“If I look back over my last 20-plus years of training people, the most common goal I have heard from clients is, ‘I would really like to lose some weight,’” says Joshua Trentine, president of Overload Fitness.
He says this often just stands to serve as the language loosely used to describe a desired outcome, but could also signal the average person is actually out of touch with his or her fitness goals.
“I would like to enhance our language sophistication and clarify what I believe the real goal is when a client makes this statement. I believe that if we don’t state our goals clearly and have a firm understanding of what they mean, than the path to achieving them will become blurry,” says Trentine.
Smart Business spoke with Trentine about the different ways to lose weight and which of them leads to the better and more lasting outcome.
Losing weight is often the goal of many who enter into a fitness program. Why might this not be the best approach?
There should not be as much emphasis placed on ‘cutting weight’ unless the person is a competitive athlete trying to bring his or her weight down to a certain level in order to qualify to compete in a sport in a specific weight class. What seems to be meant by cutting or losing weight is that the client is looking to lose body fat while trying to improve his or her overall body composition, that being the person’s ratio of fat to lean mass. This is often called discriminate weight loss and the difference between the two methods is well worth mentioning because realizing which is most suitable helps greatly when assessing a means to achieve an end goal.
What do many people feel they need to do in order to lose weight?
When many people embark on the path to the ambiguous goal of ‘weight loss,’ they may create a plan that incorporates deprivation. Through this method, a person often goes through periods of severe calorie restriction and begins a regiment of daily steady-state activities that can include jogging, biking and walking. If they approach their goal this way, the outcome they are likely to achieve would certainly be weight loss, but is that what the person really desired? In many cases, the answer is no.
Why might this not be the best or most healthy approach for someone to lose weight?
Let’s say, for instance, that a person consistently follows a plan of calorie restriction and increased activity and eventually achieves the stated 20-pound weight loss goal. The person who loses weight in this manner will likely shed close to 10 pounds of muscle and around 10 pounds of fat. Both long-duration, steady-state activity and severe calorie restriction will result in some fat loss but will also lead to sarcopenia, which can be generally defined as muscle wasting. The end result, if carried too far or too long, will be metabolic damage, which is a reduction in metabolic rate due to a loss of lean mass and a disruption of optimal thyroid and adrenal hormone output. Ironically, the result of this metabolic damage could be rapid fat gain if or when normal or higher levels of calories are introduced after the period of calorie reduction is tapered off. The resulting metabolic damage can also lead to a loss of functional abilities and could ultimately contribute to the onset of the degenerative process, which means more rapid aging.
What is the most effective way for someone to lose the right kind of weight?
The method of achieving discriminate weight loss, primarily fat loss, is really quite simple. First, establish how many calories are needed to sustain your current body mass. This can be estimated or ideally calculated with a resting metabolic rate test. This test is used to measure the minimum amount of energy required to keep your body’s core functions, such as heartbeat and respiration, operating normally.
Second, strictly monitor your caloric intake to ensure that you are consistently leaving yourself with a slight calorie deficit. Often it is only necessary to restrict something like 250 to 500 calories per day from your typical intake if a proper balance among proteins, carbohydrates and fats are maintained.
Lastly, you must participate in intense, safe, progressive strength training once or twice each week. Proper strength training will create a biological need for the body to hold onto its most metabolically expensive tissue — muscle and nerve — while predominately shedding fat. However, this only works if a mild caloric deficit and nutrient balance is maintained.
Beyond a slight calorie restriction and involvement in a strength training program, what else should a person do to meet his or her weight-loss goals?
Often when people are presented with this plan, they respond by asking what else they need to do. The answer is quite often, ‘nothing.’ Some 90 percent of the time you invest in this program will be spent monitoring and planning your meals, while the other minor allocation of time will be dedicated to performing your strength training program. There is no need to plan additional activities. Get out, do what you truly enjoy doing and appreciate that the biggest advantage to engaging in these activities is that your preoccupation with them stands the chance of keeping you from running to the fridge too often.
Joshua Trentine is president of Overload Fitness. Reach him at (216) 292-7569 and visit www.overloadfitness.com.
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