When people want to lose weight the first thing they look to do is incorporate some form of cardio. They know to some extent they need to be burning calories, so naturally they go to cardio. While cardio is most certainly a tool to helping you lose weight, there are actually a couple other things you can do that are a lot easier to help create that deficit first - reduce stress, pay attention to your nutrition, and resistance training. Today, I’d like to go over how exactly these can help you lose weight.
Reduce Your Stress
When our bodies are in a constant state of stress our cortisol is spiked. The main function in SHORT bursts is to use carbs as energy for fuel. In the LONG term however, as the body realizes this heightened state isn’t going away, in order to keep a homeostasis, it can’t continually burn through your carb stores or you wouldn’t live very long. Instead it does the opposite. It starts holding onto your fat stores, and burning through your muscle. It wants to keep you alive, it doesn’t care that you want to look lean.
Solution: Your best bet to lowering stress is to focus on prioritizing sleep. Get 7-9 hours every single night. Studies have shown when you get less than 6 hours of sleep consistently, you actually create a signal in your body to hold onto fat. For some reason we don’t like to take sleep seriously. Treat it as a routine as you would with any other part of your life. It should be scheduled, and have a process leading up to it to get you ready. Wear blue blocker glasses, turn the lights down, limit cell phone use, etc.
If you are working out 6-7 days a week at a high intensity, consider lowering that amount to 3-4 days. The body needs a break! I know your goal is fat loss, and lowering the amount of exercise sounds contrary to what your goal is, but it may actually be a reason you’ve stalled. I’ve had many clients dial back their intensity and find their weight loss come back around cause they’ve let their body rest.
Pay Attention to Your Nutrition
We all know on some level that you need to be expending more calories than you are taking in to lose weight. However, that can still seem too broad. It’s easy to struggle with knowing what to eat, how much to eat, which foods are good, and which are bad.
Solution: Believe it or not all it takes is some very general guidelines to help you lose the weight you want. Start with eating mostly whole foods and limit processed foods. I know that sounds so cliche, but to give you some perspective a study found people tend to eat 500-600 calories LESS a day when they stick to whole foods. That’s insane! That’s all the deficit you need right there for losing 1-2 pounds a week, and you don’t even have to track anything.
Processed foods are designed to hijack our system and make us overeat. Whole foods give our bodies true satiety signals. If you hit a point you feel like you need more food but are afraid of eating too much, focus on increasing protein and veggies. Veggies are super filling but do not have many calories so it would be extremely hard to overeat vegetables from a caloric standpoint, so load your plate up! Protein is a fat burning nutrient. It is the most filling macro you can eat, it’s necessary for the repairing of muscles and making them get bigger, and it has a high thermic effect (meaning it uses 30% of its calories just to break itself down!). All this in mind, if you keep your protein and veggies on the higher side, you’ll be losing weight in no time.
The problem with cardio is you only burn the calories you expend within the session. When you add resistance training, because you are tearing down muscle which then needs to be prepared, you are in a more primed state of calorie burning in order to heal properly even after your workout. It’s like an engine that’s always on.
Solution: Train to build muscle even if that isn’t your goal. By always trying to build muscle, you are helping increase your metabolism at rest. The more muscle you have on your frame, the more calories you expend just standing there! Build that fat burning machine! It doesn’t take much either. All you need to do is go to the gym 2-3 times a week and that is more than enough stimulus to prime you for growth. Just make sure your program has progressive overload, good form, and control. Seeing your numbers go up week to week is the surest way to know what you are doing in the gym is working. If you are getting stronger, don’t change anything.