I took up a poll on Instagram story asking my followers to help me pick my next blog topic. They had to choose between “workouts for weight loss” and “hormone balance.” It was close! I’ve decided to do both posts, one this week and the other next week. You can help choose future topics by following me @charityelliottnutrition
When I started this blog I avoided talking about weight loss. I didn’t want to talk about something that would take away from my overall goal. My goal is, and always will be, to help people pursue optimal health. Sometimes this involves weight loss, sometimes it doesn’t. What I have learned is that people are more willing to try something new if it may result in weight loss. As much as I wish everyone would do the right things for their body because they want to take care of themselves, the truth is that how we feel about our physical appearance has a huge affect on how we feel overall. My goal is to not only pursue optimal health, but to help you achieve weight loss in a healthy manner. Anyways, enough about my internal struggles!
I wish it was as simple as me giving you a magic formula, that you could follow, that resulted in weight loss. It’s not, but what I am going to try to do today is share some of the benefits of different styles of training and talk about who they might best for.
Aerobic Training/Endurance Training
For years, if you wanted to lose weight, it was recommended you participate in aerobic training. This is often referred to as “cardio.” Aerobic means “with oxygen” which means your body requires oxygen throughout the entire workout. To remain in an aerobic state you exercise below 85% of your max heart rate. This type of exercise is considered steady state because it is lower intensity and can be done for long periods of time without stopping. An example would be going for a 10Km run or row. The reason it was recommended is that research showed that fat burning was optimized after 20 minutes of steady state exercise. This meant the body had run out of glycogen stores and now had to switch to burning fat as energy. This isn’t wrong, some people do switch to burning fat around the 20-minute mark but this varies greatly person to person. Many studies have been done on obese individuals comparing HIIT (high intensity interval training) and endurance training. Often those doing endurance training lose more weight. At face value this would make aerobic training look like the better option for weight loss. What about non-obese individuals. What about those of us who are healthy and fit but want to lose a few pounds? Our bodies are efficient and 80% of our heart rate is much higher than a less fit individual. I can run at a decent pace for a very long time, but I don’t find that my body makes significant adaptations when I do the same run over and over again. I was a cross country-runner for years. This leads us to high intensity interval training.
HIIT (high intensity interval training)
HIIT is the new way to workout. Everybody’s talking about it. You could call it a fad in that it has caught on quickly but looking forward it will probably stick around. HIIT is short periods of very intense exercise followed by short periods of lower intensity exercise or rest. An example would be doing :30 sprints on the treadmill with :30 of walking after every sprint. You could also achieve this type of training with CrossFit and plyometrics. This type of training keeps your heart rate at above 80% throughout the workout. You have a slight drop during rest, more so if you are in shape, but then is spiked back up during the high intensity portion. While your primary energy source is glycogen for this type of training, the higher heart rate means that your body has more repair to do after the workout. It will require more energy to recover and rebuild any torn muscle, for that period of time your metabolism is operating at an increased rate to meet the bodies demands. Depending on what mode of training you are using you may also build muscle during these sessions, which increases the bodies energy needs. If your weight loss has stalled, HIIT might be what you need to help get it moving. I recommend having a trainer/coach when trying this type of training as higher intensity brings a higher risk.
What we must keep in mind, is our bodies are SMART! If we do the same workout every day for a year, our bodies will become efficient at using as little energy as possible during the workout. If you run 5km today, and you haven’t been training, it is going to take a lot of effort. Your body is going to wonder what the heck you are doing! It will be forced to make adaptations, one of those adaptations may result in weight loss. 3 months from now, if you have been running 5km every day, your body is going to be familiar with running 5km and it will only give you what you absolutely need to complete it. Strength training is a great way to mix it up! Not only will your body be forced to rebuild muscle and make adaptations, you will be stronger and more resilient because of it. For a country that has access to everything we need, we have a lot of structural problems. We have back injuries, carpal tunnel, osteoporosis, arthritis and the list goes on and on. One of the best way to prevent these types of injuries/diseases is to lift weights. Breaking down muscle, means the body has to repair them. This requires additional energy. Muscle mass also requires a certain amount of extra fuel just to exist. People that carry above average muscle mass, often have above average metabolisms.
There are SO MANY factors to consider when trying to lose weight. Exercise is just one piece of a much bigger puzzle. Here are some blanket recommendations I would make for the general population:
Wants to lose 50lbs or more/is currently inactive: Start with a low impact steady state exercise. Carrying extra weight means that workouts involving running or jumping are going to be harder on your joints. If you are currently inactive, an exercise like walking, rowing, biking or swimming would be a great place to start and will improve your heart and lung health before you increase intensity. You could also add in scaled body weight movements such as the squat and push-up. I would also recommend you add in some strength training! Building the muscles around your back and joints will help prevent future injuries.
Wants to lose 20- 50lbs/is somewhat active: I would recommend a mix of low impact HIIT and strength training. Using a rower, bike or pool would ensure that you are not putting too much load on your joints while still allowing you to do intervals.
Wants to lose less than 20lbs/Active: Assuming you are already an active person, HIIT and strength training would be a good mix. 4-5 days a week in the gym with 60-70% of your time spent strength training and 30-40% spent doing intervals would be efficient and would encourage long term weight loss.
As I said above, these are blanket statements, Meaning, I don’t know you personally so I can’t make personal recommendations. We are uniquely and wonderfully made! Sleep, stress and nutrition are the other three big pieces to most people’s weight loss puzzle. Exercise alone may not be enough to help you reach your goals. Start by looking at all 4 pieces and asking yourself which one needs the most work, start there!
Eat Your Veggies!