The vast majority of people who come to trainers wish to lose excess fat as at least part of their goal. Even the people who were skinny when they arrived here contended they had fat they wished to lose!
Fat doesn’t accumulate on your body overnight and it won’t come off overnight either. It’s a process, and obviously diet will play a huge role in your success.
A pound of fat contains 3500 calories. To lose 1 pound of fat you need to consume 3500 calories LESS than the calories you burn. Everyone is different and predicting how many calories ANYone burns in a day is – at best – a guessing game. It changes daily based on what you do, what you eat, WHEN you eat, HOW you eat – even the weather can influence your caloric expenditure. When you diet, your body begins to adjust to the restrictions and sometimes, what worked in the beginning, doesn’t work once your body adjusts to the changes. Restricting your calories too severely will only exacerbate this problem. 1200 calories seems to be the tipping point for most people, and I always start people out well above this lower limit. I suggest you do the same. You can always decrease caloric intake if the scale doesn’t budge and no noticeable changes are taking place in your body.
It’s generally recommended for women to lose 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per week and men 2 pounds per week. Burning more than that amount generally indicates that you’re also losing muscle and/or water weight. (NOTE – you might lose a significantly larger amount of weight the first week or two as your body adjusts to your new eating plan. It’s mostly water weight and nothing to worry about). That’s 500-750 calories a day for women and 1000 calories per day for the guys. Men burn more calories just by being larger and having more muscle and testosterone which helps to burn more fat. That’s part of the reason for the difference. Watch any episode of “the biggest loser” and you’ll see.
Small frequent meals are going to help you lose weight more than the 3 larger meals that are typical of the American diet. By having 5 or 6 small meals of say 250-300 calories at a time, you could stay in the 1500 calories per day range which should produce a weight loss in most people. By eating small meals every 3 hours or so, your body has a constant supply of energy, your glucose levels in your bloodstream remain more constant which will help to prevent your brain sending the “send more food” signal to your body to bring the glucose level back up. You’ll also know that, even if you become hungry, it won’t be long before you’re eating again!
DO NOT make the mistake of thinking you can “save” all or some of your calories for later in the day. If you miss a meal or two, you cannot eat them later along with your other food. Doing so will cause you to go over the roughly 400 calories that most people will use from one meal. If you consume 2 meals at once of say 300 calories each, you just created a “deposit” from the excess. This deposit will go to the fat stores – counterproductive!
With each meal, make sure you include a good, complete protein source, some complex carbohydrates and at least a glass of water. Try to restrict all carbs after 7 pm and cease all other eating at least 3 hours before bedtime.
There’s more to this, but this is Part 1. More to come …
Since my last post (above), I have found some recent research which seems to indicate that limiting the amount of time you allow yourself to eat each day “can” influence your weight. 12 hours of time each day are your “eating hours” and you do not eat anything the other 12. The 12 hour limits are taken in one block of time – NOT just the hours added up – i.e. 6am-6pm, 7am-7pm, etc. In lots of mice and a much smaller number of people tested, allowing 12 hours (or less) each day during which to eat allowed mice and people to eat less while not feeling very deprived. People consumed roughly 200 calories less each day, on average, than their counterparts. It may not seem like a lot, but that’s close to 2 pounds a month without doing much. I have felt that it’s the “after hours” eating which is mostly to blame for the extra calories we Americans consume and don’t use. Those extras usually get stored as fat. Try using your breakfast time as your benchmark. Back up 12 hours and resolve not to eat anything each day after that time. It’s worth a try!
As your body begins to adapt to the diet you have imposed to lose fat, it will take steps to begin to slow down your metabolism in an attempt to stem the loss and maintain status quo. The more drastic your caloric restriction, the more your metabolism will slow.
As I mentioned in part one, 1200 calories seems to be a tipping point for most people. When your calories are at or below that number, your body REALLY gets serious about slowing your metabolism and you begin to lose muscle as well. That presents a new problem, because having less muscle means you will burn even FEWER calories since your body no longer has to maintain that muscle. You won’t feel better or look better, and your strength and energy will plummet, causing you to skip workouts which even further diminishes your caloric expenditure — DRASTICALLY! Remember, you can shape muscles to an extent to shape your body the way you want … however, that’s not true of fat.
I had a client who came to me on a 900 calorie per day vegetarian diet. She was also running 3-4 miles most days and could not make the scale budge or make her body change … she was also as weak as a kitten. I modified her diet by ADDING 500 calories a day to it and overhauling what and when she ate – along with my exercise plan. She lost 7 lbs the first week and 1 1/2 lbs each week after that until arriving at her ideal weight. Her health improved dramatically, her energy level increased, she became much stronger and she looked incredible by the time we finished.
I had another client who had undergone gastric bypass surgery several years before seeing me and had lost a large amount of weight, but had been at a standstill for over a year even though she only ate 500 calories a day. The doctors told her that she was never going to lose any more weight. Another doctor sent her (and her husband) to me to get them in shape since they were out-of-shape and had been unsuccessful in all attempts for her to get pregnant.
Initially, she was one of the weakest women I had trained and had no energy or stamina. When you only eat 500 calories a day, your muscles are going to atrophy, because of a lack of protein and the consequent lack of exercise. I couldn’t do much about her diet except when she got the OK’s by her doctors, but I did help her to lose 12 more pounds, improve her appearance, energy and strength and – as with ALL of my clients, her conditioning improved tremendously too. She DID finally become pregnant and now has a little boy and a little girl!
I give these 2 examples to show that lowering calories beyond a certain point becomes counterproductive towards your goal. When you can eat 900 or even 500 calories AND NOT LOSE WEIGHT, you know your body has adapted to your diet. Exercise is the ticket to help. Stay tuned …
In this section, we’ll discuss exercise. Since your body begins to adapt to a restriction in calories by slowing your metabolism, we need to ramp it back up through exercise. The benefits of exercise are multifaceted, but for this discussion, we’ll stick to what works for burning fat.
All forms of exercise burn calories in the form of both carbohydrate and fat. Certain exercises burn a higher percentage of fat than others. Generally speaking, cardio oriented workouts burn a bit more fat than resistance training eventually. Many people think, “stop right there. I know all I need with that statement!” But they would be wrong. BOTH types of exercise are necessary in any fat loss program. Here’s why.
No matter what kind of exercise you engage in, your body will burn more carbohydrate than fat initially. If you are doing a cardio workout, your body will gradually shift more and more of the responsibility for energy production to fat burning. The point at which you reach the “tipping point” i.e. – you’re burning more fat than carbs – is at about the 55 minute mark. Most people are finished training by that point! Another sad point about training entirely with cardio is that your metabolism returns to normal about 4 hours after your workout. Obviously, cardio training – by itself – is not enough.
Resistance training is the answer. The benefits are many. In addition to your muscles becoming stronger, they will begin to store more carbohydrates (in the form of glycogen) for energy, and they will burn a lot of calories ’round the clock. It takes quite a few calories to keep muscles supplied with all they need each day. Contrast that with the 2 calories needed each day to support a pound of fat! Fat doesn’t do anything, so it needs very little to sustain itself. Additionally, following a resistance training workout, your metabolism remains elevated for 24-48 hours!
Not that many years ago, many physicians advised their patients to avoid “lifting weights,” because it would only make them bulky and lead to injury. Today, doctors know what the research has shown and virtually all of them recommend resistance training as a vital part of any weight loss program. Read any [good] article today and you’ll see it as well.
Ok – you’re convinced. What exercises? How often? How long? When? I intend to get around to that in my next section. Or … you can contact me now if you live around the Harford County, Maryland area and get a jump on everyone else!
Last time, I told you I would give some examples of exercises you can do to help you lose fat. When your metabolism slows down in an effort to make your food intake keep everything as it is, you need to ramp up the exercise to ramp up your metabolism.
A few things to remember
1.) Think “whole body” when choosing exercises to perform for fat loss. The more muscles you use, the more calories you will burn.
2.) Close second choices are exercises which use your largest muscle groups – like legs and back.
3.) Intensity is important since you will increase the time that your metabolism stays elevated as you increase the intensity.
4.) If you’re not breathing harder following each set, you probably need to pick a different exercise, a different weight, or more repetitions. A good rule of thumb is this – you should be able to talk – (albeit somewhat labored), but not sing!
Ok – how about some examples? Here’s a small sampling:
- walking lunges (holding a medicine ball or weight plate overhead while performing this will increase the intensity),
- burpees (remember, a push-up is performed when doing a burpee – skipping it results in a squat-thrust),
- sumo jumping jacks (keep your back straight and vertical),
- jump squats (not devolving to forward bends as you become tired),
- turkish get-ups (you’ll need instruction to get this right),
- clean and jerks (probably the best all-around fat burner you can do),
- overhead squats (start with a medicine ball to get the form right),
- mountain climbers (I prefer extreme mountain climbers, but they’re not for everybody),
- jump lunges (you can hold onto something solid since balance is an issue for many people),
- bench steps (again, balance can be an issue initially),
- bench jumps (work your way up),
- front squat/upright row (remember, it’s upright row, not reverse curl),
- alternating dumbell snatches (back straight and keep the dumbell close to your body as it travels up explosively),
- rollover push-ups (rotate your body 360 degrees between each push-up).
This is a small and by no means all-inclusive list, but it will give you an idea of some of the exercises that will work large areas of your body. Remember, they should result in a bit of huffing and puffing immediately following each set. You can pick 7 or 8 exercises and do them in succession going through the list a couple times, or pick 4 or 5 exercises and do the entire series 3 times.
You may not be sure of what each exercise is or how to perform it. That’s what I’m here for! If you’re not comfortable trying to get started and/or need some help in making sure each exercise is being performed correctly AND SAFELY, please feel free to contact me. This is what I do and what I love – helping people reach their fitness goals.
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.