As a personal trainer, I get lots of fitness related questions and consults, mostly from beginner fitness enthusiasts or those who are looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle, but haven’t started yet.
But one that is particularly recurring and needs addressing is the “how do I lose weight?” question. Many of those who ask this question are often looking for shortcuts and “miracle” solutions that can help them boycott or minimize the work involved.
Yet, this is often the wrong question to ask because weight loss isn’t so much the issue as it is fat loss. What you weigh right now is a function of your relationship with gravity, your bone mass, muscle mass and water weight. This is why it is possible for a very fit, muscular individual to weigh heavy on the scale.
Moreover, fat is the real enemy. You need to work hard at getting rid of the extra fat from your body or converting that fat into muscle. This is because excessive fat is linked to several chronic health conditions including, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, arteriosclerosis, and stroke among others.
More importantly, a switch from weight loss to fat loss helps you set a more realistic health oriented goal, so that you even if there isn’t much movement on the weighing scale, you can still rely on the comfort that all excess body fat are being converted into muscle.
This mindset is incredibly integral to your success, as it ensures that your focus is on the right track, and helps you adopt healthier, more effective fat loss options.
For example, when the mindset is on just weight loss, people adopt diets that they hardly finish. However, when it’s on fat loss, the understanding is that you just need to get rid of or convert that fat, as against just losing weight. Does this make any sense?!
This is why I tend to recommend a combination of
- Weight training
- Mixed cardio and
- High intensity interval training (HIIT)
as a more effective and longer lasting way to get in shape, lose the fat and become fit. Now, don’t get scared or intimidated by these workouts. This is important because many people tend to become scared at the mere mention of workouts.
So, here’s what I’ll recommend: instead of doing these workouts like the very fit people do, you might want to try modifying it to suit your unique preferences for a start. Once you get a handle on it and feel yourself growing stronger, you can then revert to the regular workout regimens.
Whatever the case, ensure that the combination of these workouts are set up in a manner that makes them enjoyable for you. Most times, people become discouraged when their workouts aren’t convenient, painful or too difficult. You need workouts that you can comfortably and consistently do and enjoy to build, and maintain your momentum. This is essentially why a beginner shouldn’t start with Cross-fit for instance.
So, What’s the Easiest Way to Start the Fat Loss Process?
There’s a reason no one is given a 250lbs weight when they go to the gym the first time. Instead, they are started off on the smaller or least heavy weights. This is because you need to acclimatize to the idea of exercise.
Fat loss and regular exercise should entail the least possible resistance. So, start with as simple as a moderate pace 15 minute walk 3-4 times weekly. Strolls are okay, but if you want to start melting off that fat, this is the best way to begin. Naturally, because this requires so little effort, it will be so easy for you to do.
Don’t overthink this. Don’t worry about the perfect snickers, the most breathable running gear or anything else for that matter. Just out on some shoes, and start walking. To make it even more enjoyable, you might want to do your walking whilst doing some other thing you enjoy.
This way, your mind will link the release of endorphins –feel good hormones- to that activity. For example, you can take the walk whilst enjoying and taking in nature, listening to a great playlist, or an audiobook, window shopping or taking in new sights and sounds.
Once you are able to walk at a moderate pace for 15 minutes without panting or feeling stressed, up the duration of the walk as well as your pace.
I usually recommend faster pace in increments of 5-10 minutes every 4 days to help you understand just how powerful this is, if you started walking today, increased your pace slightly and added 5 minutes to your walk every four days, you would be conveniently walking an hour a day at a moderately fast pace in about 30 days. The same applies to jogging, running, bench pressing or any other workout regimen you choose.
Should You Have Some Rest Days?
Absolutely! Remember how we said we wanted your workouts to be enjoyable and convenient for you? Well, this also includes rest days. These are the days when you get to lie back and enjoy yourself.
This means there’s no duress or stress associated with the exercise. Interestingly, people who have the option of “down” days tend to still workout on that just because they know they have the option of not doing it.
The mind is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? Knowing that you can have an off day actually makes the process more enjoyable that feeling like you’re restricted and have to workout all day.
Off days are also great for muscle recovery and growth. This is important because workouts are designed to help breakdown and rebuild muscles. Consistently working at it without any rest actually impedes the healing process, resulting in injuries and pain.
These rest days provides time for your body to heal and recover, while building stronger muscles in the process. This is why most personal trainers place a lot of emphasis on training right. Overtraining will weaken and harm you, while undertraining will yield little or no results.
So, rest on specified days, and fill your body with high quality nutrition that will help further your healing and recovery. Just remember that in melting the excess fat and building your muscles, more can be counterproductive, and resting can be just as important as the weight lifting, cardio workouts and HIITs.
If you’ve already started working out actively, I’d recommend taking these off days to swim, do some light running, hiking… whatever small/lightweight activity catches your fancy.
How Can You Track and Measure Your Success?
One of the reasons why most of the people can’t seem to sustain their weight loss efforts is because they only depend on the weight scale to show them how much progress they are making.
So, when they try to diet and workout for 2 weeks without getting any significant results, they just throw in the towel, give up and go eat a bowl of ice cream because they are feeling really bad. Don’t be one of these people.
Instead of restricting your progress to the weight scale, have other measurable yardsticks. For instance, take note of your energy levels, and physical activity levels before you start your fat loss workouts and then measure your overall sense of well-being, as well as how much improvements you’re making on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Track and record everything. When you develop this mindset, the fat loss and reduced weight become an added benefit. Because you feel this great, you’ll most likely put in much more effort, resulting in even more fat loss.
Keeping track of your progress keeps you motivated and inspires you to do even better. So, get a journal and start writing/typing. I’d advise recording your progress reports on a weekly basis. Weekly, fortnightly or monthly reports can be a lot more inspiring than noticing that you lost half 0.5kg on your daily weighing scale.
6 Beginner Workout Mistakes You Need to Avoid
Your fitness journey is not just about the workouts and the weights. It’s also about understanding that you can make serious mistakes that will further negate the impact of your workouts and slow down your results. The following are some of the biggest mistakes people make when they start their journey to fitness:
- Poor Form – This is one of the most common mistakes people make, including seasoned fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders. Always pay attention to your form when doing any of your workouts as poor form can actually impede your progress.
- Excessive Running to Lose Weight – Running is great as a low intensity cardio workout. And you should do it too. But just not too much. This is because running excessively can actually cause muscle loss, essentially “eating away” at the muscle growth you’ve achieved over time. This is why professional trainers recommend non-intensive running or a no running approach.
- Not Reaching Optimal Cardio Levels – To get the best results from your cardio workouts, you need to keep at it for 25-45 minutes. This is the window within which your body burns the most fat. Anything less, and you won’t burn the fat at optimal levels.
- Overtraining – This results in muscle fatigue, injuries and even weight gain. This is possible because your muscles use up energy, leaving little or no time for healing, they undergo excessive straining, and tend to increase your appetite. The last one will make you feel hungrier than you really are, resulting in increased food consumption, which in turn, adds to your weight.
- Not Getting Enough Sleep – Your body needs sleep to help your muscles recover and grow. Not getting adequate sleep means your muscles don’t recover quickly while you suffer increased stress levels.
- Relying on Scales – We already talked about this before, but it’s important enough that it bears repeating here. Muscles typically weigh more than fat. So, when you look to the scales to indicate how much progress you’re making, odds are that you will be disappointed. Better to rely on how your body feels, body fat measurement using calipers and clothes fitting to determine your progress.
What Role Does Nutrition Play in Fat Loss and Fitness
Working out is only one part of the equation. You also need the right kinds of nutrients to help with your muscle recovery, reduce soreness, keep your cells adequately recharged, and keep you healthy.
This is why you can’t just go back to eating white flour foods once you start working out. Apart from the fact that they help you pack on the pounds, they generally do nothing for you at the cellular level.
You need foods rich in nutrients that perform at the cellular levels. It is possible to lose as much as 150 lbs by simply eating right. So, while you’re focusing on your muscles, you also need to pay attention to what you put inside your body to fuel those muscles and trigger/aid fat loss.
When you eat healthy, not only do you lose cravings for junk foods and drinks, your body feels a lot better, your energy levels increase, your mind becomes clearer as the brain fog lifts and your general sense of well-being improves.
As a rule, eat more proteins, fruits, veggies, nuts, and healthy fats. For drinks, water, smoothies, and juicing can do amazing things for muscle recovery, and optimum health.
In conclusion, create some time for yourself to workout during this period. It is easier to blame your lack of time on a very busy schedule, the kids, work, extracurricular activities and so many other equally important things.
You just need to determine that melting off that fat, and getting in the best shape of your life is just as important as some of those things. Here’s what I often tell my clients when they tell me they don’t have time:
Imagine that you have been diagnosed with early onset diabetes or some other chronic condition, and the doctor recommends daily 30 minute medium to high intensity cardio, healthy eating and relaxation as the only way to stave off and even reverse the condition within the next 6 months.
Would you adhere to the doctor’s prescriptions? I have never failed to get a “yes” as the answer. I’m guessing that’s the same with you. So, go make out time and commit to this new lifestyle.