Raise your hand if you’d like to lose weight. Keep your hand up if you’re pretty busy.
We’re willing to bet that most people’s hands are still raised.
We’re all busy, but many of us would also like to join a gym to work off our excess kilos. The question is, how can you lose weight without spending all your time in the gym?
There’s good news: it takes a lot less exercise than you’d think to shed excess body fat. Read on, and we’ll show you exactly how to lose weight without living at the gym.
Energy Balance and Weight Loss
Weight loss comes down to energy balance: how many calories you eat versus how many calories you burn. And you burn calories in a multitude of ways besides exercise.
- BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) – the calories needed to keep you alive
- TEF (Thermic Effect of Feeding) – the calories burned by digesting the food you eat
- NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) – calories burned from walking, dressing, cleaning, generally moving around, etc.
Formal exercise actually accounts for only a small portion of your daily calorie usage.
Your “basal metabolic rate” or BMR actually makes up a large portion of the calories you burn each day. For instance, an average healthy woman (5’4”/68 kg/30 years) has a BMR of 1467.3 calories. Even if she lazed around on the couch all day doing nothing but watching Netflix, she would still burn almost 1500 calories just to stay alive. Unfortunately, we need to do more than that to lose weight.
Burn Baby Burn
There are two other ways your body burns calories that we don’t often think of. “Non-exercise activity thermogenesis” and the “thermic effect of feeding” refer to the calories we burn from moving around throughout the day and from digesting the foods we eat, respectively. You can even incorporate a workout routine while doing housework, so don’t go booking that cleaning service just yet! NEAT can account for 15% of calorie burn for a sedentary lifestyle or 50% for people who walk around all day; TEF accounts for about 10% of your daily calorie burn.
Compare that to an hour-long treadmill workout where an average person may burn about 300 calories. Really, the purpose of exercise is not to burn calories – it’s to create the right hormonal response in your body to stimulate fat loss.
What do I mean by that? Your body reacts to exercise by releasing hormones, which signal your body to adapt and grow stronger, leaner, and fitter. Thus, the purpose of exercise for weight loss isn’t to burn calories, it’s to send the right signals to tell your body to let go of extra fat stores.
So How Can You Work Out to Lose Weight?
Resistance training is the best form of exercise for fat loss because it sends the right signals to your body. Training with either bodyweight or free weights (barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells) will sculpt lean muscle and burn more body fat in LESS TIME than an hour on the treadmill each day.
For best fat loss results, strength train three to four times per week for 30-45 minutes per session. Compare that to an hour on the treadmill, six days per week – what a time saver!
Ok, what if you’ve never done strength training before… what should your workouts look like?
Focus on full-body movements like squats, lunges, hip hinges, pushing, and pulling. These major movement patterns involve all the muscles of your body, which burns more calories and builds more strength than doing a bicep curl, for instance.
Master the bodyweight versions of these exercises first; then, load the movements with moderate to heavy weights. Recommended beginner exercises are goblet squats, Romanian deadlifts, hands-elevated push ups, chest presses, overhead press, assisted pull ups, and suspension trainer rows. As these become easier for you, increase the weight, or move on to advanced exercises like barbell squats and lunges, deadlifts, hip thrusts, bench press, floor push ups, pull ups, and other rowing variations.
The ideal weight-loss workout plan would include three to four days of full-body strength training. And “every other day” schedule works well for most people (Monday/Wednesday/Friday, for instance).
Pick one exercise from each movement group and work through in circuit fashion, completing 3-4 rounds with little rest between exercises. Rest about 60-90 seconds between rounds to recover (this part is important). Work in the 8-12 rep range for most exercises.
An example weight-loss workout might look like this:
10 goblet squats + 8 hands-elevated push ups + 10 RDL + 5-6 assisted pull ups + 10 lunges
Rest 1 minute, then repeat for four total rounds.
If your schedule allows, finish your workout with traditional cardio for extra calorie burn.
You can use this workout three days per week until you master the movements. At first, it’s more important to get the form right and feel the right muscles working (your butt for squats, your chest for push ups, and so on). If you’ve never strength trained before, you may wish to consult with a personal trainer for a few pointers. Once you’ve mastered a wide variety of exercises, you can diversify your workouts.
Using this plan, you’ll build strength, sculpt lean muscle, and shed unwanted body fat in much less time than it would take you to jog on the treadmill every day.