I want to lose weight. I know it’s important to weight train, but I wanted to focus on doing cardio to lose some weight before I get into the weights. Do you have any other tips in addition to doing cardio? – Alice C.
Great question, Alice! And it’s a popular one! I talk with a lot of people who, when planning their own weight loss regimen, plan to do cardio until they lose a desired number of pounds and then plan to incorporate weight training into their fitness routine. I often have to remind people how cardio, weight training and diet activities, in unison, will help them reach their weight loss goals quicker and with better results than they had hoped.
In order to lose weight, you need to be at a caloric deficit. Your body needs to be burning more calories than you’re putting into it, so the two quickest ways to reach a caloric deficit are: 1.) calorie restriction (eating fewer calories) and 2.) increased physical activity. Let’s use an example, but before we get started, remember that there are about 3,500 calories in 1 pound of fat.
If you burn 2,000 calories per day at rest, consume 2,000 calories through your diet, and don’t exercise, you will maintain your weight. Now if you eat 500 fewer calories per day while maintaining the same physical activity, you will lose about one pound of fat per week. If you add cardio, burning 500 calories per day, then you’re inclined to lose another pound per week. But let’s not stop there!
Here’s a fun fact: A pound of muscle burns about 6 to 10 calories per day. A pound of fat burns about 2 to 3 calories per day. So, by incorporating weight training into your routine, you’ll reap even greater results! Anaerobic training (weight training) will help burn more calories during and after activity, improve muscle and joint strength, and contour the shape of your body. Additionally, by increasing your muscle mass, you burn more calories at rest. This means while you’re sitting at work with your eyes glued to the computer screen, you’re burning fat!
Weight training also helps prevent fatigue during cardio, allowing you to increase your lung capacity and strengthen your heart. You’ll find that aerobic activity, in combination with anaerobic activity, will increase your fat loss more than just aerobic activity alone.
While you’re paying greater attention to your physical activity, it becomes increasingly more important to pay greater attention to your diet. Weight loss is more of a lifestyle change than it is a destination, so by changing exercise habits you must also change your eating habits. I can remember my 10th grade math teacher’s simple wisdom when my calculator would spit an incorrect answer back to me: “Garbage in, garbage out.” If you don’t put the right things in, you won’t get the results you’re looking for. Same rings true with our diets. A dietitian or personal trainer, like me, can give you more detailed guidance in this area.
Have you heard the saying, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure?” This is true for your caloric intake and expenditures as they relate to your weight loss. Try lifting weights between two and three times a week, logging your workouts and what you eat in easy-to-use phone apps or online platforms like Anytime Health (free in your Apple or Android app store or online at www.anytimehealth.com). A personal trainer can also help you with tracking these metrics, along with other important ones
One last gem of advice: Since sustained weight loss is a result of a lifestyle change, don’t let your emotions get tied up in what the scale says day in and day out. Your body is a complex system and it takes time to see the results that you want.
You’ll see best results by having a steady plan consisting of a calorie-balanced diet, cardio program and weight training routine.
Kevin McGaha, Certified Personal Trainer and co-owner of Anytime Fitness in Winter Park, has extensive training experience with a cross-section of demographics and activity levels, including those wanting to look and feel healthier to sports specific training. He can be reached at 321-972-5833 for personal training. Have a health and fitness question? Email me at askatrai[email protected] and get a free personal training session.