The Best Workout For Weight Loss

The best workout for weight loss is the one which maximizes your calorie burning, without reducing your resting metabolism. It is possible for some exercise regimes to reduce your resting metabolism, so that you actually need fewer calories to live. Then you may stop losing weight, even though you are getting fitter.

The human body, for all its wonders, controls its weight pretty simply. Consume more calories than you use and you gain weight. Use more calories than you eat and you lose weight. So why is it so difficult to find a diet and exercise regime that really works?

The simple answer is that there are competing factors at work. For example, if you starve yourself on a really harsh diet, you consume a lot less calories. But, you will also start losing muscle mass. Then your resting metabolism, the calories which you use just to keep your body going each day, will decrease.

As this resting metabolism uses a huge 65% – 75% of your total daily use of calories, a reduction can soon mean that you need less calories each day to live, so the diet will not have the same effect. Dieters often find the so-called ‘plateau’, where initial weight loss levels out, despite severe calorie restriction in their diet.

The same effect can be seen with exercise. There has been much talk about the increase in resting metabolism after exercising. The theory is that, after exercise your metabolism stays at a higher rate, causing you to burn more calories even when you have finished your workout.

The length of time that this continues running depends on how hard and for how long you exercised. However, most people who aren’t athletes don’t work hard enough for the effect to last more than an hour – so the total amount of extra calories burned after exercising finishes may be less than 50 calories. A drop in the ocean when most of us consume 2000 – 3000 calories per day!

Clearly a more coordinated approach is required. Many studies have found that the combination of controlling the diet with a good exercise regime produces the maximum weight loss, and helps to maintain the reduction. The key things to achieve are:

Restriction of the intake of calories.
Some exercise that increases muscle mass, which increases resting metabolism.
Other exercise which uses calories while you are doing it, and keeps your metabolism at a higher level for as long as possible when you stop.

The first point is fairly obvious, although there has been more work done recently studying how the make up of the calorie intake affects weight loss.

The best workout for weight loss must include some resistance exercises to increase muscle mass. Basically you want to push your main muscle groups to the level where the body feels the need to build them up.

One way to build muscle is to lift weights which are so heavy that after a certain number of repetitions you tire, and can’t manage any more. What happens is that your body responds to this ‘overload’ by adding muscle mass. Then you do the same again, and again, slowly increasing the level of resistance, with the muscle mass increasing all of the time.

It is important to remember that the body carries out this ‘bulking up maintenance’ when you are resting. After doing some resistance exercises, you need to rest. That means no more resistance exercises on the same muscle group for at least 48 hours. Failure to observe this simple rule can easily lead to injury.

Ideally you will follow a program which exercises each of the main muscle groups in the body – arms, legs, abdomen, etc. You don’t need any special equipment, or to join a gym if you don’t want to, as all the muscle groups can be exercised with so-called ‘body weight’ exercises. However, beginners are advised to be very cautious to avoid over-straining, or to get good quality guidance from a reputable guide or fitness instructor.

Many people, me included, find muscle-building exercises a bit of a drag. But don’t forget that a suitably trim and muscular body looks much more attractive than a thin, wasting-away one. You want to lose weight, but you don’t want to travel by fax, do you?

Thirdly, you need to introduce the calorie burning part. Here’s where you can have most fun – maybe you like running, maybe you don’t. There must be some form of endurance exercise (i.e. one takes some time and gets you sweating) that you like. Swimming? Playing basketball? Or tennis? There are so many possibilities. The key thing is that you really enjoy doing them. If you enjoy doing something you are much more likely to stick with it than if you find it a drudge. Newlyweds probably won’t need any help with ideas in this area!

So if you want to lose weight and get fitter, you need to combine controlling your diet with doing some exercise. And the best workout for weight loss is to do something you really enjoy. Then add some muscle building exercises for maximum calorie burning.

© 2009 Rob Knowles
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