The BEST Exercise for Weight Loss

Do you enjoy doing more exercise than necessary? I know I certainly don’t, and unless you just happen to be a fitness nut, I doubt you do either.

This chapter is focused on providing a “work smarter, not harder” exercise solution to weight loss, allowing you to spend less time working out, while still achieving the same results. Besides making things easier on you, there are a couple of additional reasons I recommend this approach.

Shorter duration workouts allow busy people to find time for exercise that they might not otherwise be able to spare. They also help you to stay motivated and on-track. Let’s face it – when you’re heading into a 45 minute or hour-long cardio session, it gets easy to make excuses to not go to the gym. When you compress those same benefits into a 15 or 20 minute session, you are much more likely to consistently exercise.

Insight provided by modern science has helped uncover exactly how to do that. I’ll explain those medical findings in a moment – but first, you need to fully understand the benefits and limitations of exercise itself.

Being Realistic: What Exercise Can and Cannot Do

Exercise is far too often touted as an incredibly vital process of burning fat. Turn on the TV during late night infomercials, and you’ll see more promotions for exercise products than for dietary solutions, and the first thing many people do to shed pounds is join a gym.

starIn reality, exercise isn’t nearly as important as proper diet when it comes to losing weight. Whereas people can pay little attention to exercise and achieve results through dieting alone, the reverse simply isn’t true. You can’t expect to use exercise to “burn off” the excess calories from a poor diet. As you learned in the chapter on setting your goal numbers, it takes a big calorie deficit to see real results – and exercise just doesn’t help that much.

With that said, exercise can still be of great benefit. A regular workout raises your TDEE, allowing you to either follow a less restrictive diet, or increase your results without dropping your calories to a potentially unsafe level.

When used properly and routinely, adding exercise to your diet can help maximize your results – leading to larger weight loss and faster results.

Health Matters – It’s Not ALL About Fat!

cardio for arm fatI mentioned earlier that you certainly can lose weight through diet alone – it’s just a bit faster with exercise added. That’s only focusing on the weight loss benefits, though. Exercise has much more to offer when you also consider your health!

Regular exercise has proved time-after-time to help prevent countless diseases, strengthen your heart, increase your energy, fight the signs of aging, and even extend your lifespan.

If you’re considering skipping exercise, you owe it to yourself to at least consider factors beyond losing weight. Take into account the massive health benefits you’ll be passing by should you choose to employ diet alone.

Why Make Things Difficult? Introducing HIIT

The super-effective exercise method I was referring to in the introduction is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). You might have heard of it before, but it’s still fairly underrated. Even if you’re not seriously considering adopting an exercise routine, you owe it to yourself to at least take a closer look at this method.

Traditional cardio can provide great benefits, assuming you put enough time into it (typically 30 to 40 minutes is the acceptable bare minimum for real results). The difference is, HIIT has demonstrated benefits with as little as 15 minutes per day of exercise. Even with this shorter duration, studies have shown that HIIT can still provide the same results as a full-length workout.

Fat Loss Results From HIIT

The peer-reviewed studies are in, and HIIT certainly packs a punch. Publications from Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism call HIIT a “powerful method” to increase whole body fat burning (1).

The American Journal of Physical Medicine found HIIT to reduce body fat and improve physical stamina, and goes on to recommend it to “improve adherence to exercise training”. (2)

An extensive study by McMaster University found measurable benefits from just 15 minutes of daily high-intensity training, and replicated the benefits of traditional exercise in just a third of the time. (3)

The benefits of HIIT are pretty clear. Unless you just fancy the idea of spending far more time exercising than needed, this is an obvious choice.

HIIT’s After-Burn Effect

How could a shorter exercise produce greater results? Part of the answer might lie in the effect of EPOC – aka “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption”. (4)

Long story short, most forms of exercise tend to increase your metabolism for a period of time (typically around 24 hours) following the workout. HIIT, however, has been shown to produce roughly twice the “after-burn” effect when compared to regular cardio. (5) For those following a regular workout schedule, this can add up to a substantial amount of burnt calories.

Another Benefit: Preserving Muscle

Anytime you lose weight, fat won’t be the only thing shed. Your body will drop some muscle mass at the same time it depletes your fat stores. Ladies tend not to be as concerned by this as men – but they should be!

crunchesMuscle burns fat. For every pound of muscle lost, your Total Daily Energy Expenditure is reduced – meaning you’ll have to eat fewer-and-fewer calories to compensate.

Luckily, HIIT comes through yet again. The shorter sessions have consistently demonstrated increased fat targeting and significantly decreased loss of lean muscle tissue. For those who want to retain as much muscle as possible, I always recommend immediately following their workouts with a protein source (a whey protein shake is a great option).

Just remember, all calories must fit into your daily calorie allotment. You’re only cheating yourself by considering a protein shake as “part of your workout” and not accounting for those calories. If a shake is too difficult to work into your diet plan, you could instead time one of your higher protein meals (such as lean chicken) for shortly after your workout.

Types of HIIT: Finding What’s Right For You

Alternate walking and running / sprinting is the most common way to get started, and I recommend this approach for anyone just starting out. However, it works just the same with other forms of cardio.

Some people prefer swimming or biking (stationary or “real”). With some planning, you could even use something more dynamic like boxing. Just be sure to use a heart rate monitor (or a similar approach) when starting out to ensure your adaptation provides the same intensity as traditional walking / running.

Your HIIT Workout Plan

3 monthsIn case the name didn’t already tip you off, high-intensity exercise can be… well, intense. Most plans tend to throw you right in to the full routine, and unless you’re already in great shape, that approach is not only needlessly difficult – it’s also very discouraging.

I have instead designed my workout schedule to ease you into the program, and to avoid increasing the workout intensity until you’ve built up stronger stamina. If you just happen to already be in great cardiovascular shape, feel free to jump ahead – otherwise, don’t push yourself. Building intensity over time helps you stay motivated to work out, and makes exercise far more enjoyable.

The workouts get both longer and more intense – but this happens at the same time that your physical endurance increases. As such, the intensity never goes that far up from your perspective (but the results certainly do!).

Here’s your HIIT workout routine:

Instructions: Follow this plan on a week-by-week basis. Perform the high-intensity exercise (such as sprinting or a fast run) for the specified period of time. When the clock’s up, cool down with the low-intensity exercise (such as walking, or a slow jog once you’ve built up stamina). You can stop during the low-intensity part if you absolutely have to – but try to work up to at least a slow walk. When the low-intensity time is up, switch back to the high-intensity exercise. Repeat for the specified number of times.

Week 1 Plan:

  • Workout frequency: 3 days per week (such as Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).
  • High-Intensity Duration: 10 seconds
  • Low-Intensity Duration: 45 seconds
  • Times to Repeat: 11 times
  • Total Workout Time: 10 minutes

Week 2 Plan:

  • Workout frequency: 3 days per week (such as Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).
  • High-Intensity Duration: 20 seconds
  • Low-Intensity Duration: 60 seconds
  • Times to Repeat: 9 times
  • Total Workout Time: 12 minutes

Week 3 Plan:

  • Workout frequency: 5 days per week
  • High-Intensity Duration: 20 seconds
  • Low-Intensity Duration: 45 seconds
  • Times to Repeat: 13 times
  • Total Workout Time: 14 minutes

Week 4 (And Beyond) Plan:

  • Workout frequency: 5 days per week
  • High-Intensity Duration: 25 seconds
  • Low-Intensity Duration: 45 seconds
  • Times to Repeat: 15 times
  • Total Workout Time: 17 ½ minutes

Optional: You can follow these workout sessions with a five minute cool-down walk, if you wish. This can help you wind down and not feel exhausted after your session.

These workouts are designed to be intense, and to keep pushing you to the next level for maximal results. If you have trouble moving on to the next week’s plan, you can continue the plan you’re on for an additional week to build more stamina.

Don’t feel guilty if doing so ensures you keep exercising. Remember, the most effective exercise is the one you’ll stick to! If you try to push yourself too fast and end up giving up because it’s too difficult, then you end up with the worst possible outcome. Do what you have to in order to stay motivated.

Note: This workout plan is a sample for educational purposes. Always discuss any diet or exercise changes with your doctor and follow his recommendations before making any changes.

Let’s take a look at how to track your results to ensure success in the next chapter: Journaling, Measuring & Tracking