Exercise for Fat Loss Doesn’t Have to Suck (Most of the Time)
“I hate running.”
I’ve heard that sentiment echoed more times than I could count. Usually, it’s during a conversation with someone who wants to start exercising but is dreading it.
The concept of running as the main mode of exercise is entrenched deep in society. This needs to change. For most people trying to lose weight, running and “cardio” in general done for long periods of time is inefficient, and frankly not very fun.
Long-duration “cardio” (jogging, cycling, elliptical, etc.) burns a good amount of calories, so it can be helpful for dropping some weight quickly. But there’s two problems with this:
Unless you track what you eat in some manner, it’s way too easy to end up eating more without realizing it and filling that calorie deficit you created by exercising.
The bigger problem- It doesn’t set you up for long-term fat loss well.
The first problem has a simple solution: track what you eat. Maybe that involves weighing your food and using an app like MyFitnessPal, or something less intimidating like simply writing down what you eat and estimating the portion sizes (e.g. “a palm-sized piece of chicken”).
The second problem, not being set up for long-term fat loss, also has a simple solution: resistance training instead of “cardio”. Lifting weights is the traditional method, but you could also use resistance bands or your own body weight.
Why is this better?
Both your fat cells and muscle cells use energy and therefore, contribute to burning calories/fat. However, muscle burns a little more than three times as many calories than fat (7-10 calories/lb as opposed to 2-3 calories/lb). If you’re doing some form of resistance training, that will help you retain and possibly even build muscle as you lose weight, keeping your metabolism revving at a high level. If you don’t do resistance training as you try to lose weight, you will lose a significantly higher ratio of muscle mass to fat. So if you lose 20 pounds without resistance training, 4-5lbs of that may come from muscle. If you do full-body resistance training, it would be closer to 1-2lbs. Over time, the calories burned from simply having more muscle will make a HUGE difference in how well you keep fat off.
So which sounds better? Spending 30-60 minutes a day running on a treadmill? Or reducing your calorie intake by a few hundred calories, and lifting some weights? Not only is the second method more appealing, but it sets you up for long-term success.