability, balance and total-body strength. You can accomplish this in as little as 30 minutes, two to three times a week.
There is compelling evidence that circuit training is most effective for weight loss. Circuit training is performing 10 to 12 repetitions of one exercise, then moving to the next exercise. Beginners rest for about 30 seconds in between exercisers, but more the advanced move from one exercise to the next with little to no rest. Alternate upper body and lower body, and then repeat the process once or twice.
You can also combine aerobic exercise and strength training by performing, say, 30 seconds of cardio, such as jogging in place or jump roping, in between the strengthening exercises.
And don’t forget to stretch. Performing several stretches after an exercise session or between strength-training exercises will decrease risk of injury and make everyday movement easier and more enjoyable.
Now these are only guidelines. Suggestions. It’s important to remember that the most effective exercise for overall health and weight loss is the one you will do consistently. It is really, really important that you enjoy your workouts, or at least find them satisfying. Otherwise, you’ll simply give up, and you won’t exercise at all.
So explore your options:
· If you enjoy classes, try a yoga or spin class. Check out Zumba or Drums Alive.
· In the gym, experiment with different pieces of strength training and cardio equipment
· Take dancing lessons
· Get outside and walk or hike
· Play a sport
· Work in your garden
Figure out what you enjoy, what you find satisfying. Create a weekly routine and stick to it. In this way you will not only lose that excess weight but you will have more energy, improve your mood, decrease your stress, and improve your health. You will look good and you will feel great!