Top 3 Recommendations for Weight Loss:
Before writing this article, a personal trainer had asked to me jot down 3 recommendations that I would have for someone that wanted to lose weight. My recommendations were:
1. If you want to lose weight fast, you have to measure your caloric intake and eat less. You can count your calories outright or you can use a system like weight watchers, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you learn which foods have the most calories and which ones have the least.
2. Balance your hormones, be healthy and decrease your stress. Seeing a professional to make sure you don’t have any health obstacles to losing weight can help to make the process safer and may increase your long term success rate. For instance, certain medications and even high levels of stress can throw off your hormones and slow down your metabolism.
3. For prevention of weight gain long term, make physical activity a part of your everyday or weekly routine and stick to it. Make an effort to search out activities that you enjoy, otherwise you probably will not follow through with them over time.
I think I said a lot of useful things within the few words that I had used!
The Magic Weight Loss Formula:
There is still no magic formula for weight loss, sorry. Here it is:
Calories In < Calories Out
Most people fail on both sides of the above equation, meaning they eat too many calories and they exercise too little. Some people stay thin by eating very little, some stay thin because they have a higher resting metabolism that leads to more calories burned each day, and some burn large amounts of calories by exercising a lot. Medications or illnesses can decrease your amount of ‘calories out’; for instance, having thyroid problems or taking certain medications such as antidepressants or contraceptives can lead to weight gain. There can be many reasons for an imbalance in your formula, but in the end you simply must not consume more calories than your body is able to expend in a given period of time if you wish to lose weight. Diet: The Easiest and Fastest Way to Lose Weight The preferred method for weight loss is to diet – decreasing the amount of calories coming in is much easier than increasing the amount of calories going out, and it eliminates much of the risk of injury that can be incurred when someone who is both out of shape and unfit embarks on a new exercise plan. That said, if you are willing to spend the time to learn how to exercise right, you can lose significant amounts of weight by exercising, but you have exercise a lot. Let’s say you want to lose 1-2 lbs of weight per week. That means you need to remove roughly 500-1000 kCal/ day from your diet each day, or exercise for the equivalent amount. For a 150 lb. woman to burn 700 kCal she would have to cycle for roughly 30 km’s. A beginner would likely take more than 2 hours to ride that far. Or she could simply remove 2 slices of bread, 2 slices of cheese, 1 cup of orange juice, and one cookie from her diet and get the same results. Also, dieting usually leads to less cravings and feelings of hunger than an increase in exercise usually does. To top it all off, dieting aggressively is stressful, and the added stress of large amounts of exercise can lead to too much stress on the body. I am not saying that you shouldn’t exercise while you lose weight – you should, but the focus should be on diet if you plan to lose weight quickly. My approach is to use the weight loss period to prepare the individual for an increase in exercise at the cessation of their diet. You can use the weight loss period to work on your low intensity cardio, flexibility, joint stability, posture, and your alignment for proper squatting, lunging, running, pushing, pulling and other movements. Once the diet is done, you will enter your exercise program better prepared both physically and mentally. Is it dangerous to lose weight quickly? Will I gain it all back if I go too fast? As long as your body gets the essential nutrients it needs to prevent deficiency, you can reasonably lose weight as fast as you like. Consuming liberal amounts of low calorie veggies, adequate amounts of lean proteins, and small amounts of essential fats and fruits will ensure that you get what you need. That said, you will slow your metabolism down with an aggressive diet, so you will need to focus aggressively on increasing your muscle mass and increasing your metabolism after an aggressive diet so that you don’t gain the weight back. Regular exercise is the best medicine for preventing weight gain. A faster metabolism from regular exercise will buy you more ‘wiggle room’ in your diet so that you will not have to work as hard long term to keep your calories under control. Most yo-yo dieters have poor lifestyles and they usually don’t exercise regularly. Don’t be one of those people! Depending on the size of the person, the minimum amount of calories you should probably consume on a diet lies somewhere between 600 to 1500 kCal’s. If you decide to lose weight quickly and aggressively (>2 lbs per week), then I suggest you consult a professional during the process.
Aerobic Exercise Is King
During the weight loss process, aerobic exercise is king, hands down. Aerobic metabolism burns fat while anaerobic metabolism burns carbohydrates for energy. Aerobic exercise allows you to do more work in a shorter period of time, whereas strength training and even high intensity interval workouts require that you take too much rest during the workout. Aerobic exercise is also much less stressful to the your body, so it does not exacerbate the stress of your diet as much as anaerobic exercise does.
Is there any use for anaerobic exercise? Yes, it is not very useful in the short term for weight loss, but it can be very effective long term at increasing your maximal energy output during a workout – for instance, if you do high intensity intervals from time to time, your pace when doing a 30 minute run will be much quicker, and thus you will be able to run further and burn more calories. Also, strength training increases your muscle mass, which can increase your resting metabolism and allow you to burn more calories while you rest. Who doesn’t want to burn more calories when they sleep? It almost seems like cheating!
Running or cycling makes me bored. Is there something else I can do for Cardio?
Absolutely, it doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do for your cardiorespiratory exercise, you just have to increase your heart rate to a point where your breathing is deep, regular and it would be difficult for you to carry on a conversation without some interruptions in your speech. With this criteria in mind, your exercise could be brisk walking, hiking, cross-country skiing, swimming, or organized sports such as soccer, hockey, or squash. Even weight lifting sessions are acceptable, provided you do not take too much rest between sets and you use full body types of activities that get your heart rate up.
Investing in a heart rate monitor is a great way to turn the exercises that you enjoy into a good cardio workout. For instance, you may really enjoy horseback riding, and would like the make that your cardio workout. Wearing the heart rate monitor while you do that activity can tell us how hard you are exerting yourself while riding. The age – 220 rule is crude, but acceptable as a first time estimate of your max heart rate. If you are exercising between 65-80% of your max heart rate (about 6-7/ 10 effort) for a prolonged period (>30 minutes), you are getting a good cardiorespiratory workout.
The treadmill tells me I should be going really slow to be in the Fat Burning Zone – is that right?
The problem with age-determined heart rates for exercise is that they can often be off by as much as 20 beats per minute. Some people have low heart rates and some people have high rates, and so the formulas will not work properly for them. Better than using age-determined heart rates is to simply use your own perceived exertion while you are doing the activity. Provided the exercise is steady and you are not taking any breaks, you will do very well if you shoot for a 6-7/10 effort for your cardio workouts. This might be a little more intense than what you are used to, but for burning the most calories in a short amount of time, this intensity is probably best. If you have all the time in world for exercise, and you plan to ride your bike for 2-3 hours, then 5/10 effort is perfect.
Your body burns proportionately more fat for fuel at low intensities, so this is why treadmills and other cardio machines have a cardio zone that is set at a fairly low heart rate. This is the perfect heart rate for a long cardio session (60-90 minutes), but if you only have 30-45 minutes, you should warm up for 15-20 minutes, then go at a higher heart rate (7/10 effort) for 20-30 minutes – this will burn more total calories, even though you might be using more carbohydrates for energy during the workout.
The best way to learn about how hard you should push during a cardio workout is to do a lactate threshold test. This test will tell you how exactly at what heart rate your body shifts from burning primarily fat, to burning carbohydrates for energy, and it tells you how hard you can push when you are short on time, and still get an effective cardio workout in which the most calories are burned. Even though this test is usually done with high end athletes, I have found the all of my patients are benefiting from doing the test, and it helps to educate them about how to monitor and change their workout intensities.
Part 2 – Coming next Week!
Next month I will review some of the common diets that are out there, explaining to you why they work and whey they fail. Then we will get down to brass tacks and talk about food in a practical way that you can take home with you and really apply on a day to day basis.
Until then, start counting your calories if you haven’t already done so. There are good calorie counting applications for your iphone, ipad, your computer, or your blackberry that will help you both set a goal and start to figure out how much you should be eating on a day to day basis. (I recommend Mynetdiary)
Until next month……
Dr. Ryan Oughtred