The 6 Principles of Effective Weight Loss
If you’re a regular here at the UEFP website then you know two things about the material we present: it’s either loaded with scientific references or it’s based on practical experience. This isn’t going to be one of those articles packed with different references that you can sort through.
Here’s the issue: weight loss doesn’t occur in a lab. Scientific studies are great but they’re often limited. They also use protocols that aren’t always effective for the general population; after all, there are only so many times that you can perform a machine based circuit for 3 rounds using 10-15 repetitions. It will give you a bit of spark if you’re just getting back into the fitness game, but that spark will be long gone after three or four weeks.
That’s not to say that science goes out the window with these weight loss tips. Practical doesn’t mean just throwing something against the wall and hoping it sticks. But if you have a background in sports science along with enough real world experience, then you can understand how to put certain concepts like anaerobic training, lactate onset, and high threshold motor unit recruitment into a good weight loss program. Now how’s that for science! (Eat your heart out Bill Nye!)
Being a child of the 80’s, I grew up watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In that show, Will Smith’s character had a chicktionary, which were his commandments for dating women. Or, it might have been just a book of phone numbers, but I like the idea of commandments and principles, so I thought it would be cool to present the UEFP audience with our weight loss commandments.
1. Be Inefficient
In order to have a healthy metabolism, you want to be an inefficient. This is why running for weight loss is a bad idea – the more you run, the more efficient you become. As a result, you have to run more and more to try and burn extra calories. Not exactly a wise choice if you work 9-5, have to take care of kids, or want to have a life. Therefore, you want specific protocols that force the body to expend a lot of energy over a long time. For best results, think interval training.
2. Don’t Rely on the Same Old
If you use an exercise for too long, you become efficient at it. Remember point #1 – so you want to change your exercise selection frequently. As a rule of thumb, it would be good to change something every 6 to 12 workouts. So let’s say you’ve been using battle ropes for fat loss; it would be wise then to switch over to sprints and then try strongman training like sled pulls. Don’t let the body get too comfortable.
3. Make Your Seconds Count
You’ll probably never find a research study on this per se, but effective weight loss relies on a specific time that you spend doing work. To stimulate metabolism, you want to spend anywhere between 30 seconds to 2 minutes of doing non-stop work. Once again, non-stop jogging for 60 minutes isn’t going to stimulate weight loss; after about 8 weeks, your body will pretty much figure out what you’re trying to do. We have a limited ability to do intense work. At most, that energy system taps out after 2 minutes. However, working hard within the time frame of 30 to 120 seconds will stimulate specific hormones that promote the metabolism of fat. Once again, there’s that science!
Here are a couple of examples:
- 30 second sprints
- 200m/400m/800m dashes
- Bodyweight pairings (think push-ups and squats)
4. Make Your Muscles Do the Work
Sounds pretty obvious doesn’t it? However, most people don’t actually make their muscles do any heavy lifting when it comes to losing weight. Instead we opt for safer and saner choices of exercise: like a long walk, an easy jog, or a bike ride. Nothing is wrong with these selections if you’re trying to unwind from a long day at work or preparing for an endurance event (like a marathon).
The human body was meant to sprint, lift, scoop, and pull – and effective weight loss happens when you challenge the body to do this. We in the strength training community like to use the term farm strong. This replicates the various manual labor chores that farmers had to do back in the day. If you don’t believe me, find an empty yard and carry a big rock for 30 meters. Set it down and rest for a short period of time. Repeat. After 5 minutes, watch your heart rate shoot up and enjoy the beads of sweat dripping in your eyes.
5. Don’t Use Marathon Training to Lose Weight
People tend to forget that running is a sport. You know, you run a set distance in the fastest time possible and the fastest runner gets his/her arm raised. Endurance athletes are well trained at their sport, and many people who jump on the latest marathon program they found online forget this. Getting good at running requires different techniques, such as distance work, tempo runs, and stride work. You’re trying to condition your body to get good at a discipline, not necessarily to lose weight. If you’re really deconditioned, you’ll drop a few pounds starting a training program. But soon your body will accommodate – see point #1.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to run a marathon. But using marathon training to run a marathon – not to try and lose weight.
6. Get Out of That Comfort Zone
If you want to see progress with your weight loss, make sure to stay out of your comfort zone. This doesn’t mean that the workout needs to be insane, but rather, different from what you’re accustomed to. For example, I grew up as a distance runner. When I say distance runner, we’re talking about years of pounding the pavement and running mile after mile. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I discovered the benefits of sprinting. Now, when I say sprinting, it was more like plodding. Years of distance running had made me a good runner, but when I tried to sprint I felt slow and lethargic. It took me a long time – about 6 months – to get comfortable with sprinting, but when it happened, I have to admit that it was a pretty sweet feeling.
Want to lose weight and keep it off? Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. You don’t have to abandon your distance running, but just make sure your muscles are doing the work and don’t let your body get too comfortable.