As the New Year approaches, it’s a sure bet that most of the people you know will be scrambling to figure out just exactly how they are going to lose that stubborn body fat that just doesn’t want to go away. By January, the phone lines at the gyms will be ringing off the hook, “fat-burning” supplements will be flying off the shelves, and the trails will be filled with new joggers, walkers, and cyclists desperately trying to shed some pounds before spring.
However, what most people fail to realize is that successful body fat reduction really has to be a 3-tiered strategy to work, and failure in any one area can lead to a lack of progress towards your goals.
First and foremost is nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. Of the 3-tiers of your successful fat loss strategy, nutrition is by far the most important. For 99% of you reading this article, trying to simply “exercise the fat away” is not going to work. You simply cannot outwork a bad diet if you are overweight. People like to throw around slogans like “everything in moderation” but the truth is that does not generally work for weight loss. It can work for weight maintenance once you have achieved your target weight and body fat goals – but body fat reduction and weight loss tend to require a more drastic approach. Weight loss diets that work are not particularly fun. You can’t always eat until you are full, certain foods will be strictly banned, and you will have to learn to eat things you may not always enjoy. Sorry. Maybe if it was easy, then more people would have more success with weight loss. But, most don’t find much success, and it’s precisely because successful weight loss requires loads of self-discipline and consistency over long periods of time. Most people just don’t have it in them to do anything difficult over a long period of time.
Nutrition is not always easy, but it is simple. Follow a few very simple rules and you can have almost immediate success, especially if you are currently in violation of most of these rules. First, remove all liquid calories from your diet. This most emphatically includes alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine, and especially your Friday Night Margaritas. Yes, I know…..you had a stressful work week and you earned those margaritas, right? Fine by me, but liquor + sugar is maybe the best combination in the world to pack on the extra pounds. Next up is soda. One or two diet sodas a day is fine. But the regular sodas have got to go. Next on the chopping block is the not so obvious culprits which include sports drinks like Gatorade, juice, and milk. This includes “all natural” fruit juices which are still loaded with sugar and skim milk which is loaded with Lactose – another form of sugar. Your morning orange juice has lots of vitamin C, but so does an orange – without the whopping sugar content that is contained in a glass of O.J. That pretty much leaves you with water, zero calorie flavored water, diet sodas, unsweetened tea, and plain black coffee for your beverages. I forgot to mention that your daily Starbucks calorie bomb is gone too. Coffee is fine, but leave out the sugar, milk, high-fat creamers, caramel, and whipped cream.
Next, reduce your intake of starchy carbohydrates to almost zero. Keep your intake of carbohydrates limited to fibrous vegetables and a little bit of fruit. Green Beans, Spinach, Asparagus, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, Onions, and Peppers are all great choices. For fruit, stick to mostly Berries, Apples, and Oranges. Leave out the high sugar fruits like Bananas and the starchy carbs like potatoes, rice, pasta, and breads.
Center your meals around high protein foods like eggs, chicken, lean beef, and fish. A handful Almonds and Cashews make good in between meal snacks (not the whole jar).
Once your nutrition is in place then, we get to strength training. Muscle Mass is really the one big thing you can do to permanently increase your metabolic rate, which means more calories burned up all day long. Muscle tissue is thermogenic – meaning it consumes calories just to sustain itself. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism will run and the more you can afford to eat and not gain body fat. If you aren’t currently strength training, I suggest you start two times per week, working the full body at each session and focusing on a handful of basic exercises that work lots of muscle at once. Focus on the lower body with exercises such as Squats since that is where the most muscle mass is located. You can and should still train the upper body, but there just isn’t as much muscle mass up top as there is down below. The metabolism boosting effects of strength training mainly come from training the legs. Beginners should be training the Squat twice per week.
Along with proper nutrition and a basic strength training routine, we get to “cardio.” Cardio is basically broken down into two types – short duration / high intensity cardio and longer duration / lower intensity cardio. Both are good for fat loss. High Intensity Cardio is hard to do more than 2-3 days per week. Lower intensity cardio can be done daily, or whichever days you aren’t doing the high intensity work. High Intensity Cardio is often referred to as Interval Training since it basically involves working at maximal output for about 1-2 minutes (sometimes longer or shorter) followed by a short rest period. Then you will repeat those intervals for maybe 20 minutes or so. You can do High Intensity intervals on a stationary bike, rowing machine, treadmill, elliptical trainer or just about any other piece of equipment. Lower intensity cardio is generally about 30-60 minutes in length and is often referred to as “steady state” cardio. You simply work at a steady moderate output for a longer period of time.
Interval training burns up a bit more calories and has the multiplying effect of increasing your metabolism for several hours or even days after the session is over.
At my gym, Kingwood Strength & Conditioning, we often do “Interval Weight Training” which is a blend of both high intensity interval training and strength training all in the same workout. These workouts have a massive calorie burning effect and fire up the metabolism for days at a time once the session is over. Interval Weight Training workouts involve alternating bouts of high intensity cardio exercises such as Stationary Cycling, Inclined Treadmill, or Rowing Machines alternated with strength exercises such as Squats, Deadlifts, and Presses. Combining the two really revs up the metabolic engines and is also extremely efficient. You get your strength training and interval training work all done in about an hour. We do this twice per week and then I leave it to my clients to fill in the gaps in between workouts with lower intensity cardio done on their own.
Done correctly this is a safe, effective, and efficient way for clients of all ages to train. Most of my clients are 45-75 years of age and Interval Weight Training is an excellent way for this population to increase their physical fitness.
Starting Monday January 8th, 2017, we will be opening up new small group Interval Weight Training / Metabolic Conditioning classes for Kingwood residents. Classes are limited to just 6 clients each, and we will only be taking in 18 new members. If you are interested in participating in our Metabolic Conditioning classes, please email me at KingwoodStrength@gmail.com