What are the basics of weight loss?
Our body weight is affected by the energy that enters our body through food and drink and the energy that our body uses or expands through physical activity and exercise.
Consider an old pair of kitchen weighing scales, if energy on one side of the scales equals and is the same as energy out on the other side of the scales, the scales do not move and we maintain our weight (centre below). If however the energy we consume is less than the energy we expend, it tips the scales and our body into weight loss (right below), and the opposite is also true in that if we consume more energy than we are expanding then we will put on weight (left below).
How do we go about losing weight?
To achieve weight loss we need to either reduce our energy consumption - by eating and drinking less and making healthier food choices, or increase the energy that we expend or burn through exercise and incidental activity. However a combination of both improved nutrition and exercise is the best, and has shown to be the most effective way to maintain weight loss long term.
Don’t be fooled, you can't out train a bad diet, meaning that if you are eating high energy foods, it may be difficult to undertake enough exercise to counteract the amount of energy you are consuming. And don’t forget that drinks count too! These include fruit juices, soft drinks and alcohol - they all contain energy which can be detrimental to any weight loss efforts.
If we improve our diet, how much exercise should we undertake to help our weight loss efforts?
All Australians should be undertaking a minimum of 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise + 60 minutes of resistance training each week for great health and well-being. However, if your goal is weight loss, this amount needs to increase to around 250 minutes or more each week of moderate intensity exercise.
Weight loss and fat mass reduction occurs with aerobic training to a more significant degree than with resistance training and adding resistance training to a program does not enhance the change in total body mass compared to aerobic training alone. However, resistance training has a number of benefits to our health and therefore should not be totally left out, but is not the focus when your goal is weight loss.
What are the best exercise modalities to burn energy?
Food is energy and fuel for our body. Similar to a car, if we put our pedal to the metal and go faster and longer, the more fuel we use, and when looking at it simply, our body’s are similar.
However, the amount of energy or calories burned is dependent on a number of individual factors including your gender, body mass, resting metabolic rate, age, body composition, among other factors. However, to give you an idea of how different exercises rate, for an average male ..
The above exercises are not suitable for everyone, especially those who may be carrying a lot of excess weight, or may have injuries. The best place to start is to simply move more than you are now. Find an exercise that you can do, and that you enjoy undertaking, and gradually increase the amount of time spent undertaking this each week. Your long term goal should be to accumulate 300 minutes each week of exercise, in minimum 10 minute continuous chunks/bouts.
Want to keep track of your weekly exercise? Use the printable tracker here
Accredited Exercise Physiologist
“I want to get rid of my muffin top” or “lose my wobbly arms” and “cut back the beer belly” are all phrases we hear regularly in the clinic and I’m sure we’ve all thought at some point. Unfortunately, I’m here to bust that myth and let you know that no matter how hard you try, you can’t target where on your body fat loss occurs. Often these goals or obsessions with a particular aspect of your body can actually be preventing you from being more effective with your training and achieving a range of health and fitness goals, rather than just one.
It has been a long-time belief for many people that by training a specific muscle or muscle group, fat loss will also occur in this same area. This is not the case and yet many popular workouts on social media and in magazines will have you believe otherwise, promising to “tone those trouble areas.” Often what these people are selling is a quick fix and not providing you with a holistic approach to your overall health and fitness goals.
To reduce fat mass, we must have a greater energy expenditure than input into our bodies. We gain energy through consuming food and we burn energy in 3 ways. Firstly, while at rest to maintain our bodies essential functions like breathing, blood circulation and organ function. Secondly the process of turning food into energy and lastly by moving our bodies. Put simply when our body needs energy, it uses a range of resources within the body, one being fat which is then released from fat calls to help produce said energy. Unfortunately, regardless of which body parts we are moving our body removes fat from cells based on your gender, genetics, body shape and a range of other factors.
Often the exercises prescribed in these “spot targeting” workouts are focused around working very small muscles that don’t contribute a lot to improving your overall fitness, strength or energy expenditure. If your goal is to “get lean” meaning to build muscle and decrease fat mass, then targeting small muscles will likely leave you feeling frustrated and unsuccessful. Alternatively focusing on large muscle groups when training will not only improve your overall fitness and strength but also the amount of energy you burn, increasing your energy expenditure for the day, promoting an increase in fat loss overall.
To increase your overall fat loss try focusing on activities that expend more energy and eventually your “target areas” will reduce too. If you find that you really enjoy training the smaller muscles, leave those exercises for the end of your workouts if you have the time and energy!
Easter might be a little bit different this year to previous years for many people whilst social isolating. Perhaps you are usually involved in camping with friends, bush walking, tennis tournaments and other activities which help to counteract some of the goodies we eat and alcohol we drink across the weekend. But if you are planning on having a hot cross bun and easter egg or 2 (or 3!), you may want to plan some exercise in to your weekend!
Apart from the amount of energy you need to expend through exercise to burn off those calories, the other hard part can be finding the energy to work out after consuming huge amounts of sugar. Excess sugar in the short term can wipe out your energy and make you crave more sugar.
However, the good news is that the Journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise has found that that the negative effects of extra fructose, sucrose and glucose were significantly less detrimental when participants exercised more.
When physically exerting ourselves; we increase our insulin sensitivity. This in turn means that our body uses less insulin to absorb the sugar we consume, keeping our blood glucose levels in check, making us more energetic and curbing the chocolate cravings.
Tips to stay on track this Easter:
Save the indulging for Easter Sunday
Rather than snacking on chocolate throughout the whole weekend, or even before, try and save eating easter eggs only for Sunday. And for the kids, encourage grandparents or other relatives who wish to spoil them to provide alternative gifts to chocolates, like books or games to decrease the amount of chocolate they also receive and consume.
Quality of Quantity
Treat yourself to some good quality chocolate eggs for Easter. These are generally smaller, and you’ll want to savour every mouthful!
Choose Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate not only contains less sugar and more fibre and iron than milk chocolate, it is also packed with anti-oxidants.
Easter is a great time to spend time connecting with family. Try and choose active pastimes like a morning walk or bike ride, a hit of tennis, or anything that gets you out and moving. Or try our high intensity workout below. You also might not feel as guilty when you treat yourself to some chocolate!
High Intensity Easter Workout
Start with a 5-10 minute warm up including dynamic stretches, and then start the circuit and complete it 2-3 times. Complete with a cool down and static stretches. Click here to download.
This circuit is an intermediate circuit, and may not be suitable for all fitness levels, therefore please use commonsense when deciding if this exercise program is right for you.
With a new year about to begin, many people may be thinking about setting New Year's Resolutions around their health and wellbeing. If you are planning on setting one or more New Year's Resolutions, you may want to brush up on your goal setting techniques.
A tried and testing approach to goal setting is using the SMART goal setting method. This is an approach I often use with my clients and you may also be familiar with it.
SPECIFIC - Your goal should be clear and easy to understand and specific. Simply saying "I want to get healthy" is not specific enough for a goal to have meaning. Ask yourself, what, where, how, when, with whom and why. Use these to state exactly what you want to accomplish, ie "I want to walk 4km's on 5 days of the week before breakfast."
MEASURABLE - Your goal needs to be measurable so that you can track your progress and demonstrate success. Using the above goal as an example, you could track your walk with a pedometer, use your car odometer to map out a track, use any number of apps on your phone (such as mapmyfitness) and also record each walk with the time of day in your diary or simply on a piece of paper.
ACHIEVABLE - Your confidence in being able to achieve your goal will impact on your liklihood of having success. Do not set unrealistic goals, or goals that are too difficult to achieve. There is a balance between making a goal too easy, and making it too difficult/unrealistic. Are the steps that you need to take to achieve the goal able to happen?
RELEVANT - Is the goal relevant to you? Setting a goal of running a half marathon is not relevant or realistic to you if you do not enjoy running, and do not appreciate the achievement of a half marathon. If increasing your walking distance so that you can walk around Europe on your upcoming holiday is important to you, it is relevant and ticks the boxes for a SMART goal.
TIME LIMITED - You need to be specific about when you want to achieve this goal and this links into it being measurable. Using the original goal as an example, I need to specify my time-line. So, the goal may become ""I will walk 4km's on 5 days of the week before breakfast, by Monday the 1st of February 2017." Or, you may make it even more specific, by saying "I will walk 4km's on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday before breakfast every week".
At the end of your specified time period, you may continue with your current actions, or you may re-evaluate and set new goals. Some people also find that setting a reward for themselves for achieving a goal a good motivator for staying on track, therefore this may also be something you could consider.
Small goals can be stepping stones to a bigger goal. Setting short and medium term goals help to break the bigger goal into bite-sized steps, and enables you to achieve success on the way to your larger goal. An example is that if you would like to lose 20kg in 6 months, you may set yourself a smaller goal of losing 1kg every 2 weeks. This way you can measure small success each fortnight and know whether you are on the right track to achieving your larger goal. Achieving the small and medium goals can also help to boost confidence and self belief which can help to keep you motivated.
Research shows that physically writing down a goal increases your chance of achieving that goal. Therefore when setting your goal, write it down. Put it somewhere were you can see it to increase motivation. Getting a buddy involved is also a great motivator in helping people carry out the tasks/actions needed to fulfill their goals. Again, using the above as an example, recruiting a friend to walk with may make that goal more enjoyable, and therefore more achievable.
Achieving more, starts with being SMART!
Happy New Year!