Most people know it takes a 3500 calorie deficit (calories consumed minus calories burned) to lose 1 pound of body fat. Attempting to cut out 500 calories a day, in order to add up to 3500 in a week, is no easy task. The best strategy to take is to work both sides of the “fat loss” equation. Exercise obviously can increase the number of calories burned. However, all exercise is not created equally. Here I will address the “calories burned” part and give you some great tips you can put to use right away, to burn more calories and to start seeing a difference in your body in only a few weeks.
1) Lift weights at least 3-4 times per week. This will build muscle, which will help to increase your metabolism, allowing your body to burn more calories, even when you are at rest. This is your priority if your number one goal is fat loss. In fact, don’t even think about getting in your “cardio” workout until you are getting in 3 weight training sessions every week.
2) Once you have committed to lifting weights 3 times a week and are building muscle, add 20-30 minutes of cardio. Practice the FITT principle:
F=Frequency; begin with 1-2 days a week. More is not better and besides, you need time for your weight training!
I=Intensity; begin with 65% of your theoretical maximum heart rate. 220-your age=max heart rate. Multiply that number by .65 to get your beginning target heart rate (THR). Challenge yourself from there and look to increase your THR to 70%, 75% etc. Maintain the higher THR for 10-60 seconds, then back off and recover for 30 seconds or more. This is a form of interval training, allowing you to push harder for short bursts, recover and then give another all-out effort. Most people want to pace themselves so they can stay on longer and because it’s easier.
T=Time; 20 minutes for a beginner is great. Increase your time only after you have increased your intensity for that same amount of time. (Refer to the previous paragraph on Intensity.) A long cardio workout, particularly if performed at a steady pace (usually low to medium intensity) is not the best strategy for fat loss! Higher intensity, which you cannot keep up for as long, has been shown to be better. So put the magazine down and no more “strolling” on the treadmill.
T=Type; Varying the type of cardio you do will keep your body from becoming efficient at that mode. When that happens, you will not burn as many calories even while doing the same amount of work. If machines are your thing, alternate between the treadmill, bicycle, stair climber and rowing machine.
To summarize how to use the FITT principle: Increase the intensity before you increase your time or frequency. Change the type every 1-2 weeks or split your time between 2 types (e.g. 10 minutes rowing and 10 minutes fast walking) and then in 2 weeks, select 2 different modes. Increase time after intensity and the frequency last.
3) Stand up and get off of those weight training machines! You probably sit most of the day and need to work on your posture. Get on your feet to involve more core and stabilizer muscles. These muscles are engaged in an attempt to keep your body in a neutral position (think perfect posture) and to stabilize each joint involved in the movement. The machine steadies the weight for you, so balance, control, and stability are not needed. Machines are easy, that’s why you love them, but they aren’t as effective as free weights and your own body weight can be.
- Pushups to replace the seated chest press machine
- Squats instead of the leg press machine
- Dumbbell shoulder press to replace the seated machine shoulder press
- Step Ups or Lunges instead of the Leg Extension machine
- A TRX Row instead of a seated machine row
4) Use “supersets” or “circuits.” A superset is when you perform one exercise immediately followed by another with little or no rest. Rest 1-2 minutes after each superset and repeat at least twice for a total of 3 superset. It is best to perform exercises in tandem that don’t compete for the same muscle group. A pushing movement followed by a pulling movement is ideal. A lower body exercise followed by an upper body movement works well too. Examples:
- Push/Pull: Pushups followed by a TRX row
- Lower/Upper: Lunges followed by pull-ups
A circuit is when you perform 3 or more exercises in a row with little or no rest. Again, choose exercises that don’t compete. Rest 1-2 minutes after the circuit is complete and repeat at least twice for a total of 3. Examples of 3 exercise circuits:
- Row, pushup, and squat
- Pull-up, shoulder press and step up
These exercise tips, when combined with a proper nutrition plan and proper supplementation will help you lose body fat, build muscle, change your body and change your life!
Next time: Nutrition Tips for Fat Loss!