You Don’t Need to Spend Hours at the Gym to Lose Weight

When it comes to losing weight, people often think that you have to spend countless hours in the gym working out on the treadmill while you watch reruns of How I Met Your Mother. Not only do you not need a lot of time in the gym, it may be better to spend it elsewhere. That’s why.

Bigger is not necessarily better

When it comes to losing weight, diet is more important than exercise . Your body burns most of the calories simply by keeping you alive and breathing. Burning extra calories, while beneficial in many contexts, increases your total calories only marginally. It’s like a paper route when you have a salary of $ 100,000 a year.

On the other hand, adding extra exercise when you already have a sensible diet structure through calorie counting or mindful eating gives you a lower return on investment (or ROI) of your time. While some may be fine with spending a few extra minutes replenishing a calorie deficit, it’s important to remember that we have limited time, energy and, most importantly, willpower.

On the other hand, excessive exercise in addition to being in a calorie deficit can actually be harmful . This can lead to a chronic increase in cortisol levels, as well as possible resistance to leptin, a hormone your body uses to regulate the amount of fat you carry. (It’s probably no coincidence that The Biggest Loser members end up gaining all of their lost weight .)

Why less is better

Dietitian and creator of the Leangains Method Martin Berkhan uses the famous marshmallow experiment to explain why minimal exercise might actually be better:

In the early 1970s, psychologist Walter Michel conducted an experiment with four-year-old children. He put each child in a room, where they sat down at the table. In front of them is a marshmallow. Michel then proposed to each child. He could eat the marshmallows right away, or wait a few more minutes and get another one. Almost everyone decided to wait. Michel then left the room for twenty minutes.

… Successful children were used to survive the experiment. They were distracted. They covered their eyes, played with their hands, or simply entered a state of trance, in which they seemed to get lost in their thoughts. Their attention was elsewhere.

The unfortunate strategy of unlucky children was the exact opposite of this; in fact, they are fixated on the marshmallow, as if they were trying to see it, actively fighting temptation.

Losing weight is no different. The more time and energy you spend on the regimen, the more likely you will lose willpower and reach a tipping point. For most, exercise works best in your life when it is flawless — it’s a background task, not a ceremonial event to focus on.

Strength Training For An Exercise Regimen With A High ROI

While cardio training may not provide the maximum ROI when it comes to weight loss exercise, strength training is the opposite. Strength training allows you to add extra lean body mass, which burns calories at rest.

If cardio is like paying on a credit card, then strength training is like paying a mortgage. With the latter, you create an asset over time. And best of all, it doesn’t take that long.

Muscle building can be simplified to one simple concept: weight gain, reps (also known as “reps”), or volume gain, which you can do in a given exercise. This concept is known as progressive overload . As a result, the size of the muscles increases – a process known as muscle hypertrophy . You can build an effective exercise regimen by starting with just three 30-minute workouts per week, such as this one .

Of course, exercise tolerance is different for everyone. Some are better off doing more exercise, especially if you particularly enjoy activities like cardio. It’s important to note that you don’t need to spend hours exercising while dieting. Keeping it as low as possible may be the best way to avoid getting hung up on the proverbial marshmallow.


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