We all know the wonderful benefit of regular exercise: boosts energy, improves mood, keeps your heart healthy, increases your stamina, helps prevent chronic diseases, and- is supposed to help with weight loss, right? Unfortunately, many people who set out on a fitness regime- spending hundreds of dollars on the best shoes, equipment, gym membeships and personal trainers, not to mention countless hours at the gym, are frustrated at the fact that the numbers on the scale just simply do not budge, no matter how many calories that treadmill says were burned. Sound familiar? Here's some reasons you may be stuck in a viscious hamster-wheel cycle, and what to do about it.
You can't out-exercise a bad diet.
Sadly, 80% of weightloss is related to what you put in your mouth. So yes, that means that even though you spend the next 3 hours sweating away at Zumba, it does not automatically erase last night's binge fest of nachos, Ben and Jerry's and that bag of cookies. Weight loss is so much more than the typical "calories in/calories out" model- rather, our metabolism and hormonal processes control our levels of energy expenditure and fat storage. And guess what? These processes are controlled much in part by diet. By eating too many processed carbohydrates and sugars, blood sugar and insulin levels are spiked, and the "fat-storing" hormone insulin rears its ugly head. Besides, using the calorie-counting model, that means that in order to burn off one tiny typical chocolate bar, you'd have to run briskly on the treadmill for at least 30 minutes. Is that really worth it? Instead, focus on a diet that will actually help your metabolism use fat for energy, rather than store it. Focus on a fueling your body with plenty of vegetables, healthy protein and good fats, and not only will weightloss happen, but those cravings for the foods that are the culprit for that nagging voice in your head to hit the gym will soon disappear.
Those energy bars have to go.
Energy bars are a great source of energy and fuel-- IF you're running a marathon. Otherwise, these little "adult candy bars" are one of the reasons you may not be seeing the results you want. Loaded with sugar (don't let the names "brown rice syrup", or "evaporated organic cane syrup" fool you. Sugar is Sugar!) these provide maximal calories in a tiny little package.
Sure, they may be convenient and can offer some nutrition (although, the vitamins and minerals are synthetic and don't get absorbed the same as if you were to get from a real food source). However, after eating one of those bars, your body will spend all its energy burning off the carbohydrates you've just ingested (44 grams in a Cliff Bar, for example), rather than using energy from your fat storage, which is supposed to be the whole point, isn't it? Instead of an energy bar, reach for a pre- or post- gym snack that consists of healthy protein and fat in real food form. A hard-boiled egg, celery or apple slices with nut butter, or even a nitrate free beef stick will boost your energy without spoiling your hard work. The same logic applies to drinks (Gatorade, etc), which is really just sugar and chemicals in liquid form. Need to replenish electrolites after a big sweat-sesh? Try coconut water instead!
It's the quality, not quantity of exercise that counts.
One of the biggest fitness misconceptions out there is that you need to spend countless hours training and sweating to see results. This couldn't be further from the truth! Rather than spending an hour on the treadmill, which does nothing (except make you really, really good at walking on the treadmill), you can save time and get the results you're after in 1/4 of the time. High Intensity Interval Training has been shown to be the most effective way to burn fat- and best of all? It takes way less time!
HIIT involves intervals of high-intensity exercise, followed by low intensity (walking at a moderate pace) or complete rest, before going back to full intensity. The major reason HIIT works so well for dropping body fat is due to the greater calorie burn that’s maintained after the workout is over. In other words, you burn more calories and more body fat while you’re sitting around doing nothing! In addition to this increase in resting metabolism, HIIT is effective at enhancing the mechanisms in muscle cells that promote fat burning and blunt fat storage.
Next time you're at the gym, try this 20 minute HIIT cardio routine:
Warm up with a 5 minute walk
Sprint for 30 seconds
Jog for 3 minutes.
Sprint for 30 seconds.
Walk for 1 minute
Repeat 3 times.
With all that time saved on cardio, this brings us to....
Do you even lift, Bro?
Cardio is definitely great, but resistance and weight training is the real secret to fat-burning and building a great physique. Not only does regular resistance training build muscle, but it helps increase your metabolism so that you burn more calories on a daily basis, even when you're not exercising. Additionally, regular resistance training helps build strong bones, joints, improves posture and helps reshape your body into something spectacular!
The key is to challenge yourself and always switch things up, focusing on different muscle groups and types of exercises in order to make your workouts the most effective. Give yourself rest days to allow for muscle repair and growth, and it's always a good idea to get the help of someone experienced to show you proper techniques before starting a new regime.