Losing weight seems complicated, but it’s really not. All you have to do to lose weight is move more than you eat. Your body will take care of the rest. Now, that’s not easy to do, as a little thing called hunger kicks in eventually. While eating well fuels exercise and keeps us healthy, how to we train to ensure fat loss?
To stimulate fat loss, there are a few key targets:
Let’s dig in to what types of workouts hit those three target areas, and how to create your own workouts for weight loss..
Weight Loss Strategies
The human body was built to move. If your lifestyle creates motion, gets you outside, or has you running around caring for children - you’re off to a good start. There are a few more specific ways to get the best bang for your buck, however. Every exercise that maximizes fat loss falls in one of three categories:
Do you know where most of your metabolism takes place?
Surprisingly, it’s within the muscle tissue itself. Little organelles called mitochondria are constantly churning out energy for use.
These miracle workers turn your stored fat, carbs, and blood sugar into ATP for both exercise and regular activities of daily living.1
If muscle cells contain mitochondria, and mitochondria = burned energy, then doesn’t it make sense that more muscle equates to more burned energy?
That’s exactly what The International Journal of Obesity discovered when comparing those with higher lean body mass to those without.2
The resting metabolic rate, or the amount of calories burned doing nothing, was much higher in those with more muscle. Resistance training specifically challenges your muscles cells, forcing them to reach for a larger energy requirement to recover.
Last, but not least, muscular individuals are able to utilize fat more during a workout, according to a study from the Journal of International Sports Nutrition.3 So hit the weights to lose weight.
Going for a long jog has lost its appeal. Replaced by the fads of new, steady state cardio has evaporated in to non-existence. But one must question - what made it so popular initially?
Before every breath was analyzed in a lab, participants in regular exercise recognized the benefits of heading out for a steady state cardio workout. Coupled with a solid lifting routine, general cardio can be a great solution for fat loss.
Training at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate uses mostly fat as fuel.4 Utilizing a lower intensity allows you to train for longer, burning fat the entire time. Due to the low intensity, you won’t burn as many calories by the minute, but it’s easy to do.
Almost everyone can jump on a bike or go for a run - it’s just a matter if you can do so long enough to be effective. Therefore, it’s a great option for those with lots of time, who enjoy running, or as an aerobic recovery session in-between higher intensity trainings.
Increasing the intensity to around 70-80% of your heart rate improved your aerobic endurance, utilizing both fat and carbs as fuel. It’s a sweet spot to both push yourself and remain aerobic.
The golden child of fat loss techniques, high intensity intervals demand massive caloric output and metabolic conditioning (Metcon = metabolic conditioning).
With intervals, you get all the fat-burning benefits during aerobic exercise coupled with increased mitochondrial density through anaerobic training.
Going at 80-100% of your maximum heart rate trains your metabolism and raises work capacity. It also improved insulin sensitivity, training your body to take blood sugar spikes and store them as muscle glycogen. But going that hard will wear you out quickly, so you’ve got to take it in intervals.
High intensity interval training triggers excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) to keep you burning calories after the workout is finished.
After exercise, your body starts to recover, converting any excess nutrients in to glycogen stores. EPOC can continue to burn fat for up to 30 post-workout.
Create Your Own Workout - Metcons Featuring Total Body Movements
When it comes down to the best workout for weight loss, what should you include? Shoot to combine some element of the big three mentioned above, and tailor it to your workout time and experience.
30 Mins / Day, 3 - 6 Times / week
Hit the big rocks early, often, and quickly. With so little time, you’ll want to include movements that challenge multiple muscles at once. Think squats, push ups, rows, burpees, and kettlebell swings.
Beginners will want to stick to 1-3 circuits of 10-20 minutes, aiming for a consistent pace the whole time. Those completely new to training will want to focus on efficient form and safety rather than blasting through some crazy movements with the potential to injure you. Consistency is the most important element to weight loss, so you also need to make sure you’re at a pace that doesn’t wreck you for the next five days.
More intermediate to advanced exercisers can add higher intensity intervals with short rest, or stick to longer Metcons while pushing your limits. For those training almost every day, alternate between super high intensity workouts and steadier-state circuits to allow for recovery.
45-90 Mins, 3-6 Times / Week
The ideal structure would be 30-60 minutes of lifting and 15-45 minutes of conditioning. The more time you have to train, the more you’ll be able to focus on hypertrophy-style lifting at the start to build muscle and alter your lean body mass.
According to research, muscle groups should be targeted at least twice a week with between 6-12 reps at a moderately heavy weight for maximum growth.5 (And no, lifting as a female won’t make you huge). Set the foundation for fat falling off by building muscle underneath. Then hit the cardio - through high intensity intervals or steady state, depending on your total training time.
If you have 45 minutes to do cardio, and really enjoy going on long runs, bike rides, or swims, then go for it! It’s more important that you enjoy what you’re doing so you’ll repeat it, rather than force yourself into a workout that makes you miserable.6
For those with less time (or who hate running), stick to 15-20 minutes of high intensity intensity “finishers”. Finishers are short bouts of conditioning after a solid lift, designed to stimulate fat loss, aerobic, and anaerobic fitness. Upper body workouts can be coupled with leg-focused finishers like sled pushes, lunges, and wall balls. Lower body lifts can include finishers with battle ropes, med ball slams, or the assault bike
Tailor your conditioning to your current fitness level. Beginners will want to stick to a 1:2 or a 1:1 work/rest ratio. For example, if you’re pushing yourself for 30 seconds, rest for 30 or 60 seconds so that you can go all out each interval. Those who consider themselves intermediate will want to choose 1:1 or 2:1 work/rest ratios, and advanced athletes can train at around a 2:1 or even 3:1 work/rest ratio.
Workout Structure for Weight Loss
This is the best scenario to be in. For maximum weight loss, you’ll want to get in to the gym nearly every day. Leave at least one day for active recovery, such as a long hike or walk with your dog.
Beginners need to exercise at a moderate intensity for around 60 minutes a day, 4-5 times per week.7 Choose 3-4 days of those days for total body lifts, each featuring a finisher, and keep 1-2 of the days for steady state cardio. Steady-state cardio is great to recovery from the stresses of high intensity training while still burning fat.
More experienced trainees can lift up to 5 days per week and do HIIT 3-4 times a week. Keep one of those days for active recovery, and consider adding in a day of just cardio if you’re feeling overtrained.
How to Create Your Own Workouts for Weight Loss Conclusion
There’s no one “best” workout for weight loss, but rather multiple ways to stimulate the desired effect. Structure your own workout plan by assessing what’s realistic for you. On average, focus on weight lifting, and train at a moderate to high intensity 4-5 days a week, aiming for 60 minutes a day.
However, if that’s not realistic for your lifestyle, it doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight.8 Stick to a clean diet and make the most of your time in the gym with high intensity interval training.
- Role of Fat Metabolism in Exercise, National Center for Biotechnology Information.
- Modelling the Associations Between Fat-free Mass, Resting Metabolic Rate and Energy Intake in the Context of Total Energy Balance, National Center for Biotechnology Information.
- Understanding the Factors That Effect Maximal Fat Oxidation, National Center for Biotechnology Information.
- How to Calculate Heart Rate for Fat Burn, LiveStrong.
- The Single Best Muscle-Building Method, T Nation.
- The Effects of High Intensity Interval Training Vs Steady State Training on Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity, National Center for Biotechnology Information.
- ACSM Releases New Exercise Guidelines, Greatist.
- Steady State Vs. Interval Training: Which One Is Best for Your Clients?, American Council on Exercise
The Diet Fitness King Team is a team of 6 people lead by the founder Greg Davis. We have all different levels of experiences and credentials in the health field and our goal is to provide people the highest quality information available. Everything we put out is well researched and we have a lot of passion and pride behind this! Please let us know if you find any incorrect information on our website or feel free to contact us with feedback in general.