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Exercise is the best (in fact the only) way to get fit, is a proven preventative step against heart disease and stroke (Britain’s top 2 causes of death- ONS) and also makes you feel amazing. It can also help with weight loss, but there are a few things that you will need to be aware of for lasting success.
1 – Eating is king. When it comes to weight loss, although exercising for weight loss can help, the key factor is eating. This doesn’t just mean quantity either, but what you are eating, when you are eating it and what you are doing around the times that you eat. As any well qualified and experienced fitness professional will tell you, if you’re after a 6 pack, proper and accurate nutrition is 90% of the equation. Thus, go ahead and start your exercise regime, but at the same time start to make some changes to your eating. Remember to go for small changes at first; too much of a change will make it hard to sustain and may even make you fatter in the long run!
2 – Eat breakfast. This the most important meal of the day for those embarking on a weight loss quest. Skipping breakfast will lead to very low blood sugar levels, so that when you do finally eat, more insulin will be released so more of the energy taken in will be stored as fat. Mentally, skipping breakfast can also make healthy choices difficult later on in the day; in 2009 a study at Imperial college in London showed that those who skipped breakfast and were then presented with images of high calorie, sugary foods had much greater cravings than those who had eaten first thing.
3 – Don’t eat immediately before exercise. A study at the University of Birmingham showed that those who had eaten just before exercise did not burn as much fat during the session as those who ate a few hours before.
4 – But get the timing right. The key to exercising for weight loss is to increase the metabolic rate and keep insulin levels low. Exercise presents windows of opportunity when you can eat starchy carbohydrate and immediately metabolise it before insulin has to be released. This window of opportunity sits 2 hours either side of exercise. Just like a racing car, you need fuel when going fast. This fuel is used immediately to produce energy. But of you put fuel in when the car is going slowly, it just goes into the fuel tank as it’s not needed. For us, the fuel tank is made up of fat cells!
5 – Don’t over compensate. Many people start exercising for weight loss, but after every session they feel that they have earned a reward. Food. Indeed, as they have exercised, then their brain thinks that they can eat anything with no consequence. It’s important to be realistic when it comes to exercise calories. Give yourself only a few extra calories per exercise session.
6 – Don’t starve yourself and then exercise. Not only could this damage you, but as the demands on the body become too much the stress will lead to emergency fat storage and the breaking down of lean muscle for fuel. This is particularly damaging as we are relying on this lean muscle mass to keep our metabolic rate high!
7 – Strength train twice a week – minimum. As above, loss of muscle is disastrous for weight loss, particularly in the long term. A couple of focused strength training sessions a week will keep and build lean muscle mass; this will maintain and build the metabolic rate.