Now is the perfect time to get into peak shape. The weather is cooling and the holiday eating season hasn't yet begun. This issue will give you the tools you need.
Measure and Track Body Fat
Start by visiting trainercary.com/bodyfat for a simple online app that measures body fat. All you need is a tape measure and internet access, and you can see where you're at today and easily track progress in the future. This app is reasonably reliable, and can be more accurate than the handheld bio-impedance monitors. Do it with a friend, and track your progress together. Do it in your office and have a competition! If you'd like to learn more about measuring body fat, I've got an in-depth review of bodyfat measurement techniques.
When is a Deficit is Good Thing?
Calories are a measure of energy. A pound of body fat is equivalent to about 3500 calories. Take in 3500 more calories than you burn, and your body will store the excess energy as a pound of fat. Burn 3500 more calories than you take in and a pound of fat will disappear. If you want to lose 10 pounds, you need to burn 35,000 more calories than you take in. An energy deficit is a good thing when it comes to burning fat.
For safe, effective weight loss, plan on losing about 1-2 pounds per week. Reduce your weekly caloric intake by 7000 calories, or increase your weekly caloric expenditures by 7000. Or split the difference and go for 3500 of each. You should lose about 2 pounds of fat per week following this simple formula.
Don't skip meals or reduce calories below 2000 without seeking medical advice. These approaches are not safe and usually don't work. The body goes into "survival mode" when it is deprived of needed calories and may actually reduce the amount of fat that is burned. You also may not be able to exercise as hard if you don't have the energy.
Maximize Your Cardio
Did you know that there is a scientifically proven way for most people to burn an extra 500-1000 calories a week without spending any more time working out? With Interval Training, your body continues to burn calories at a higher level for 1-3 hours after you exercise, so you'll burn an extra 100-200 calories per session. If you're doing 45-60 minutes of cardio 5 days a week, it adds up quickly.
An effective interval training program will typically involve 2 minutes of cardio at 65% of your maximum heart rate alternating with 2 minutes at 80%. You'll want to see your doctor before beginning a challenging new program, and it may help to meet with a fitness professional to set the heart rate targets and review cardio programming.
The publishers of Men's Health and Prevention magazine recently interviewed me for a web article about Interval Training, which goes into more detail on the subject.
Build Muscle to Burn Fat
A pound of muscle burns 40-50 calories a day, a pound of fat burns about 5 calories. Strength training is to build "lean muscle" is effective in two ways. You burn calories while doing the exercises, and your body will burn more fat while at rest. And you don't have to bulk up to do it - training in a range of 15-20 repetitions will give you that lean toned look without the added bulk. Focus on the larger muscles like legs, back and chest for maximum effectiveness, because the bigger the muscle the more calories it burns at work or rest. For a variety of fitness programs at every level, visit trainercary.com/exercise-programs.