Summer is here and with lots of packed calendars, tempting foods all around us and for most that I speak to, a manic work life. Trying to juggle it all and also wanting to look & feel as good as possible can seem overwhelming at the best of the times. I frequently get asked what’s the quickest way to shed some weight with limited time available. The thing is I have tried all the shortcuts (as I am sure many of you have too), slimming shakes, diet pills, excessive exercise, a massive calorie deficit and much more. Yes it may work short term however, the faster you tend to lose weight on the scales, the quicker it seems to return and in most instances more weight may return.
Why does this happen? Your body likes to operate individually at a certain weight for it to function at its best (homeostasis). When we suddenly drop our calorie intake and perhaps start a crazy exercise routine, yes the body will initially drop weight (usually mostly water weight). However the body begins to panic and go into stress mode at these dramatic changes. Our bodies are built for survival, they have no idea that you’re on this particular mission to get trim quick! So the consequences of these dramatic changes? The body fights back, it begins to slow down your metabolism plus it will chose to start burning muscle rather than body fat I’m afraid. The body needs fat to survive as we are always using energy internally and externally to be alive and the results can begin to reverse when we try to lose weight in a rapid manner.
Classically any weight you may lose at the beginning of your new routine will shortly return and in some cases you may gain even more weight than you lost as the metabolism has slowed down meaning you burn less calories on your day to day routine, resulting in more body fat being stored. Remember that TV show the Biggest Loser? Participants would undergo extreme dieting and intense exercise routines over the weeks, shedding some serious pounds. However what the programme did not show you was the participants later down the line. Over 80% gained back what they had lost in a short period of time, some even heavier than they had started at!
So what’s the ideal way to shed some body fat and feel good in yourself without starving yourself and over training? Classically people think CARDIO to drop the weight, running, spinning classes, HIIT classes…anything for that sweat to pour out. Yes you will lose water and be lighter on the scales, however are you burning body fat? Generally no! This type of training can stress the body out massively causing it to release your stress hormone Cortisol. This hormone will trigger your body to hold/store body fat and slow down your metabolism. The goal is usually to burn fat and keep it off right? So what do I propose to stop your body stressing out and having a negative effect?
Walking (outdoors is fantastic for the body and soul) but if not you can steady incline walking on a treadmill is another great low intensity key approach. That stair master too does wonders too (also great for the booty).
Yoga, yoga oh and did I mention Yoga?? Although all types of yoga are effective when it comes to burning calories, improving flexibility and muscle tone, calming the mind, and providing a feeling of inner peace and contentment, if your goal is to lose body fat, certain practices are more effective than others.If you want to burn fat and keep it off, power yoga and vinyasa flow are what you should be focusing on.These are both fast-paced flows that provide the perfect mixture of cardio and strength-training. The dual combination is an effective fat burning combination and helps increase lean muscle mass. These two types of yoga enable the body to burn anywhere from 400 to 600 calories per hour. This is equivalent to the number of calories burned during a typical hour in the gym!
A healthy calorie deficit. Typically a reduction of 500 calories per day to result in unstressful weight loss for the body. Yes it is a slower approach but the body will adjust and realign to the new calorie intake meaning the results are much more sustainable without exhausting the body.
Sleep and I mean quality sleep. One of the biggest factors in fat loss that is hugely overlooked. A lack of sleep leaves you hungry and increases appetite, decreases self control which can lead to binge eating as well as affecting you physically when awake to make you more sluggish and slowing down your metabolism. Stop using mobile phones and watching television at least 1-2 hours before bed to help improve your sleep quality throughout the night.
Weight training. This is more effective than cardio at building muscle and muscle cells burn more calories at rest than fat cells. Basically more muscle cells you develop means a faster metabolism. Women worry that they will get bulky however, you will get leaner as you shed body fat from all over your body making it look tighter and leaner. A pound of muscle will weigh the same as a pound of fat, however the muscle is much more compact to give you a smaller frame.
Drink healthier beverages. Choose water over sugary drinks that contain hidden calories. Your body uses water to burn body fat so if you are not drinking enough then you are hindering your results. Aim for 2-3 litres per day, yes you will be on the toilet more intially HOWEWER the body quickly adapts and will rebalance at the new water intake to utilise more efficiently for your body to function and burn more calories.
Fiber…keeps you fuller for longer and aids digestion resulting in a decreased calorie intake and fat loss.
Cut down on refined carbohydrates. No I am NOT SAYING NO CARBS. Just cut out the refined carbs such as breads, pastas, breakfast cereals, processed foods and pasteries. These tend to have a higher amount of disease promoting belly fat, are low in fibre and nutrients resulting in sugar crashes and then causing cravings due the crashes. Replace them with whole grains including quinoa, lentils, brown/wild rice, pulses and oats.
Supplement your diet with probitics and vitamins to aid digestion and overall well being. Key vitamins I usually recommend include B complex, Vitamin C, Iron and an overall multi vitamin. Invest in good brands that do not use fillers to bulk them out. My favourite brand currently is Terranova, available in most health stores and online.
Make time to train. Block out your diary and schedule in training times, whether its a gym session or a home session or even just going for an evening walk, factor it in rather than leaving it to chance. There are some fantastic Utube yoga sessions to follow, all you need is a yoga matt and a bit of space. Be responsible for your schedule and be realistic. Even 1-2 30 minute sessions a week can have significant results when following a healthy eating plan.
Invest in yourself. Perhaps find yourself a Personal Trainer for guidance and support. Maybe even partner up with a friend to share costs of a trainer and help motivate you. Online personal training can be a great option also if time is limited and more cost efficient.
Include protein rich foods in your diet to keep you fuller and help increase muscle tone. Fish, turkey and chicken are my preferred choices for fat loss. Those that are vegetarian and vegan opt for protein rich choices including legumes, quinoa, lentils, vegan protein powder.
Overall there are many factors that I can continue to list however it is doing what works for you. We are all unique with different life situations. Make time for yourself and be patient. Do not use the scales to monitor your results, take photos and then use them as a tracking record. The scales can fluctuate massively including for women 5-7lbs on your menstrual cycle which can then dishearten us and make us wonder whats the point and begin to go back to old habits. Being consistent will guarantee you results rather than 5 minute fad diets and exercise routines. You will have bad days, but brush yourself down and pick up where you left off. A little progress each day adds up to big results. Insta: @ammieelou_pt