If you are training for weight loss, are you applying these simple rules?
- Get the Nutrition Right
- Lift Weights
- Incorporate High Intensity Interval Training
- Rest, Sleep and Recover
- Limit alcohol intake
- Keep Stress Levels to a Minimum
- Be Consistent and Disciplined
- Do Not Give Up
Here are the rules a little more in depth. The following information is a little generic, nutrition and activity levels will differ depending on the individual. I will be writing more in death about each of these points over the next few weeks.
1: Get The Nutrition Right –
Keep it simple!!! Are you eating the foods that our bodies are designed to eat. Meat, Fish, Eggs, Vegetables, Nuts, Seeds and Fruit.
If your nutritional intake is consisting of a good balance of all of the above then you are on the right track. Obviously individually the intake amounts will change depending on activity levels.
Daily nutrition should not be made up of refined starches, high amounts of sugars, processed foods and trans fats. Most of which are all found in everyday convenience foods.
Eat little and often to fuel your metabolism. Prepare your food in advance from fresh, natural produce.
Supplement with a good multivitamin, fish oils and a good protein supplement where necessary.
2: Lift Weights –
To really enforce weight loss, you will need to speed up the bodies resting metabolic rate on almost a daily basis, on some occasions twice a day. Resting metabolic rate is essentially the body using energy, burning calories, at rest. You burn calories to allow the body to sustain everyday functions, such as digestion, but you will burn even more to aid the growth and repair of muscle tissue. High intense training and overload will cause muscles to break down and energy levels to become depleted, both will enforce a heightened resting metabolic rate to repair the muscle and replenish energy stores.
If you follow a weight training programme, ensure it is intense and causes “overload” to the body. Try not to just train by using basic sets (3 x 12), incorporate supersets, tri-sets, giant sets and conditioning circuits into your weekly training. Target different muscle groups in each session to achieve overload and avoid overtraining or imbalances.
Perform a higher amount of big functional compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, clean & press) over isolated exercises (bicep curls, leg extensions). These compound exercises require more energy and use more muscles and therefore lead to an increase in your resting metabolic rate as your body adapts through growth and repair.
It does not matter if you are male or female, young or old, all individuals should embed a weight training routine into their weekly programme.
The benefits of weight training is massive. When done correctly it will strengthen our bodies, our joints, our core, give us better tone/definition/build and it will incur a high amount of growth and repair. The greater amount of muscle the body has to maintain, the more leaner you will become, it forces our bodies to become a fat burning furnace due to the constant requirements of growth, repair and maintenance.
One more note on this subject, from experience, I find that some individuals may want to avoid weight training as they do not want to get “big”. This will not happen unless you specifically train for muscle growth. Muscle hypertrophy is a different type of training altogether.
3: Incorporate High Intense Interval Training –
Around weight training, at least a couple times a week, incorporate some HIIT – High Intense Interval Training. I like to incorporate HIIT on separate sessions to weight training. For example, weight training in the morning and on some days a separate session of HIIT later in the day. The benefits of this is you spike your metabolism twice in one day, forcing more fat burning.
HIIT is another highly effective way of raising your metabolic rate. These sessions do not last as long as a steady state cardiovascular session. HIIT sessions can be anywhere from 4 minutes (tabata) to 20-30 mins, whereas a long Aerobic zone run is 30 minutes to 90 minutes plus.
You may not burn as many calories during the session itself, but the elevated metabolic rate and increased fitness levels due to overload is what you are after. You will potentially be burning more calories at rest.
I am definitely not adverse to a long steady state run, or even a tempo run (5km as fast as possible for example). A general week of training that I would advise someone who wants to loose weight but already holds a high level of fitness would be:
3-5 x Weight Sessions – High Intense, targeted muscle groups, including 1 or 2 conditioning circuits.
2-3 x Interval Sessions
1 x Long distance session or tempo session
So as you can see thats a big jump to go from 3 sessions a week to 6-9 sessions, but this is just an example. Individually you will have to plan accordingly, taking into account work, lifestyle and any other potential barriers. If you are coming from a history of very limited activity, training will need to be periodised, build up slowly to start with before attempting this high level of training.
4: Rest, Recover, Sleep –
It is important to allow your body to rest, allowing the muscles to recover (growth and repair), energy stores to be replenished and hormonal balance to be restored. Regulating hormones allows the body to deal with the stress and demands of hard training and allows it to come back to a state of homeostasis (balance within the body).
When you sleep your body is able to release growth hormone to allow the body to recover, this will raise your metabolic rate!! It also allows other hormones to regulate to the correct levels, including Leptin and Ghrelin which regulate your appetite. Sleep allows your body to lower the levels of Cortisol. Increased levels of Cortisol can lead to fat storage, and it can slow down your metabolism.
Aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night.
Even though you may be training daily, you can incorporate rest for certain muscle groups and energy systems by targeting different body parts and training types from one session to the next. Plan into your training at least one active rest day a week, active rest being a day away from high intense, demanding exercise and incorporate a long walk for example.
5: Limit Alcohol Intake –
Alcohol can be a massive contributor when not achieving weight loss goals. Not only can it add a stack of empty calories on top of your food intake (a glass of wine can be as much as 220 calories). They are considered ’empty’ calories as they provide no nutritional benefit, i.e. not stacked with vitamins and minerals.
Remember excess calories get stored as fat, a good bottle of wine can lead to the best part of a thousand calories.
It goes a little further than that though. Alcohol in the system will also impact how food is metabolised, this too can lead to excess fat storage.
6: Keep Stress Levels to a Minimum –
Easier said than done, but any form of stress can cause heightened levels of Cortisol that will in turn cause your body to store bodyfat.
Stress is a very detrimental element that we need to avoid, this can be stress due to work, relationships, traffic and the environment, eating the incorrect foods, training for too long a duration in the same repetitive way, lack of sleep and more.
Stress raises the bodies level of Cortisol. This in turn slows down our metabolism and will increase fat storage.
It can be a vicious cycle sometimes. If you are training for weight loss but do not follow the right principles it can in turn lead to heightened cortisol levels. If you are training for too long, doing the same repetitive exercise this can lead to fat storage. If you are eating the wrong foods, high glycemic refined carbohydrates such as white pasta, your insulin levels will spike, which, in turn causes the release of cortisol that will ultimately help package these calories into fat stores. Then there is the emotional stress that trying to loose weight causes, especially when you are trying hard but the weight loss does not seem to be happening.
There may be barriers to overcome but try to lead more of a stress free lifestyle.
7: Be Consistent and Disciplined
This rule is vital. Of course all of the above rules have to be applied. But to really achieve your weight loss target, it has to be a day to day, week to week, month to month, constant lifestyle change.
It is no good following two weeks of really disciplined eating and hard training with a week of eating the wrong foods, too much alcohol topped off with a lack of training. If you do this your weight loss will never be constant and the positive effects will be reversed.
You have to be consistent, just like any athlete would be, to see the goal achieved. Weight loss is not a fast process. A pound or two per week in bodyfat loss is massive. If you are losing 5 pounds a week for the first few weeks this will just be fluid as well as bodyfat, do not be disappointed if you are only seeing a small drop every week or two. A small loss every week is a good thing.
Prepare your food in advance, do not give yourself a reason to not train and keep your goal firmly in your mind.
Habit forming is also key to this rule. Make training, eating the right foods and preparation become a habit.
8: Do Not Give Up
As I pointed out in rule 7, weight loss does not happen quickly. There is no amazing formula to a quick fix.
Do not measure every week. Take your baseline measurements at the start, generally using body circumference measurements, skin fold callipers, weight scales and maybe a photo. Then measure every four weeks or so. This will motivate you to stick to the programme and will also show a better overall loss.
Use support from others, friends, family, trainers and coaches. Take the hard times on the chin, stay focussed and DO NOT GIVE UP!