Aerobics & Cardio
It’s actual pretty simple. Controlling your weight can be as easy to understand as measuring the calories you consume vs how many you are burning. Burn 3500 calories more than you consume, and you’ll lose 1 pound of fat. At its base, it’s just simple mathematics. There are, of course, plenty of other factors that can be manipulated . . .
Let’s assume – for the sake of this article – that you are trying to lose weight, since that seems to be a very common goal among the folks I work with. We’ll deal with exercise here, since exercise will be a big part of the equation. Failing to exercise as a part of weight loss allows your body to slow your metabolism as a defense mechanism. Your body will become more efficient with every calorie and store any overage as fat.
It is recommended that you get at least 30 minutes of fairly vigorous exercise for most or all days of the week. Doing so will speed up your metabolism and can increase your lean muscle tissue which will also help you to burn more calories – even while resting. I recommend doing both resistance and aerobic training as a part of each workout. I also teach my students to incorporate some light cardio at the beginning of each session as a warm up, but to hold off on the more vigorous cardio/aerobic training until the end of the workout. Here’s why . . .
ALL exercise burns both carbohydrates and fat for energy. Resistance training relies heavily on carbs as the energy source while the aerobic training will start by using mostly carbs and gradually shifting over to using primarily fats as fuel.
The problem is that it takes time for the body to get to the point where it’s burning a higher percentage of fat than carbs. A good analogy is the process of starting a fire with kindling (think carbs) and gradually working up to big logs (fats). Actually, the crossover point doesn’t arrive until about 55 minutes into your workout – when most people are finishing.
Since you aren’t going to be burning very much fat in the beginning of your workout REGARDLESS OF THE TYPE OF TRAINING YOU DO, it’s a good idea to burn the carbs then for the type of training that demands them anyway by doing your resistance training first. By the time you get to the cardio training, your body will be getting fairly depleted in carbs and burning a significantly higher percentage of fat which will enable you to take advantage of the fat burning benefits of aerobic training.
I mentioned above that losing fat can be reduced to a simple matter of caloric intake. AGAIN, if you burn 3500 calories MORE than you consume, you’ll burn one pound of fat. I realize that there are glandular issues that can affect your metabolism – I’m hypothyroid myself and have a number of clients similarly affected, so I get that. However, everyone has to burn calories just to survive, and you’re actively speeding up your metabolism through exercise. So it would be impossible to just “break even” on your weight loss program if you restricted calories enough. Remember – and I say this without intending any malice – there weren’t any fat people imprisoned in Auschwitz. I say this, not to offend anyone, but to illustrate that weight HAS TO decrease when calories are restricted enough.
BUT IT’S COUNTERPRODUCTIVE IF YOU GO TOO LOW!
Attempting to restrict calories too tightly has multiple negative effects. First, your metabolism will react to a sudden shortage in caloric intake by slowing down and becoming more efficient with every calorie taken in. Any calorie that isn’t used will be deposited as fat since your body is sensing a “starvation mode” and is trying to save and conserve.
Compounding this is the catabolism of your muscles. When your body doesn’t get enough protein, it will begin getting enough by going to the biggest supply – your muscles. When that happens, you lose strength and your metabolism will slow down even more since it has less muscle tissue to support — not good.
A third negative element of over dieting is that it often leads to binges when you totally blow away all the work and dieting you did AND your body saves the excess calories as fat for the next starvation period.
So where do you draw the line? There’s no magic formula since everyone is unique and there are differences according to sex, age, build, activity level and so on. Even when all those figures are the same, there can still be wide differences. Plan to set the bar below 2000 calories, but never go below 1200 per day. Going below that is detrimental for most people and larger or more active people will need more still to avoid your body going into starvation mode. Err on the side of caution and set the bar closer to the 2000 calorie figure and monitor your weight over the course of a week or two.
WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING YOU EAT AND COUNT EVERY CALORIE YOU CONSUME.
When people actually write down everything they eat (measured out), they’re often surprised to see how high their caloric intake actually is. If, after a week or two, your weight is remaining constant, you then know that the number of calories you’re consuming equals the number you’re burning. You can further reduce your intake by 500 calories per day which will result in a deficit of 3500 in a week – one pound of fat . . . or 1000 calories a day for a 2 pound loss. However, a good balance is to cut by 300 – 500 calories and add in an additional period of cardio every day or every other day, to torch it even more.
Two pounds a week is about the max that most recognized experts recommend. Don’t try to emulate the huge numbers achieved on The Biggest Loser where they are living at a ranch and totally devoted and focused on doing just one thing – losing weight. They are working out 8-10 hours per day, they have the best, nutritious and good tasting low-calorie foods available to them, they are getting enough rest and have no distractions. Does that sound like your life? To continue to live your life with all your responsibilities while restricting your calories enough – without going too low, and getting enough exercise to make it all work, etc., etc . . . . Be happy to see a 1-2 pound loss per week. Be overjoyed if it is even greater than that! The next and final section below will address water intake.
Most people know that cutting calories and beginning an exercise program can aid them in losing weight. A very big part of the equation is water intake. For your exercise program to be most effective, you need to get enough water.
Water does a number of things which make dieting and exercise work best. It helps to suppress the appetite by making you feel fuller (especially so if combined with high fiber foods). Your body sometime mistakes a need for water by making you think you’re hungry when a glass of water would have provided what you needed. Water also aids weight loss by helping you to metabolize fat and pass it through the kidneys (instead of clogging them if enough water isn’t present).
If your body often “holds water,” the best thing you can do to reduce that is to drink more water! That’s right, drinking MORE water signals to your body that it is getting enough water so it does need to “hoard” the smaller amounts it was getting before. Before contests during my competition years, my body was finely tuned and would quickly respond to small changes in my diet. My bodyweight would fluctuate up to 2 lbs per day – I weighed the most when I drank the least.
Failure to get enough water can lead to dehydration. Experiencing thirst is often the first sign of approaching dehydration. If you always stay hydrated, you usually won’t experience thirst. If you are low on water, fatigue can accompany that and you won’t feel much like exercising. If you mistake this need for water for hunger, then you can arrive home dehydrated, without exercising and grab something to eat that you didn’t need – a triple whammy!
It’s long been recommended to get 8 8oz glasses of water each day – significantly more if you’re exercising or sweating. Endurance athletes often try to drink 2 gallons of water – or more – per day as it helps to increase their endurance. I’ve noticed a definite improvement in my own endurance by increasing my water intake. As a general rule, try to get 1/2 oz of water for each pound of bodyweight. If you are drinking significantly less than this amount, don’t try to go there overnight. Increase the amounts over a week or so. When your body realizes that it will be getting all it needs, you’ll need to have access to a bathroom on a frequent basis until your body adjusts – and it will.
This has been a brief overview of water intake and there are more reasons to drink water and ways to increase it. Contact me for more information.
Dave – Your Harford County, Maryland Personal Fitness Trainer
Results are what you’ll get when you train with me. I’m conveniently located in Forest Hill near the center of Harford County, Maryland. Clients come to me from Fallston, Jarrettsville, Bel Air, Forest Hill and Baltimore. I’ve got the experience, the ability, the knowledge and the success stories of my students to testify that my training is result driven and result based. Visit my webpage for more information.
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