This is 3rd instalment of my TIME magazine article rebuttal series.
Truth be told, if you are currently active, exercise is ALREADY WORKING FOR YOU. You are improving your health in a way that no other intervention can match. If you exercise regularly, this should be the number one reason why you exercise. If you aren't, this should be the number one reason why you start.
From a fat loss perspective, I'm going to share with you how to use exercise to enhance your results.
Before I begin, here are a few disclaimers:
- Programming should be individualized. Apply these principles, but be sure that you are tailoring things to your own individual needs.
- Experience is huge here - if you are relatively new to exercise, take it slow at first and build up. If you are new to weights - learn how to properly execute basic lifts.
Without further ado, here is a basic guide to properly using exercise as a fat loss tool.
Hierarchy of Importance
- Strength training
- Higher intensity cardio training
- Lower intensity cardio training
- NEAT and other day-to-day movement
Make no bones about it, nutrition takes center stage here. I covered this as it relates to post-exercise hunger and binging in part 2.
Lifting is going to help you save and put on muscle tissue, which will keep you efficient at expending calories. The session itself does not burn many calories. However, there can be a somewhat significant post-workout expenditure as the body works to regain normal homeostasis. More importantly, strength training just plain makes you look better naked.
- Perform a minimum of 2x per week, preferably 3 (full body).
- Use compound or multi-joint movements such as squats, deadlifts, rows, presses, cable chops for at least 80% of your workout.
- Use primarily dumbbells/barbells/kettlebells, cables and body weight exercises for best results.
Higher Intensity Cardio
Get more bang for your workout buck with HIIT (high intensity interval training). This is something to build up to, as taking yourself to this level too soon can result in bad things.
- Use 2:1 or 1:1 intervals (2 minute recovery, 1 minute intensity, or 1 minute recovery, 1 minute intensity). The intense phase should be very taxing. Repeat intervals 5-15 times.
- Perform this workout on a variety of modes (running/biking/elliptical/rower).
- If you are new or deconditioned, begin with less-intense work intervals and/or give yourself longer rest periods.
Lower Intensity Cardio You can go with either a MISST (medium intensity steady state training), or MIIT (medium intensity interval training). Essentially, you are looking to go at a 70-80% max heart rate for 20-30 minutes. For intervals, consider a 2:1, or a 2:2 work/recovery ratio - making work intervals less intense than the HIIT session.
Day-to-Day Activity and NEAT
Take advantage of opportunities to walk whenever possible. If you are at a desk all day, get up and move or see if you can convince your employer to have a treadmill desk (a tall order but worth a shot). Walk to the grocery stores, take the stairs, and walk while talking on the phone.
NEAT (Non-Exercise-Activity-Thermogenesis), is the energy expended in everything we do that doesn't involve eating, sleeping and sport-related activity. About 30% of a person's daily expenditure comes from NEAT - burning more calories than exercise in most non-athletes. Again, train yourself to move around if you are prone to sitting still.
Special Considerations for Dieters
If you are dieting down (i.e. in a substantial caloric deficit), you need to take your exercise down. Many gurus and programs advocate big dietary restrictions combined with very taxing, high volume strength programs combined with HIIT - stupid, stupid, stupid! This is a recipe for overtraining and injury.
If you are dieting down, eliminate HIIT sessions altogether in favour of lower intensity work. Continue strength training, but greatly reduce the volume (sets/reps). But, do keep the weight on the bar the same.
Incorporating a well-planned, well-rounded exercise program into your fat loss plan will enhance your progress, and in the process make you stronger, more equipped to handle calories, and yes, help you will look better naked!