Weight loss is one of the most sought after fitness goals in today’s society. The concept of losing weight has always been “eat less, work more.” Many uninformed fitness instructors and media outlets promote extremely low calorie diets along with SLD (slow long duration) cardio to burn more calories. This formula for weight loss is based on the idea that 1 pound of body fat contains 3,500 calories. Therefore, if you “eat less, work more,” you will lose weight, right?
The answer, yes and no. Yes, if you eat a low calorie diet and perform long cardio sessions, you will lose weight. However, this is not the optimal method of get a healthy or fit body for two reasons.
First, your body is incredible at adapting to physical demands. When you perform the same cardio sessions repeatedly over time, your body will begin to adapt by burning the fewest calories possible to perform the work. This means the 30-minute session that used to burn 500 calories may only burn 250 calories several months later. Second, there is a drastic difference between losing weight and losing fat. Long cardio sessions in combination with a low calorie diet cause such a massive calorie burn; your body will choose to burn calorie dependent portions of weight first. This means your body is more likely to burn lean muscle mass before burning large amounts of fat. The result, temporary weight loss, not fat loss.
Here are some steps you can take to make sure you are burning the most fat and maintaining the most muscle mass while you earn the healthy body you want:
- Don’t Go Extreme
This goes for your diet and your workout programming. It is true that to lose weight, your body needs to be in a calorie deficit, but remember; your body is incredible at adapting to your demands. If you cut an extreme number of calories out of your diet right away, your metabolism will adapt to the new demands by slowing down. Now that your metabolism is slower and your body is functioning on so few calories, it becomes very difficult to promote fat loss. Lower your daily calorie consumption over time to keep your metabolism high and your results consistent.
In your workout program, people often throw on their running shoes and hit the streets for a few miles or the hit the gym and start lifting like they did years before. This can leave you feeling sore and abused the following day. Not only will that be completely discouraging, but it can easily lead to injury as well. Be humble in your workout routine. Make sure your routine is something you can maintain and enjoy. You’ll see more results working at your fitness level and moving forward from there!
- Watch the Mirror, NOT the Scale
The scale lies as much as the media does! The scale measures your weight. Weight is no more than a measure of how much downward force gravity has on you. Then, there are scales that indicate your BMI (body mass index). In the past, BMI was used as a measure of health for the general public. BMI is a ratio between your weight and height. Now if I take my personal BMI at 5’ 10” and 180 pounds, my BMI indicates I am overweight! I am by no means very big, but can you imagine what it would say for a body builder?! Now, do you still care about the scale?
Aim to see your results in the mirror. If you are seeing a healthier you every day, you’re on the right track!
- Protein First
Designing your own meal plan can be a chore, especially if you are unsure how many calories are in certain foods or if you pay attention to balancing your micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). The easiest way to stay on track without a calculator is by always eating protein first!
Protein is the macronutrient responsible for building and maintaining muscle. The more muscle you are able to carry, the faster your metabolism will be. Protein also takes your body much longer to digest than fat or carbohydrates, making you feel satisfied with smaller quantities of food. To make sure you are getting enough protein sources in your meal, try comparing it to your hand. 3 ounces of protein is about the size of your palm.
- Carbohydrates are NOT the Enemy
One popular attempt at losing weight or fat has been to cut carbohydrate intake drastically. Although cutting carbohydrates can be beneficial in promoting more fat burning, carbohydrate intake should not be limited for long periods of time.
Discussed in more detail in another article “Media Myth Busters”, long-term carbohydrate depletion can be damaging. When carbohydrates are reintroduced into the diet, your body is more likely to try store them as fat than it would during regular consumption. Also, your brain and red blood cells can ONLY use carbohydrates as energy. Not supplying adequate amounts can cause fatigue, mood swings and poor muscular repair.
- Lift Weights
As I mentioned in “Protein First,” the more muscle you carry, the faster your metabolism will be. This is because muscle is a calorie demanding tissue, which means that it requires energy to be maintained. This increased metabolism from carrying muscle occurs 24 hours a day, not just during physical activity!
Resistance training (lifting weights), promotes muscle growth, while SLD cardio promotes muscle wasting. Therefore, lifting weights plays an important role in managing your metabolism for you can reach your fat loss goals!