We’re just a few days away from January 1 — the time of the year when everyone makes their resolutions and sets their goals for 2016.
According to research, “losing weight” is the number one resolution Americans make annually, with 38 percent of us hoping to whittle down that number on the scale. With over two thirds of adults in the U.S. classified as either overweight or obese, weight loss is an important goal to chase after, and to be successful at!
Fat Loss vs. Weight Loss
There are hundreds of weight loss tips out there, ranging from diets to pills, exercise programs to meal replacement services, and all have varying levels of effectiveness. As someone who has lost over 40 pounds myself, I can definitely say that in the case of losing weight the right way, just separating the bad info from the good and taking the first step, is the hardest.
For anyone who has a goal to lose weight, it’s extremely important to find a plan that works for you. The plan should combine both nutrition and exercise, and be something that you can stick to for the long haul. Remember, you didn’t gain the amount of weight you’re trying to lose overnight, so it will take time to come off as well.
Another important consideration when losing weight is losing the right kind of weight. Often times, people who have lost significant amounts of weight still aren’t happy with their aesthetic, as through the weight loss process we all lose a combination of fat and muscle.
While seeing the number on the scale go down is amazing, it’s important to do everything we can to encourage FAT loss and not MUSCLE loss. Muscle is not only responsible for helping us effectively and efficiently move our bodies, but it contributes to our bone density, our metabolic rate (i.e. how many calories we burn at rest) and our overall aesthetic.
When designing your ultimate weight loss success program, follow these tips to help ensure that not only are you losing weight, but that you’re encouraging fat loss while still preserving your valuable muscle during the process.
The number one, most important tip for both men and women going for fat loss is to lift weights. Lift heavy, lift often and lift for every part of your body.
I know it might seem counter productive – lifting weights builds muscle, and building muscle should lead to weight GAIN, not weight LOSS, right?
Wrong. In a study conducted by Penn State researchers, participants were divided into three groups: no exercise, cardio only and cardio and weight training. Each of the groups lost around 21 pounds, but the group who was weight training lost 6 more pounds from fat than their counterparts. How? The weight lifting group saw a loss almost entirely from fat, while the other two groups saw a combined loss from fat and muscle.
And here’s the really interesting part – every pound of muscle tissue burns 7-10 calories at rest per day, where as every pound of fat only burns 2-3. This means that those who were lifting weights in the study above preserved their metabolism to the tune of 60 or more calories a day, while those who lost the combination of fat and muscle (at an approximately 75/25 ratio) could have damaged their metabolism by as many as 50 calories a day. This is one of many reasons why dieters see weight loss plateaus throughout their journey, and why trainers always recommend adding in weight training to get over the hump.
Don’t wait for the hump. Weight train from day one.
Don’t Go Overboard on Cardio
Even though strength training is hugely important when it comes to losing weight, cardio needs to be in the mix as well. Cardiovascular exercise has a ton of benefits, including stress relief, lowered blood pressure, better VO2 max and more, but it’s also great for torching calories and trimming off pounds.
The key is don’t overdo it. Doing too much cardio can cause an excess production of the hormone cortisol. Known as the stress hormone, in low amounts cortisol can be really beneficial to our bodies, most notably regulating our blood sugar. In excess amounts however, we can see negative effects, including a stalled weight loss effort.
Experts recommend limiting cardio sessions to 4-5 per week at no more than an hour per session (in studies, after an hour is when cortisol levels began to rise). If you’re new to exercise, stick with 20-30 minute sessions combined with strength training to see great benefits and boost your metabolism.
To get the most out of your cardio, it makes sense to do a version that is scientifically proven to not only melt fat, but preserve muscle in the process.
In a study conducted by the University of Western Ontario, researchers had a group of 10 men and 10 women train 3 times per week with a goal of assessing the efficacy of high intensity interval training for fat loss. One group of participants did 4 to 6 30-second treadmill sprints at their maximum capacity with 4 to 6 minute rest periods in between. The second group did 30 to 60 minutes of steady state cardio at 65% of their VO2 max.
The findings of the study were borderline shocking.
After 6 weeks, the participants doing the intervals lost more fat than those doing the steady state cardio. Just to be clear, that means the participants doing 4 to 6 30-second sprints with recovery efforts (so a workout of 18-30 minutes with 4-6 hard efforts tops) burned more fat than those doing 60 minutes of cardio.
HIIT isn’t an easy option, but it is amazingly effective. Check out this article over on Muscle for Life with some other amazing studies, and for all of the details on how to correctly and effectively add HIIT into your weight loss program.
Make Sure to Eat Enough
It’s common knowledge that the formula for weight loss success is to make sure the calories that you take in (i.e. eat) are lower than the calories out (i.e. what you burn through your BMR and exercise). That said, it’s important that calories don’t drop too low during the process for a number of reasons – most importantly because your body will begin to cannibalize your muscle mass for fuel, decreasing your metabolism and stalling your efforts.
Research suggests it’s not just about eating the right amount of calories, but also the right combination of calories that will help us lose weight and preserve our muscle. Protein is an important contributor to this equation, so be sure to include it in your daily diet. Studies suggest that around 30 percent of your total calories should come from protein to see the best muscle-preservation benefits.
Losing weight is a bit of science combined with the art of determining what is exactly right for your body. With planning and commitment, anyone can be successful at achieving their weight loss goal. By following these tips, you can ensure that not only will you see the pounds melting off, but you’ll be preserving your muscle as you do!
Do you have any great weight loss tips you want to share? Be sure to let us know in the comments!