Is the above statement too good to be true? That's what Rory DeLuca thought. The 42 year old New Jersey resident, husband and busy father of 3 couldn't believe what I was telling him when he came to see me in January 2006. Like most people, after the holidays, Rory was frustrated with his increased weight and was even more frustrated that his previous "weight loss" efforts were not providing any results. He told me he was trying to eat less and run 4 miles every day, but every time he tried to stick to that routine, his back would hurt because of the running and he would end up starving at the end of the day. You can imagine his surprise when I told him that he would have to eat a lot more and do less cardio to achieve the results he was looking for.Now, 3 months later, Rory has lost a total of 30 pounds and 9 inches off his body. His back no longer hurts and he is not starving. He eats tons of food all day and exercises less than an hour 5 days a week. So what is the secret to his success? Three very important weight loss principles that we can all incorporate.
1. Rory started strength training 3x's a week. The key here is Rory was doing the right kind of strength training for his weight loss goal. He was not going from one machine to the next, doing 3 sets of 10 reps on each one. His strength training routine incorporated exercises that used his whole body so his heart rate was up the whole time. Try doing 3 exercises, back to back, using only free weights, stability balls and your own body weight, and you'll see how quickly your heart rate goes up. No sitting on a bench and chitchatting in this workout. We keep the intensity high the whole time and the workout is complete in 45 minutes.
Incorporating strength training and reducing the amount of aerobic cardiovascular training was integral to his success. The ONLY tissue in the body that burns fat is Muscle. So the more muscle you have in your body, the more fat you're burning at any given time during the day. The amount of muscle you have in your body also greatly affects your metabolism. So someone with more muscle mass will have a higher metabolism (This is why most men can eat a lot more than women). For example, one pound of muscle in your body requires approximately 50 calories per day. So if I had two people, both weighing 150lbs, but one was comprised of 100lbs of muscle while the other was comprised of 120lbs of muscle, the one with the more muscle mass is burning more calories all day long. That means that this person can eat more during the day and still maintain their weight and will also have an easier time losing weight. Aerobic training does burn calories while you're doing it, but it does not do anything to increase the amount of muscle in your body, thus it does not help you to continue to burn calories when you're done
2. Rory only did aerobic cardiovascular exercise using interval training. This concept could encompass a whole article unto itself, but basically, your body becomes accustomed to anything that you expose it to for long periods of time. Aerobic cardiovascular exercise makes your body more efficient at burning fat. But that's exactly what you don't want (If your car was more efficient at burning gas, you'd use less of it). Same with your body. If your body becomes efficient at burning fat, you burn less of it for the same amount of work. So instead of burning 200 calories for your 2 mile run, you may burn 150 calories for the same distance in 2 months. So you'll have to increase the distance and continue to do this, just to burn the same 200 calories. This can eventually turn into running for an hour just to burn the same number of calories! I don't know about you, but this is exactly what I don't want to do.
Interval training refers to a series of intense activity separated with short rest periods. You want to make sure that you are constantly changing the intensity of your cardio workout during the whole workout, alternating from high intensity to low intensity. So a typical workout on an elliptical machine would be 5 min warmup, 1 minute at a high intensity (level 9or 10), then 2 minutes at a lower intensity (level 3 or 4). You would repeat this 3 minute round 3 or 4 times, gradually increasing the intensities once you feel like it's getting easy. Cool down for 5 minutes, and that is a total of 19-22 minutes of cardio, not 1 hour! Keep your body guessing the whole time and it will not become accustomed to the same cardio workout.
3. Rory ate a lot of food all day long. Rory couldn't believe his meal plan when I laid it out for him. He was going to be eating more than he was currently eating and couldn't believe this was actually going to help him lose weight. The biggest difference would be what foods he would be choosing. Every meal was comprised of a healthy protein, carbohydrate and good fat. Lots of eggs (whole organic eggs, not whites), poultry, meat, fruits, whole grains, vegetables, olive oil, and raw nuts and nut butters. In order for his body to burn fat, it had to believe it wasn't starving and the only way to do that was to feed it well.
So what can you do to achieve the same great results?
- Incorporate both a good strength training routine and interval cardio routine to your workout regimen. Don't just do one all the time. Your body needs muscle to keep your metabolism high, and it also needs cardio to keep your heart strong, so find a good balance between the two.
- Incorporate a strength training routine that focuses on whole body movements. No sitting on machines, please. Unless you are rehabilitating an injury, you want to keep your body moving the whole time. What do you think burns more calories, a squat with a shoulder press combination or sitting on a leg press? Just try to squat and raise your arms overhead a few times and you'll see how quickly your heart rate goes up. Keep your body moving through the whole workout and you'll be sweating just as much as during your cardio.
- Eat consistently throughout the day. We've all heard it before: Eat five meals a day to lose weight. Well, guess what? It works, as long as those meals incorporate healthy food. Eat a protein with each meal. That is the biggest mistake I see. People are not feeding their muscles with enough protein. Remember, you want to keep your metabolism cranking all day and the best way to do that is to feed your body and to keep your muscle mass high.
Hopefully, this will help you to reduce those countless hours on the treadmill and stop starving yourself to lose a few pounds. I don't know about you but if eating all day and doing less cardio is going to keep me at a healthy weight and in shape, I say AMEN to that!
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