Feeling like you hit the gym pretty regularly but aren’t seeing results? One of these post-workout habits may be sabotaging your weight-loss results.
You reward yourself too much: The workout’s done, the sweaty clothes are off, and you’ve been eyeing that piece of cake for a while. While occasional indulgences are smart — and necessary — using your workout as an excuse to help yourself to junk food is not going to get you the results you’re after, so don’t use the fact that you’ve just burned 300 calories as an excuse to indulge in twice that much.
- You skip the stretch: You may think of the cooldown as a waste of time, but regularly skipping your post-workout stretches will put you at risk for injuries that will sideline your weight-loss progress by keeping you out of the gym.
- You recover with a sports drink: Sugary sports drinks can replenish electrolytes, but if you’ve just finished a short workout, the extra calories are probably unnecessary. Save the sports drinks or coconut water for intense workouts lasting more than an hour or for workouts in hot weather.
- You use it as an excuse: Monday’s bootcamp class was so hard, so you can be forgiven for nursing your sore muscles until the start of next week, right? Not the best idea if you want to see pounds dropping on the scale. Make sure you get at least 300 minutes of vigorous exercise every week in order to stay on the right weight-loss track.
- You wait too long to eat: Refueling soon after a workout is crucial, because it’s what helps you rebuild muscle after a workout. Since the more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism, make sure you fit a snack of carbs and protein into your post-workout ritual.
- You don’t schedule the next one: You should pat yourself on the back for finishing this workout, but don’t let your self-congratulations get in the way of scheduling your next workout. You’ll only see progress if you make exercise a consistent part of your week.
Whether you exercise because you want to lose weight, or are just trying to be as healthy as you can be, there are guidelines to follow that will help you get to where you want to be. And while diet plays a major part in a healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly is a major part of the equation. What’s your workout goal? Read on to see how many hours you should be spending on moderate or vigorous exercise every week.
If you want to . . .
Lose weight: Creating a calorie deficit that results in weight loss is hard work. Most recommendations say that to lose weight, you must exercise for at least an hour a day, five times a week. The type of exercise matters, too. The FDA says that the best way to exercise for weight loss is the kind that gets your heartbeat up, so light-intensity exercise — like walking or doing some household chores — won’t contribute very much.
Maintain weight loss: Studies from the American Council on Exercise show that the people who were most successful at keeping the pounds off after losing a significant amount of weight were the ones who, among other healthy lifestyle habits, worked out for at least an hour a day. It is recommended that most people who want to maintain weight loss exercise for at least an hour and up to 90 minutes a day (for five times a week).
Stay healthy: A regular exercise routine is a powerful way to lower your risk of getting cancer and other diseases. It is recommended that you get at least 45 to 50 minutes of exercise four to five times a week to help lower your breast cancer risk. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that all adults under 65 exercise at least do moderately-intense cardio, 30 minutes a day, five times a week or vigorously-intense cardio, 20 minutes a day, three days a week, to lower risk of disease and keep their hearts healthy.
Spending 300 minutes a week sweating it out takes dedication, and it can be hard to work in an hour each day devoted only to fitness, so it’s OK to break it up. As long as exercise is moderate to vigorous (meaning your heart beat is raised and breathing becomes harder, as in a brisk walk or a run), you can achieve the same benefits by breaking up exercise into 10-minute bouts. So don’t think you have to block out a whole hour before you go to work. Incorporate heart-pounding activities like walking briskly and taking the stairs into your day to complement your normal 30-minute treadmill session.
Just as important as it is to fuel up before you exercise, don’t forget to eat a little something once your workout is complete. Your body needs a combo of protein and carbs to build and repair muscle and quickly recharge lost energy. Don’t go overboard and consume so many calories that it cancels out the ones you burned while sweating it out. Here are some ideas for post-workout snacks, all under 150 calories.
- 4 oz. lowfat cottage cheese (81 calories) mixed with half a cup of diced fresh pineapple (41 calories): 122 calories
- One extra small apple (53 calories) with one tablespoon peanut butter (94 calories): 147 calories
- 15 baby carrots (53 calories) with two tablespoons of hummus (70 calories): 123 calories
- One Horizon organic mozzarella cheese stick (80 calories) and 15 grapes (51 calories): 131 calories
- 6 oz. container of Peach Chobani Greek yogurt: 140 calories
- One small banana (90 calories) with eight raw almonds (55 calories): 145 calories
- 6 oz. Horizon Organic Low-Fat Chocolate Milk (126 calories) or 8 oz. Silk Chocolate Soymilk (138 calories)
- Half a Luna Protein Chocolate Bar (85 calories) and eight medium strawberries (31 calories): 116 calories
- Trail mix made with 15 peanuts (87 calories) and a mini box of raisins (42 calories): 129 calories
- Half a cup of shelled edamame (100 calories) drizzled with two tablespoons of Annie’s Gingerly Vinaigrette Dressing (40 calories): 140 calories
Increase Physical Activity
Physical activity is an important part of managing body weight.
Being physically active can help you achieve a healthy weight and prevent excess weight gain. However, physical activity is also important to all other aspects of your health. Benefits include sleeping better at night, decreasing your chances of becoming depressed, and helping you look good. When you are not physically active, you are more likely to have health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood cholesterol.
The amount of physical activity needed to manage body weight depends on calorie intake and varies a lot from person to person. Some adults will need to do more physical activity than others to manage body weight.
How much physical activity do you need to help manage body weight?
- To start, adults should do the equivalent of 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.
- If necessary, adults should increase their weekly minutes of aerobic physical activity gradually over time (while eating fewer calories) to meet weight loss goals.
- Some adults who need to lose weight may need to do more than the equivalent of 300 minutes (5 hours) per week of moderate-intensity activity to meet weight loss goals.
This may sound like a lot. However, your weight is a balance of the number of calories you eat and drink and the physical activity you do. Weight loss can be achieved by eating and drinking fewer calories OR by burning more calories in physical activity. The people with the greatest long-term success are doing BOTH – eating less and being more active. For example, walking 30 minutes each day and drinking one less fizzy drink each day are two small steps you can take that can have a big impact on your weight over time.
Get started increasing physical activity:
- Pick activities you like and that fit into your life.
- Be active with family and friends. Having a support network can help you stay active.
- Keep track of your physical activity and gradually increase how much you do over time. Use the My Fitness Pal, a journal, a log, or mark your activity on a calendar.
- If you are interested in a physical challenge to get you started, try the Plank Challenge
Concerned about increasing physical activity? Here are some common “stumbling blocks” and ideas to help you overcome these barriers:
|“I dislike physical activity. Running just isn’t my idea of fun.”||Pick activities that you like and start by doing what you can, at least 10 minutes at a time. Every bit adds up, and the health benefits increase as you spend more time being active. If one activity, like running, doesn’t appeal to you, find something that does. There are lots of activities, such as: swimming, biking, walking, playing tennis, basketball, hiking, rollerblading, etc. The point is to get out there and move! Doing something is better than doing nothing.|
|“I don’t have the energy to be active.”||Daily activities like walking, gardening, and climbing up the stairs all count. Start with what you can do, even if that’s just 10 minutes. You may even find yourself more energized after being active!|
|“I don’t know the first thing about being active.”||Physical activity simply means movement of the body that uses energy. You can choose moderate or vigorous intensity activities, or a mix of both, each week. Moderate physical activities include: walking briskly, bicycling, dancing, and golf. Vigorous physical activities include: running, jogging, swimming, basketball, and aerobics.|
|“How do I know when I have gotten enough exercise for the day?”||For substantial health benefits, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.|
Why Heavier Weights Will Shrink You Down, Not Bulk You Up
First things first: lifting heavier weights will not turn you into the Incredible Hulk. In fact, lifting a heavier set of dumbbells can actually lead to a smaller, stronger you. Sounds like just what you’re after? Here are two important reasons to ditch the two-pounders and grab heavier weights.
- You’ll lose weight faster: Who doesn’t want to drop pounds the most efficient way possible? recommends this test: “Whatever weight you’re bearing — if you’re doing five pounds, if you’re doing 10 pounds — if you’re not tired by [rep] number 10, then you need to go a little bit heavier. If you are consistently doing that, you’re going to see changes in your strength and in your muscle mass.” More muscle mass equals more metabolism, so maximize your body’s fat-burning potential by challenging your muscles with heavier weights.
- You can reshape your body: Cardio may help you shed excess pounds, but it’s the weights that will help you sculpt the strong, toned look you’re going for. “You’re not going to change the shape of your body [with cardio], you’re just going to be exactly like you are but you’ll be a smaller version,” You should be doing four weight-training routines a week to sculpt and reshape your problem areas. Two Lower & Two Upper body work-outs per week.
Of course, if you’re not used to a weight-training routine, start small and work your way up to heavier weights; starting too heavy can lead to injuries that can side-line all your weight-loss efforts. Here’s a chart of common dumbbell sizes for beginners to help you get started; in general, aim for a weight that will fatigue your muscles in eight to 12 reps.
Want to Change Your Body?
The Workout Rules to Follow
It can be frustrating to feel like you are logging hours in the gym without seeing the efforts manifest on your body. Ramp up your workouts and see results; check out her top tips here.
- Reassess your workout: It’s time to ask yourself — are you really working out to make a change? A good workout will leave you feeling in one of three ways. “You need to be sweating, you need to be breathing heavy, or you need to be sore the next day,”. “If you didn’t hit any of those three, it wasn’t a good workout.”
- Be consistent: Find something you like so you’ll stick with it,. “Anything you do consistently is going to bring about change,”. “Challenge yourself, grab a friend, but nonetheless, just get out there.” If you think you’re too busy to fit in a workout, “One hour of your day is just four percent of your day. Everyone’s got four percent of their day to get a workout in.”
- Use weights: The best results come from weight training with weights heavy enough to fatigue muscles at 12reps. “Whatever weight you’re bearing — if you’re doing five pounds, if you’re doing 10 pounds — if you’re not tired by rep number 10, then you need to go a little bit heavier. If you are consistently doing that, you’re going to see changes in your strength and in your muscle mass.” An added bonus? for the ladies “It’s empowering when you are in that weight room and you’re the chick rocking it,”.
What Size Dumbbells to Use When
|Exercise||Part of body worked||Recommended beginner weight|
|Bicep Curls||Biceps: inside of the upper arm||Five to eight pounds in each hand|
|Lateral Raises||Deltoids and trapezius: shoulders and upper back||Two to five pounds in each hand|
|Upright Rows||Deltoids, trapezius, and biceps: shoulders, upper back, and inside of the upper arm||Two to five pounds in each hand|
|Shoulder Presses||Deltoids, trapezius, and pectoralis: shoulders, upper back, and upper chest||Two to five pounds in each hand|
|Chest Presses||Pectoralis: chest||12 to 45 pounds (body bar)|
|Triceps Kickbacks||Triceps: outside of the upper arm||Two to five pounds in each hand|
|Squats||Glutes and quads: booty and thighs||Zero (just your own body weight) to 45 pounds|