Over the last few weeks, I’ve had people explain to me some of the worst possible ways which they have succumbed to in order to lose weight.
It’s a common problem that a lot of people encounter when it comes to trying to lose weight: You sweat it out on the treadmill for 40 minutes three to four times per week with the goal of getting fit and shredded, however after a few weeks neither the scale nor your fat loss is budging. You eat very little in order to ‘lose the weight’ quicker, which leaves you feeling miserable, low in energy, sleep deprived, and worst case scenario with symptoms of anxiety and depression. You wonder whether you should be putting in more time at the gym, doing more cardio, and eating less, but what you really need is a change of pace and focus.
The secret with weight loss is slow and steady wins the race. You cannot go in head first, and have no tricks up your sleeve for after. It is so important and crucial that you switch up your workout routines to keep them fresh and to improve your overall endurance and calorie burning. It is also important to be smart when it comes to what you eat, and how much you eat. Your body is smart, and it adapts to new routines very quickly, which is why if your body gets used to doing the same fitness workouts all the time, it can cause you to plateau.
For this reason, you need to keep your body guessing and changing things up. For some, when cutting for a holiday, they decrease their calories and increase their cardio in a bid to lose weight quickly. STOP. I know from experience, cutting calories and crazy cardio is not the answer. How do I know? Because I did what I am going to tell you what NOT to do below: I was on crazy low calories, and crazy high cardio levels. Muscle loss…horrible food cravings…metabolic damage…depression…All this and more is what I experience while trying to do the wrong things to lose weight. I learned the hard way that the combination of excessive caloric deficits and excessive amounts of activity hurt rather than help fat loss. Studies prove that you can either cut calories hard OR do large amounts of activity. Therefore proving you shouldn’t do both.
This is why this week I’ve decided to add in 3 x 15 Min HIIT Sprint sessions into my cardio routine to change things up rather than cut my calories more. I have been continuously dieting now for the past 12-18 months. However, I make a point to refeed every 6-7 days (explained below) and allow myself my treats. But with 4 weeks to my holidays, this week I am changing things up a little bit more in a bid to shed a few more lbs, and lose a little more body fat before I head away. But this year, I am going to be smarter about it. I am not cutting calories, or doing crazy cardio, but incorporating HIIT sessions into my workout which I will explain more about below.
So below, I am going to explain to you the worst ways I’ve heard people resort to, to ‘lose weight quickly’, and help you understand what to do instead.
Severely Restricting Calories
A severe calorie restriction is feeding your body less than 70% of the energy it burns daily. The lower you go the worse things get. Many starvation diets have people eating anywhere between 30-50% of the energy they burn daily.
Why is this bad, you ask? Won’t you lose weight quickly if you do this?
While you might initially lose weight quickly when you do this, much of the weight initially lost is water, which goes and comes very quickly. You also however lose muscle, and when you lose muscle you take on that amorphous ‘Skinny Fat Look’. But not only this, your metabolism slows down, your bone health decreases and your risk of disease increases. And lastly, your energy levels plummet, and you are left battling intense food craving, become mentally clouded and even depressed.
What should you do instead?
A much better way to cut calories is to maintain a moderate calorific restriction of about 20% and do so over time – so this does require PLANNING. This will ensure that you lose 1-2lbs of fat per week while preserving your metabolic health, energy levels, mental balance and mood.
Remain in a Calorific Deficit For Too Long
Yes, the longer you remain in a calorie deficit, the more weight you can lose. However this also means that your metabolism will slow down, you will lose more muscle, your body will become more stressed, and you anabolic hormones will decrease.
The longer you remain in a calorie deficit, the slower your metabolism becomes, and in time will adapt to that low level of intake. This then creates the frustrating situation wherein you are currently eating very little every day, yet not losing weight anymore.
This in turn can lead to the dilemma of either further reducing calories or the need to do crazy cardio, worsening the problem you’re already having.
What should you do instead?
My best recommendation is that you should diet for 10-12 weeks, gradually but healthily deceasing calories, however then increase your calories to maintenance level for 2-3 weeks to speed the metabolism back up. Or else, incorporate the idea of refeeds every 5-6 days. By refeed I don’t mean ‘Cheat Meals (hate that word)’, I mean increasing your daily calorie intake by about 20-30% on that day, by filling up on healthy, nutritious foods that you usually would eat. This will ensure that you essentially are ‘resetting’ the negative effects of calorie restriction.
Don’t Eat Enough Protein
While a low protein diet is great for accelerating muscle loss while in a calorie deficit, high protein diets are more effective at reducing body fay, especially around the abdominal area, help preserve lean mass and increase satiety.
How much protein should you be eating?
Research shows that your protein intake should be approx. 30% of your daily calorie intake, but reaching levels of 40-50% is okay. An easy way to calculate would be about 1-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
Do A Ton of Cardio and Don’t Do Any Resistance Training
Often times, when people are trying to lose weight short term, they tell me about the hours they spend pounding the treadmill, or cross trainer doing LISS cardio. Surely doing more cardio for longer is more effective right? WRONG. While I agree, doing LISS cardio will help you lose weight over time by burning calories and thus fat, it is a big mistake to do an excessive amount of cardio while dieting to lose weight. To lose weight quicker I swear by HIIT rather than LISS.
HIIT V LISS: Shorter bursts of High Intensity Interval Training V longer bursts of Low Intensity Steady State training. While doing while cardio is an effective tool for aiding weight loss, doing a lot of long-duration, steady-state cardio is not the best way of going about it. HIIT cardio might not burn as much fat as LISS, in the long run, it is calories in V calories out, and HIIT burns more calories. And HIIT is also proven to burn calories upto 24 hours after the HIIT session, whereas LISS does not. It’s not only more effective than steady-state cardio for losing fat, but also for preserving muscle.
What should you do?
In order to minimally retain the muscle you have while you lose fat, resistance training plus a mild calorific deficit and a high-protein diet accomplishes this. This is why I have decided to incorporate 3-4 15-20 minute HIIT sessions per week while I’m in slight calorie deficit. Resistance training while dieting to lose weight preserves and can even build lean mass. This is why it should be a part of every weight loss training regime.
The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body” without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach. You just need to be smart, have a plan, have a timeline and be patient.