Despite late-night commercials and fitness gurus that promise you to teach you how to lose weight, implicitly advertising the latest exercise machines, and a full array of powdered drinks claiming to help take off the pounds, the recipe for getting in shape and losing weight remains the same: a combination of proper diet and exercise.
When someone says they want to get in shape, that usually means they want to lose weight too and the process starts with the proper diet. The body can use three nutritional sources – fat, protein and carbohydrates – as fuel. The typical American diet, consisting of plenty of red meat, cheese, and fried foods, goes heavy on the fat. Make sure you stay away from such foods if you want to lose weight.
A person living a sedentary lifestyle isn’t likely to lose weight and burn as much fat as he or she consumes from such a diet, and the excess ends up as extra pounds on the consumer.
Protein is the fuel associated with building and maintaining muscle. Protein consumption is very important for growing youngsters, who need as much as three times the protein as a grown adult. Research indicates the average adult consumes more than enough protein to maintain good health.
Meat provides protein and the essential amino acids (the ones the body doesn’t manufacture) that it contains. But protein can also be gleaned from non-meat sources such as grains, vegetables and dairy products.
Carbohydrates, derived from eating foods rich in starch and natural sugars such as pasta, breads and potatoes, serve as an energy source as the liver converts them into glucose. A portion of the glucose is converted into glycogen, which fuels the muscles.
Most experts recommend a weight loss diet that consists of 60 percent carbohydrates, 20 percent fat and 20 percent protein. More restrictive diets may call for less than 20 percent fat. The typical American diet contains 40 percent fat or more.
If you want to learn how to lose weight, a proper diet is only half of the equation. Many dieters who have lost significant number of pounds, only to put them back on, can attest to that. Relying only on a restrictive diet to lose weight and keep it off isn’t likely to work because the dieter hasn’t increased his metabolism, a factor needed if you want to lose weight permanently.
Your body slows down when you starve it and those interested in how to lose weight want to increase metabolism, not slow it down. When people lose dramatic amounts of weight quickly, it’s likely that lean muscle as well as fat was lost. With less muscle, the body has less equipment to fuel, so it’s only natural the weight comes back once more normal eating habits are resumed.
Adults typically put on weight as they grow older as their metabolism slows naturally. Exercise can counteract this by speeding up the metabolism – turning up the body’s burner. Exercise can be classified into two basic forms: aerobic and anaerobic.
Aerobic workouts are endurance-oriented, where the heart rate is elevated by putting major muscles into play. The muscles aren’t worked to exhaustion, however. Beginners should aim for a heart rate of 60 percent of maximum, then increase to 70 to 80 percent of maximum percent as conditioning improves. The accepted formula for calculating your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. For example, a 35-year-old would have a maximum heart rate of 185.
Common examples of aerobic exercise geared towards losing weight include running, walking, aerobic dancing, cycling, swimming, cross-country skiing and jumping rope. Exercise machines that mimic cycling, skiing, stair-climbing, walking and running provide an aerobic workout in a gym-type atmosphere or at home.
Progressive resistance training – weight lifting to most folks – is perhaps the best example of an anaerobic exercise. Free weights – dumbbells and barbells – or resistance machines are often used to work muscles to the failure point, where the build-up of lactic acid temporarily prevents further use. Both free weights and machines can be used at an aerobic level and provide cardiovascular benefits as well.
Many fitness newbies that want to lose weight begin with a circuit training class that involves using both free weights and machines. Light free weights and little resistance on machines are commonly used, so the lifter works on endurance rather than strength. Some strength training is also advised since the added muscle will help in performing any type of aerobic exercise.
While more calorie-burning effects will be realized through an aerobic workout, the toning and building of muscle tissue has its weight loss advantages, too. Muscle requires fuel for maintenance, so the more muscle a person has, the more fat he or she will burn, even at rest.
Choices of strength training could include something as simple as calisthenics, where the body itself provides the resistance, to full-body workouts revolving around free weights. Exercise machines, such as the popular Nautilus machines, also tone and build muscle, and are great for isolating specific muscle groups.
Free weights tend to be more versatile, and are much more economical than equipping a home gym. Though there are areas where use of the free weights and machines overlap, many fitness specialists lean toward free weights for building additional muscle tissue and adding strength, and machines for toning existing muscle and building muscular endurance. For new muscle to develop, the existing tissue must be worked to the point where microscopic tears occur.
Thus the soreness felt after a heavy lifting session, and the reason rest days must be incorporated into weight loss training programs. New muscle is tacked on by the healing process, the body’s way of adapting to the added work.
The gyms and clubs tend to offer machines and free weights. How members use each type of equipment depends upon their individual goals. Both free weights and machines have their advantages. Free weights don’t offer the “help mechanism” machines do, but some people appreciate the built-in safety advantages of resistance machines, which make it easier to isolate specific muscle groups. Furthermore, they promote flexibility by allowing the muscle to be safely worked throughout its full range.
If exercise is new to you, or a distant memory from the past, it would be wise to get medical approval before jumping into a fitness program. This is especially important for individuals over 35 years of age and essential for those with a history of heart problems.
It also is recommended that people new to resistance training work under some type of supervision, such as a personal trainer, when starting out. A trainer can help customize a program for individual needs and help him lose weight.
The advantages of physical fitness are well documented: A much lower risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer. Most fit people lay claim to enjoying life more, thanks largely to their condition, why is fitness so difficult to achieve?
It is because people get impatient and discouraged. They tend to want results yesterday. Any fitness program that will help you understand how to lose weight should be viewed not as a short-term solution to a problem, but as an overall change in lifestyle.