You’re ready to take on the battle of the bulge. You’ve got your diet plan down, but you’re not sure how much you should be exercising to lose weight. Two days a week? Three? Maybe six or even seven? My advice – keep it simple.
In changing how I do things recently, I’ve really been enjoying increasing the amount of strength and circuits work I’ve been doing to mix it up a bit. I’ve had two weeks off runnind and can’t wait to get back to it, but…how much exercise should you do to lose weight?
How Much Exercise to Lose Weight
When you’re in a calorie restricted environment, you’re much more susceptible to the negative side effects of exercise. Over-training, higher risk of injury, fatigue, lack of motivation, hormone fluctuations – you name it, the odds of these side effects occuring are much higher when you’re in a calorie restricted state.
To help mitigate these risk factors, you want to do the amount of exercise that will give you the biggest bang for your buck – your biggest return on investment.
We shouldn’t use exercise to lose weight. We should use our diet for that. We’re using exercise to create a metabolic environment that is more conducive to mobilising fatty acids. We’re also using it to provide muscular stimulation to help prevent muscle loss, and to possibly gain some muscle.
Sure, exercise burns calories, but it’s only a fraction of what you burn the rest of the day when you aren’t exercising. A typical 1 hour workout might burn a three to five hundred calories, but the remaining 23 hours of the day you burn thousands, and you don’t even have to lift a finger. Muscles burn calories, so the more muscles you have, the more calories you burn.
Less is More
When it comes to dieting and trying to determine how much exercise to lose weight, a “less is more” approach is warranted. Can you lose weight working out 6 days a week alternating strength training with cardio? Absolutely. Is it necessary? Not at all.
Focus your workouts around what’s going to give you the biggest return on your time and effort. Cardio will burn some calories, but it’s not needed to lose weight. Strength training, on the other hand, is mandatory for successful fat loss.
Do strength work 3 days a week to stimulate muscle growth. Alternating upper body and lower body days, or even doing full-body workouts those 3 days will give you all the necessary muscular stimulation that is necessary to maintain or even add muscle. Do cardio if you enjoy it, but try to include sprints or high intensity cardio as opposed to steady state cardio at least once or twice a week.
Here’s my sample of a weekly training plan for me, focusing on strength work and training for a half marathon:
Strength work 3 times a week, 3 runs (long, easy, speed) a week. Although it might be better if I did my legs, back and abs workout on a Monday morning like I did this week. That would give me 3 full rest days. 🙂
Of course there is always room for a nice social run, but if you are training on your own, it might be best to do high intensity cardio to improve your chances of losing weight.
Remember, our diet is what’s going to take off the fat. Our training is there to make things easier, and to ensure our weight loss is majority fat. Training every single day at high intensities puts your central nervous system (CNS) under unnecessary strain.
The small amount of calories you are eating need to be used for keeping your body running optimally – not for fighting against the clock to make sure your muscles are torn down and repaired again in time for another workout 24 hours later.
Keep the Intensity High
If you do decide to take a 3 day a week workout approach to fat loss, you need to make sure you keep your intensity level high. If you don’t even break a sweat, or you don’t feel your heart pounding, your intensity is too low.
You should have to dig down deep, and get mentally psyched up for the set you’re about to accomplish. You shouldn’t be able to carry on a conversation after you finish your last rep. You should be pushing yourself to your limits. You’ll know when you’ve reached maximum intensity. If you don’t know, you haven’t reached it.
With three high-intensity workouts a week, and a great diet that isn’t too low in calories, you will be doing everything you need to transform your body. Take it easy on yourself.
And once you get to a certain weight, you might find that you plateau. I did this at around 135lbs… which was fine (down 12lbs), my ideal weight, but I’ve lost more weight from mixing things up and including lots of circuits, strength work, speedwork and tabatas in my workouts (as well as long steady runs).
Give your body a chance to repair itself. Enjoy your off-days. It will make you that much more motivated when it is time to work out.