Many people wrongly assume that any and all exercise programs will lead to weight loss. While there are many programs that help you lose weight, it’s not a guarantee that any program you pick will do that.
In many other cases, programs are meant for those who are too skinny and are trying to put on weight, so if you were to follow those programs, you’d have much less in terms of weight loss results.
Can You Lose Weight With Cardio?
A common misconception that you may have fallen victim to is that cardio is all you need to lose weight. By spending time on the treadmill or going out on runs, you can lose weight quickly.
However, that’s not the case at all. If you’ve ever tracked your calories burned while going on a long run, you’d know that it really doesn’t do that much. By running a mile, which is more than many people can do, you’re not burning much more than 100 calories.
This can be undone by a small snack you ate on a whim. A 30 minute walk can burn 50 calories, but a common soda has 200 calories.
Really, cardio doesn’t do that much to help you lose weight, even though it is very healthy for you.
Instead, you need to mix in some high repetition weight training. For some reason, many people avoid weightlifting because they don’t want to look too muscular, but you’d have to be exclusively doing weightlifting for years consistently to even come close to that point.
For most people, weightlifting is going to help you burn more calories and add on small amounts of muscle where you need it, which will help even out the fat you might have in those areas.
For example, if you have a bit of extra fat under your arms, you can train triceps to add on some muscle there, which will tighten it up. You’re not going to get any kind of bodybuilder physique overnight, so don’t worry about gaining too much muscle.
All you’re going to be doing is toning up whichever parts of your body need it so that you can look more in shape. If you’re doing higher reps with lower weight, you’re going to also help your body burn fat because you’ll have an increased heart rate.
There’s a sweet spot that you want to reach with your heart rate, which is above resting but below full on cardio, where you’ll experience the maximum amount of fat burn. Through the combination of burning fat and toning up, your body will see a great deal of progress and you should be quite happy with your results if you give it time.
If you avoid weightlifting, though, you’re not going to see results as quickly. You’ll have to work harder on your diet and add more cardio to try to shed pounds that cover your toned muscles.
Watch “Why Weight Loss Takes Time” Video
Weight Loss Diet Guidelines
One thing that may be included in your exercise program is a diet plan. Proper diet is crucial to both losing and gaining weight depending on your goals – but of course, you need to choose the right thing to do.
Often times these programs can come with some interesting instructions regarding eating habits that you may be better off avoiding, because they may not be helping you reach your goals.
Some programs might have you eating a bunch of food before you go to the gym, especially a meal high on protein, which is meant to help promote muscle growth and help with recovery.
If you’re trying to gain muscle mass and put on weight, this isn’t such a bad tip, but if you’re trying to lose weight, this is definitely something that you should avoid. Eating a ton of food before a workout can be uncomfortable, because then you’re going in and running or lifting weights on a full stomach.
While the protein does help some, it’s honestly a bit better to drink a protein shake or something like that after the workout, so that your body can start to use it immediately instead of just holding onto it for awhile.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you might have routines that instruct you to eat absolutely nothing before working out to maximize efficiency for weight loss. This really isn’t a good idea, either.
While it would probably show you some early results, it has more negative long term effects. If you’re not eating well, spaced out, appropriately portioned meals, then you’re probably going to be tanking your metabolism.
This is important because your metabolism affects how your body processes food, and is directly tied to weight gain or weight loss. Also, you need energy before you’re going to go work out, especially if it’s an hour long workout or more.
Instead of waiting until you’re done with the workout, have a small healthy snack about 30 min to an hour before your workout. This should give your body time to process it and provide you with some energy to help you through the routine.
Obviously, there are some exceptions to these, but those are mostly for people who are trying to do something very specific and specialized with their fitness, as opposed to those who are just trying to simply slim down and lose weight.
For example, bodybuilders need a lot more protein before and after their workouts in order to maximize muscle growth. If you’re just trying to lose weight, however, you really don’t need that.
Calorie Deficit For Weight Loss
Dieting is the most important possible part of weight loss. While you do need exercise in order to lose faster and to tone up, without dieting, it’s all for nothing. If you’re following a good weight loss program, it should include detailed information for calorie and portion control so that you can make sure you’re not overeating.
First, you should figure out your calorie limit for weight loss that you need to follow. There are a few factors involved in this process – mostly height, weight, and age, but essentially it determines how many calories you burn through normal daily activity, and then you can figure out how much you should eat to leave a certain calorie deficit to lose weight.
However, calories are not everything. For example, let’s say that you gave yourself a 1,200 calorie daily limit. You cannot exceed 1200 calories eaten per day, but that has to also be in nutritious food.
About 8 sodas is technically 1200 calories, but you’re still probably going to gain weight drinking nothing but 8 sodas daily – or at the very least, begin suffering health problems from it.
Instead, you should be splitting those 1,200 calories up into several 400 calorie meals, spaced evenly throughout the day and containing healthy foods such as chicken, vegetables, brown rice, eggs, and fruits.
This ensures that your body will have all of the components it needs with enough calories to still lose weight. Calorie control goes hand in hand with portion control. Many people gain weight because it’s not just that the food is unhealthy, but also because their portion sizes are out of control.
A whole plate full of chicken and rice is still going to be unhealthy in terms of portion size, so you need to scale it back to be an appropriate amount. If you’re lucky, the exercise program will include both calorie control instructions as well as some recommended meals that can fit into your caloric needs.
Otherwise, you can do some basic research online and find something that will fit nicely into your diet. Something that can help you when you’re trying to eat lower amounts of calories is eating more filling foods.
You may have noticed or heard that food like candy is very calorie dense, but it doesn’t leave you feeling full, so you just end up eating more and more to feel full. Instead, things like fruits and vegetables as well as meat are very filling, while being much lower in calories.
If you can cook your food well and make it taste good, you should have no problem eating enough vegetables to feel satisfied while being well within your calorie goals for the day.
Don’t try to skip out on dieting and focus solely on exercise. Your average workout doesn’t burn nearly as many calories as you might think, so most of your weight loss is going to come from the choices you make in the kitchen.
Why Weight Loss Is Not Linear
Many people get too caught up in numbers when they’re going through their fitness programs. Obviously, there’s your weight, but there’s also your caloric intake, your macronutrients, your time spent on each workout, the number of sets, the number of reps, and so on.
Not only can this get confusing, but it also doesn’t benefit you that much. A lot of times, fitness results can feel sort of random. You’ll do the same thing for two weeks straight, and lose 3 pounds 1 week and gain 1 pound the next.
From there, you might start focusing too much on that number and start to freak out, wondering what you’re doing wrong, but you may be doing just fine. You have to put a certain amount of trust and blind faith in your workout program, because it can take some serious time to see results.
You really want to map your weight on a long running graph over many months, because on a week-by-week basis, you may easily gain and lose more or less each time.
This is a natural process of working out. Some weeks you might plateau or even gain a little bit of weight, and others you might lose a ton. What’s important is just to look at your average loss over time, because that’s the most important thing.
Getting caught up in the numbers might dissuade you from continuing your workout program. You also can’t stay too tight to a particular schedule, because your body doesn’t operate quite like a machine.
What Causes Weight Loss Plateau
If you do the exact same workout in the exact same order every single week, eventually your progress is going to slow down. You might get worried that you’re starting to plateau, but there’s an easy fix for it.
What actually ends up happening is that your muscles get used to a certain workout routine, so you need to mix things up to avoid getting stale. This is commonly known as muscle confusion, and it helps keep your body from adjusting too much to your program.
In general, you should be starting to change your lifestyle to the point where you don’t need to follow exact calorie counters every day. You’re not going to be able to spend the rest of your life balancing out calorie counts and tracking calories burnt on a certain workout.
By changing your lifestyle altogether and getting used to just eating healthier and working out more often, you can stop stressing and fretting about all the little numbers and statistics and it will all just come naturally.
Once you’ve worked out consistently for a year or so, you should have a pretty good grasp on things, so you’ll be able to formulate your own workouts and eat diet-friendly meals without even having to try.
Think Fat Loss Not Weight Loss
It’s a very common problem for people who are trying to lose weight when they get too obsessed with the scale. You might have found yourself trying to weigh in daily, weekly, or monthly trying desperately to see the number go down.
However, it’s very disheartening to see your weight stay the same or to even go up a little bit. This isn’t always a sign that you’re gaining or retaining fat, though. There’s a big difference between weight loss and fat loss, because you still have to account for muscle mass.
For example, if you lost five pounds of fat one week and put on four pounds of muscle, you’d only see 1 pound lost on the scale. However, in reality, you’re making good progress by evening out your body fat percentage by a good amount.
There are even more extreme cases where you might lose a little bit of fat and gain a few pounds of muscle, which would show you an increase on the scale. This isn’t always the case, because sometimes you might just have a bad week, but it does happen.
If you can manage to get access to one, there are weight loss scales out there that will tell you your body fat percentage as well as your muscle mass and overall weight. These scales are incredibly useful for getting a clear look at where your progress is going, but they are unfortunately hard to come by, and are far too expensive to buy for home use, coming in at a couple thousand dollars.
One common measurement you might have heard about before is BMI, or body mass index. There is a bit of controversy surrounding this measurement, because it’s not that good at identifying the health of some individuals.
It only takes height and weight into account, and while it can give you a pretty good idea of where you stand, there are some exceptions. For example, a bodybuilder at 6’3”, who weighs 240 pounds of pure muscle, may be considered obese because of the height and weight alone.
Obviously, that’s not the case, so you can’t be entirely reliant on BMI, but rather you should focus on body fat percentage. While you’re losing body fat, you should also be losing weight.
But if you’re doing weightlifting, you should know that you may be losing more fat than the scale actually shows, since some of the muscle you put on will be factored into your overall weight.