You’re ready to take on the battle of the bulge. You’ve got your diet plan down, but you’re not sure how much you should be exercising to lose weight. Two days a week? Three? Maybe six or even seven? My advice – keep it simple.
How Much Should You Exercise?
When you’re in a calorie restricted environment, you’re much more susceptible to the negative side effects of exercise. Over-training, higher risk of injury, fatigue, lack of motivation, hormone fluctuations – you name it, the odds of these side effects occurring are much higher when you’re in a calorie restricted state.
To help mitigate these risk factors, you want to do the amount of exercise that will give you the biggest bang for your buck – your biggest return on investment. We aren’t using exercise to lose weight. We’re using our diet for that. We’re using exercise to create a metabolic environment that is more conducive to mobilizing fatty acids. We’re also using it to provide muscular stimulation to help prevent muscle loss, and to possibly gain some muscle.
Sure, exercise burns calories, but it’s only a fraction of what you burn the rest of the day when you aren’t exercising. A typical 1 hour workout might burn a few hundred calories, but the remaining 23 hours of the day you burn thousands, and you don’t even have to lift a finger.
Less is More
When it comes to dieting and trying to determine how much exercise you need, a “less is more” approach is warranted. Can you lose weight working out 6 days a week alternating strength training with cardio? Absolutely. Is it necessary? Not at all. Your goal is to maintain the muscle mass you have, as it is very difficult to add muscle in a calorie restricted environment unless you are a beginner.
Focus your workouts around what’s going to give you the biggest return on your time and effort. Cardio will burn some calories, but it’s not needed to lose weight. Strength training, on the other hand, is mandatory for successful fat loss.
Resistance exercise 3 days a week is plenty to stimulate muscle growth. Alternating upper body and lower body days, or even doing full-body workouts those 3 days will give you all the necessary muscular stimulation that is necessary to maintain or even add muscle.
Remember, our diet is what’s going to take off the fat. Our training is there to make things easier, and to ensure our weight loss is majority fat. Training every single day at high intensities puts your central nervous system (CNS) under unnecessary strain. The small amount of calories you are eating need to be used for keeping your body running optimally – not for fighting against the clock to make sure your muscles are torn down and repaired again in time for another workout 24 hours later.
Keep the Intensity High
If you do decide to take a 3 day a week workout approach to fat loss, you need to make sure you keep your intensity level high. If you don’t even break a sweat, or you don’t feel your heart pounding, your intensity is too low. You should have to dig down deep, and get mentally psyched up for the set you’re about to accomplish. You shouldn’t be able to carry on a conversation after you finish your last rep. You should be pushing yourself to your limits. You’ll know when you’ve reached maximum intensity. If you don’t know, you haven’t reached it.
With three high-intensity workouts a week, a great diet that isn’t too low in calories, and an active lifestyle, you will be doing everything you need to transform your body. Take it easy on yourself. Give your body a chance to repair itself. Enjoy your off-days. It will make you that much more motivated when it is time to work out.