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