Fitness can be complicated, and gimmicks and flash tend to make it seem even more so. However, there are basics of fitness that can be easy to understand and implement.
Weight loss is simple. It’s calories in vs. calories out. Another way to put it is, if you expend more energy than you take in, you’ll lose weight. How do we make sure our energy out is more than in? There are two ways: increasing the amount you move, aka cardio and strength training, and decreasing the amount you eat.
Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss
There’s a difference. Weight loss is just the number on the scale going down. Weight loss can be achieved by that simple calories in vs calories out. However, if you aren’t careful, some of that weight can be from muscle loss as well.
Fat loss is decreasing the amount of fat you have on your body, while increasing lean body mass, aka muscle. Whenever muscle mass is mentioned, someone always has to say “I don’t want to get big and bulky.” You won’t. It takes a ridiculous amount of work to get as big as you think you will. The amount of working out, eating, and supplementation that is needed to get that big is calculated, it doesn’t just happen by mistake. When you increase your muscle mass and lower your body fat, you achieve that “toned” look that everyone is after. As well as getting the look you want, lowering body fat percentage helps to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Here’s where we start to get more in-depth into “calories in vs calories out.” We all know that increasing muscle increases strength. Not only does muscle make you stronger, but it also increases your metabolism and burns more calories!
Adding one pound of muscle (pure muscle, not just a pound increase) burns an extra 50 calories per day at rest. That means that if you put in the work, and increase your muscle mass by 10 pounds (which takes up a lot less room than 10 pounds of fat), you will burn an extra 500 calories, just going about your day! 500 calories is also an important number because that extra 500 per day, 7 days a week equals 3500 calories a week. 3500 extra calories burned equals 1 pound of fat burned per week, just by having muscle on you. I know what you’re thinking, “ten extra pounds? That’s crazy, I’m trying to lose weight not gain it!” But if we lose ten pounds of fat and gain ten pounds of muscle, you haven’t gained or lost any weight according to the scale, but you’re much more compact now.
Strength training is the often overlooked key to sustainable weight/fat loss. We just discussed that muscle helps increase metabolism and to build and keep that muscle, we need to implement strength training. Strength training, or resistance training, are exercises that help increase muscle strength, size, and endurance by causing the muscle to move against a resistance. The resistance can be anything from a dumbbell or barbell to a resistance band to weight machines to just your body weight, as long as your body is reacting against a resistance. These exercises not only improve muscle strength and size, but also increase stability, mobility, bone density, and metabolism. And, as we went over before, added muscle helps to burn more calories even after you’re done working out. You should always put a larger focus on building muscle and strength than burning yourself out on cardio because it will benefit you more to get stronger in the long run. Cardio is great, and will always gets the spotlight when it comes to weight loss and getting smaller, but strength training is the more important aspect when it comes to a healthy lifestyle.
Cardiovascular exercise consists of any exercise that gets your heart rate up. Any aerobic exercise falls under cardio exercise, from power walking to sprinting and everything in between. There are two main types of cardio however, interval training and steady state. Interval training requires more intensity for a shorter time, such as sprinting for 20 secs and recovering with a slow jog or quick walk for 40 seconds to 1 minute. These intervals can be repeated for anywhere between 10-20 minutes, with a 5 minute warm up and cool down as well. Steady state cardio is a longer duration exercise because it requires less intensity. Steady state can be walking on the treadmill for 20-30 minutes or jogging/running a 5k.
How does cardio help with weight/fat loss? It helps increase the calories out. As well, cardiovascular exercise helps with heart health by lowering resting heart rate, which can help lower blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease. Cardio is a great tool for helping in weight loss, but excessive cardio can cause a decrease in muscle mass, which will allow for your weight to go down, but body fat to stay the same, so we need a balance.
I know, that was a lot. Sometimes we need to get all science-y before we get to the fun stuff, so we fully understand the reasoning behind what we’re doing. Remember, we want to keep ourselves as informed as possible during this journey, so we can make the best choices. In the next article of the foundations of fitness, we will discuss everyone’s favorite (and least favorite, at least when it comes to weight loss): Food! (Well, part two is the basics of nutrition)
If there’s anything we discussed that you would like more information on, feel free to reach out to me, either here through the site or facebook/instagram!