I have found when working with clients there is somewhat of a guideline that allows for the most adherence throughout the diet, and most importantly, long term adherence. My advice I’ll be giving today has to be thought of in those terms. If you have a very narrow time frame to get lean, then that would require a more aggressive cardio approach. For today, I’m approaching it in terms of sustainability.
Before you decide to implement any form of direct cardio, I’ve found most people simply aren’t moving that much. It’s hard enough to force yourself to do 4 days of cardio at the gym. Rather than forcing an extreme habit, let’s just try getting movement into your day. The simplest way to do this is to get an idea of how many steps you are currently taking. Most phones and smartwatches already track this. Add 3,000-5,000 steps above whatever your average is and that should kick off some weight loss.
The rationale behind suggesting this first, is to think of it as finding moments throughout your day to incorporate “mini cardio”. For example, if you own a pet, then going for longer 15 minute walks 3-4 times a day will help not only get your steps in, but it’ll allow you to still live your life. I have found when clients can find moments throughout their day to get up and move more, they are able to keep up that habit long after their fat loss journey is done.
Most people who aren’t tracking their food tend to UNDERestimate how much they are actually eating. I had one client who snuck a handful of mixed nuts in between meals, and little snacks throughout the day. While that may not seem like much at the moment, by the end of the week, there is a high likelihood you’ve washed out any deficit you might have created. When starting any diet, it’s usually good to subtract 500 calories from your maintenance. You may keep that deficit Monday-Friday giving you a total deficit of 2500 calories. 2500 calories realistically isn’t all THAT much. One weekend of partying and eating high calorie foods like pizza and chips can easily surpass that 2500 calories you spent all week keeping away. This is why many people will feel like they’re always dieting and never losing any weight.
Do your best to make sure you are shooting for that 500 calorie deficit each day. At the very least, make sure by the end of the week you’ve consumed 3500 LESS calories total. You can break this up however you want. Just remember, the more you don’t hit this goal, the longer your progress will take.
By the time I recommend clients adding cardio, is when they’ve done the above two approaches and yet their weight loss has stalled. You’ve subtracted 500 calories, and added 5,000 steps to your day. Try adding an additional 3,000-5,000 steps. If after THAT, you just struggle to hit the total step count, only THEN start adding cardio to finish off whatever you weren’t able to add in your day.
The lesson to be learned here is creating the balance of hitting a goal while adopting a new lifestyle. At the end of the day, if you hit your goals by going all out on cardio in the gym, and starving yourself, only to stop all those habits once your done because your diet was “over”, you’ll just be reverting back to the eating and sedentary habits that gained you that weight in the first place.
Losing the fat, and keeping it off, is ultimately about keeping up with healthy habits sprinkled throughout your day so it doesn’t take over your life. Not all of us want to live in the gym, and see the gym as the only place to achieve our goals.