To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. When you exercise, your body draws on its fat reserves for energy. How? By increasing your heart rate.
Your heart rate can help you measure the intensity of your workout. For most people, the heart beats between 60 and 100 times a minute while resting. Your heart rate increases during exercise. So the harder you exercise, the more your heart rate will increase.
Your fat-burning heart rate is at around 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is the most number of times your heart should beat during activity. To work out your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, a 30-year-old woman’s maximum heart rate is 220 minus 30 — or 190 beats per minute. To enter the fat-burning zone for female weight loss, she’d want her heart rate to be around 70 percent of 190, which is 133 beats per minute. This in an average level. You can be above and below this level throughout your workout, and your heart rate will adapt to the effort you’re putting in.
When you think about which exercises will burn the most calories, running probably springs to mind. Running is an easy way to get started as you can go and run around your local park, or hop on a treadmill at the gym. You can burn around 100 calories per mile, but running will only get you so far - so to speak.
There are lots of exercises besides running, which will get your heart rate up. As part of your gym workout for weight loss, you can jump on an exercise bike or get your blood pumping in a fitness class. Infact, any cardiovascular activity will help you lose weight, but when this is combined with weight training, you’ll get even better results.
Weight training is an excellent workout, and is perfect for both men and women. Not only will you tone up and build muscle, but this extra muscle will help speed up weight loss. The exercises that burn off the most calories are the ones that use the big muscles, so concentrate on your legs, back, chest and glutes. Good exercises to work these areas are squats, pull-ups, press-ups, bench presses and deadlifts. Try 6 to 8 sets, and 15 to 30 reps of each exercise. With short breaks between sets (around 30 seconds). Choose a weight that works for you. It should be big enough to make you breathless, yet small enough for you to complete all the reps and sets. You won’t get any points for using a really heavy weight and then hurting yourself. You should aim to train for around 30-60 minutes to get the most from your workout.
Here are 4 exercises to help you lose weight. Repeat each exercise for 30 seconds, at a steady pace (with a 30 second rest between exercises). Each set lasts around 4 minutes in total. This can be a fitness plan for women and men.
To start, complete 3 sets with a rest period of 2 minutes between each set. Gradually increase this to 8 sets for a session time of about 45 minutes, which you can repeat 3 times a week. Most importantly, enjoy your workout!
Exercise 1: Sit-ups
Targeted muscles - the rectus abdominis (abs)
Exercise - lie down on the floor with your legs bent (move your feet as close as possible to the glutes) and feet hip-width apart. Put your hands near your forehead (do not place them behind the head). Roll the chest forward while tucking in the chin. Contract the abs and keep the lower back in contact with the floor at all times. Return to the initial position smoothly. Breathe in at the start of the movement, breathe out as you roll up your torso.
Exercise 2: Squats with dumbbells
Targeted muscles - quads & glutes (bottom)
Exercise - stand up with the feet wider than shoulder-width apart and pointing slightly outwards. Place the arms along the body with a dumbbell in each hand (max 10kg). Bend your legs while pushing the buttocks backwards with your eyes fixed on a point in front of you and the back leaning slightly forwards. Contract the abs and glutes and push on the legs to return to the starting position. Breathe in deeply as you grab the weight, and breathe out as you lift it.
Exercise 3: Jumping Jacks
Targeted muscles - the thigh muscles
Exercise - stand upright with feet together and arms alongside the body. Jump with the legs spread apart and arms straight above the head. Then return to the starting position and repeat the movement. Look far in front of you and remember to tense your core muscles throughout the exercise. Breathe in at the starting position and breathe out as you spread your legs.
Exercise 4: Mountain Climbers
Targeted muscles - abs
Exercise - get into the plank position. The hands should be aligned with the shoulders and beneath them, and the arms straight. Bring your right leg forward and knee to the chest with the toes on the ground. Keep your core muscles taught for proper alignment. Return to starting position and repeat the same movement with the left leg. Move from one leg to the other with this forward movement as if climbing a mountain. Breathe in when in the starting position and breathe out as you pull your leg towards your chest.
Make sure that you are trying your hardest each time you go to the gym. And be sure your routine gets tougher over time to really push yourself. Add a little more weight, a little more speed, a few more sets or reps of each exercise. Afterall, the harder you work, the more you’ll benefit.
Start by completing workout sessions made up of cardiovascular exercises (75%) followed by weight training (25%). After a few weeks, switch to a 50-50 breakdown. How is this done? Here are 2 options to choose from:
- The split is achieved over time: for example, for a one-hour session, do 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercises followed by 15 minutes of weight training
- The split is achieved by the choice of exercises: for example, 75% cardiovascular exercises and 25% weight training exercises, e.g. circuit training.
Of course results will vary from person to person. It will largely depend on your level of sporting activity (50%), and your diet (50%). Although, doing sport doesn’t mean that you can eat more or eat lots of sugary or fatty food - sorry.
Fitness coach Ludovic Doyer says: "When we meet people who want to lose weight by exercising, we always talk about nutrition. The two things go together. You can't ask your body to do more with restricted nutrition. However, you can change certain habits to burn calories without feeling the effects of fatigue."
If you want to lose weight, you’ll need to follow a healthy and balanced diet (1/3 protein, 1/3 vegetables and 1/3 starchy foods). Eat fruit to take on all the vitamins you need and don’t snack between meals. If you consume more calories than your body needs (an average of 2000 calories per day for women and 2500 for men), your exercise won’t be enough to burn those extra calories.
The key thing is not to skip meals. Doctor Alexandre Feltz, Head of Sports for Health in Strasbourg says: "You need to eat four times a day: morning, midday, 4 PM and 8 PM. This is an important foundation for giving your body a nutritional rhythm." For people wanting to lose a few pounds, it’s generally recommended to cut down on fatty and sugary foods.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It should give you energy to face the day ahead. Choose from:
- Rye bread
- Low sugar cereals (eg. muesli or oats)
- Kiwi fruit, grapefruit or bananas
- 0% fat yoghurt
At lunch, choose slow-releasing sugars (complex carbohydrates) like:
- Whole grain pasta
- Rice, quinoa, or bulgur wheat
- White meat and fish
At 4pm, have a small snack break with fruit. And make 5pm your carb cut-off point.
For dinner, eat light. This could be:
- Fish (eg. salmon or tuna)
- Vegetable soup
Some seeds are also great at helping you burn fat and build muscle, and it’s easy to incorporate these tiny superfoods into your diet. Whiz them up in your morning smoothie or sprinkle them on top of soups or salads. The super 5 are: Pumpkin seeds, Hemp seeds, Chia seeds, Sunflower seeds and Flax seeds.
Before doing any training, it’s a good idea to eat a small protein bar to keep you going. And a recovery drink or water rich in mineral salts will allow you to cope with exertion.
Remember to consult a nutritionist for further advice and for a personalised diet plan.