Summer is here, and if you haven’t yet made that commitment to a fitness program, the thought of shedding a few pounds to look good in those shorts or that bathing suit, may be just the encouragement you need.
So with time of the essence, (immediate gratification being a must, with a trip to the beach just around the corner) what type of program do we embark on. For most, the seemingly obvious solution would be to cut back on the meals and start doing cardio – and lots of it.
And as much as this may sound unpleasant (at least to most of us), it’s bound to burn up that extra fat, leaving us lean and toned, ready to show of those abs, right? Wrong! The good news is that these myths about weight loss are just that – while you do need to cut calories and increase activity to loose weight, there is a better, healthier, and more efficient way to do it.
First of all, embarking on some crazy fad diet that severely restricts calories may initially produce results, but in the long run will actually slow down your metabolism. Eating more frequent meals throughout the day will actually boost your metabolism. The key is better food choices, balanced meals and portion control.
What about exercise – what kind and how much? While it may feel like running on the treadmill for an hour (while you are dripping with sweat) is burning tons of calories, it’s only burning calories while you are exercising and for one to two hours after. If you really want to lose fat – and keep it off — the best way to do it is with weight training. Weight training is the single most effective way to permanently increase your metabolism. The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn all the time – 24hours a day, 7 days a week — not just one or two hours when you’re exercising, but every hour of every day, whether you’re exercising, eating, sleeping or sitting at your desk. Pound for pound, muscle burns 25 times more calories than fat. One pound of muscle can burn 30 to 50 calories in a day, or 350 to 500 calories a week. One pound of fat only burns two a day or 14 in a week. So, if you build just five pounds of muscle, that’s equivalent to burning 26 pounds of fat in a year.
The evidence is right in front of you in the gym. Notice the number of overweight people who do hours of cardio on the treadmill, in aerobics classes, or on the bike – or worse, all of the above. The same people, on the same program for months, maybe even years, with no noticeable results. Then, compare them to the physiques in the weight room. Ask some of those people who look the most fit how much time they really spend in the gym – it’s much less than you think. The results produced by weight training are much more effective. And if your own research isn’t convincing enough to back up these claims, consider a Tufts University study that showed strength and resistance training can increase metabolism by seven percent, and promote significant changes in body composition. Scientists calculated the higher metabolic rate meant that resistance trained subjects burned an average of an extra 354 calories per day. The final result was that weight training produces an increase in lean body mass and a decrease in body fat by a permanent increase in metabolic rate.
What about the scale? Throw it out! Yes you may end up weighing the same or even more because muscle weighs more than fat, but remember, muscle takes up less space than fat. So, ultimately, you will be small, firmer and toner; and your clothes will fit better. That’s the true test. How you look and how you feel – not what the numbers on the scale say. And women, no, you become overly muscular. It’s just not possible – women don’t naturally produce enough of the hormones it takes to grow massive muscle. Weight training will, however, give you that tone look you’re striving for – you can’t burn fat off to see muscle tone that doesn’t exist. In addition, weight training is important to help prevent osteoporosis by building and maintaining bone density.
Timing is everything. If your primary goal for cardio, in addition to cardio vascular health, is to burn fat, the most effective time to do it is when glycogen stores are low, therefore, early morning on an empty stomach would be an optimum time since glycogen stores have been depleted throughout the night while you slept.
If morning isn’t an option, and you’ll be doing cardio in the same workout session as weight training, it’s better to do cardiovascular activity immediately following weight training because glycogen levels have also been depleted at this time. Not only will your cardiovascular exercise be more effective at fat burning, but your weight training session will be more effective and intense since you won’t have burned up all your ATP on cardio.
The key to successful weight loss is balance – in both diet and exercise. Weight training will help increase lean body composition and boost your metabolism, even while at rest. While cardiovascular activity will help muscles utilize oxygen more efficiently and promote overall good cardiovascular health. Remember though, too much cardio can actually burn valuable muscle tissue and losing muscle slows down your metabolism — which is obviously counter productive to your whole weight loss goal. And again, remember balance — allow your body time to recover from all exercise. Muscle tissue needs recovery time to repair and grow. So, don’t be afraid to take a couple of days off with no exercise and you will actually see better results.