Losing weight can be a particularly tricky subject, so we've simplified it for you. Here's our suggestions on how to best maximise your weight loss efforts.
For starters though, let's look at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines(1). They have a full table for all ages but let's focus on the age of 21-25 and the recommended caloric intake per day to maintain your weight.
Now to lose weight in the region of a pound a week, for a moderately active individual, the following daily caloric intake has been recommended by various sources.
So, what you will need to do first it gain an understanding of your current caloric requirements are by doing a bit more research to establish for your a) age and b) body weight. Then, you need to drop off roughly 30% of that to lose your pound a week.
The next step is to figure out how to then lose that weight by a combination of diet and exercise because let's face it, it's no fun eating rice cakes all day long is it?
As we all know once you start breaking that sweat, you know you're burning some serious calories, right?
Well, not necessarily! Sweating profusely produces water weight loss and ultimately, you will re-hydrate and gain that water weight back.
What's the answer then?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine(ACSM) it's more about duration and intensity. Whether it's running, using a rowing machine, a spin class or doing some high repetition exercise in the gym, you need to do it hard and for a significant duration for that aerobic function.
The ACSM also states that during exercise, consuming beverages containing electrolytes and carbohydrates can provide benefits over water alone under certain circumstances.
So how do I know how long and hard to workout to lose weight?
Well, broadly speaking the ACSM states 150 minutes of moderate intensity per week to maintain fitness and current weight but if you're looking to lose weight then 150 to 250+ minutes should do the trick.
The translation is this, if you work out hard 5 days a week for an hour or so (300 minutes per week), use an electrolyte drink so you keep those salts and sugars in balance, you should definitely be losing weight purely on exercise alone. But remember, diet is the real key to making the most of your weight loss regime.
We could spend all day here discussing the various fad diets that have cropped up over the years, the grapefruit diet, the baby food diet etc.
But I'll spare you that and focus more on the broad facts from reputable sources.
First off, the important thing to remember about our 300 hours per week of exercise is to make sure you have a good bit of fuel to do it in the first place, so make sure you load up on some carbs and protein.
In very basic terms, breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fruits, and vegetables work for quick energy.
To make sure your muscles and blood cells are getting something out of it, protein is needed to bring nutrients and oxygen to your muscles. Lean protein is what you want, think meat, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy, beans, soy foods, nuts and seeds.
Ok, so we know what to eat before a workout and most of us feel like we've 'burned that off' after a good workout right?
Yes, but don't forget the numbers.
Once you've roughly worked out that you need say 2,000 or 1,500 calories per day to lose weight you need to take into account your entire caloric intake from that piece of toast in the morning through to your midnight snack.
Perhaps the hardest thing for people to overcome when they’re trying to lose weight is that they genuinely love food. They like the taste, the smell, the ritual of the meal whatever it is.
This is a much deeper issue that is very personal and I’m afraid you’re just going to have to deal with it through pure discipline.
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Finally, the other big hurdle is your daily routine.
Whether you're used to 3 square meals a day or eat somewhat randomly throughout the day you’re going to have to get used to eating that 30% less calories.
This is no mean feat for some, especially if their partner has cooked a nice meal and you find yourself making some rambling excuse about 300 minutes, 30% less etc.
So, make sure your family members are aware of your endeavour and help you out by not making those double fudge brownies each weekend!
Generally speaking, it is easier for an individual to stay on track with a fitness regime first thing in the morning because there is less time for family, evening plans, commuting, late nights in the office, and other distractions to get in the way. Fatigue from a long day can also lead to skipped evening workouts.
An important factor that needs to be considered when looking to speed up your metabolism is of course meal portions.