Weight loss is a challenge for most people, but it doesn't need to be overly complicated.
What's the trick? It's what you eat, when you eat it, and how you structure your workouts. So we asked Nick Ebner, N.A.S.M., P.I.C.P., a personal trainer and BioSignature practitioner based in NYC, to lend his expertise for effective, long-lasting weight loss. Below, we present five common questions about weight loss we get from our readers, as well as Ebner's responses.
When I started training, I lost weight at a steady pace, but I've slowly leveled off and haven't seen my weight go down in weeks. What's happening?
When most anyone first starts training they see results. Your body is responding to a new, natural and healthy stimulus. When we begin moving more actively, the body loses weight and gains muscle, based on the stimulus. Eventually you level off because you can push a general adaptation only so far. At this point, your body is ready to become more advanced. It's now time to change the training stimulus [program], improve nutrition, and modify your lifestyle to better suit your goals.
I eliminated junk food from my diet and initially lost a few pounds. However, I haven't lost any more weight. What gives?
Junk food is just one piece of the puzzle. You may have other foods in your diet that I call, "dead foods"—processed foods such as pastas, wraps, cereals, and most of those 100-calorie ‘snack packs’ that don't provide proper nutrition. Substitute them with real whole food that doesn't have to be modified or excessively processed for human consumption. Another option is to shop local/organic. There are tons of data supporting organic and local farmers, who don't overfarm, or excessive amounts of pesticides, to produce nutritious food. Optimal nutrition is key for keeping the pounds off, and improving vitality.
How can I tailor my workouts for a goal of losing five pounds without changing my diet too much?
That depends on YOU. If your metabolism isn't working properly, diet change is the only way to see improvement. In this case you should worry more about nutrition than training. However, if you're seeing good progress and it's just slowing, make sure you're sleeping enough. Your body recovers and changes while you sleep. I suggest seven to nine hours per night. For the metabolically broken individual [slow, inefficient metabolism], the advantage here is that sleeping enough will also aid in healing the metabolism. In the long run this should increase fat burning, increase energy, and help you lose those five pounds, maybe even more, and keep it off. All in all, tailor your training so you can work out and rest sufficiently. Sometimes less is more.
I keep hearing about "intermittent fasting," and people say it works miracles. Is this true? What's the best way to go about it?
For some, it can be a magic bullet for short-term results. For a healthy individual looking for further fat loss, it can accelerate results. This healthy demographic normally can get three to four weeks of results with intermittent fasting before you need to return to a normal eating pattern. In my experience, anything past that, tends to start burning away at muscle stores, which is bad for long-term results.
I do not suggest intermittent fasting to people whose diet is not based on whole foods. In my experience, someone who is not in optimal health often has a sluggish metabolism. If the metabolism is sluggish, spacing all your meals into a six- to nine-hour window will not make the body burn fuel and fat optimally, thus slowing fat burning and decreasing energy. You may lose weight and even sometimes feel more energetic for a week or so, but at the price of wasting muscle. In fat-loss terms, breaking down muscle often leads to long-term failure. I recommend first building a strong foundation, then trying some quick results—stuff like intermittent fasting if you really want to.
Normally for cardio I walk on an incline treadmill for 30 minutes, but it's really long and tedious. Is there a way to get more work done in less time?
Oh, yeah! High-intensity interval training (aka HIIT) has been around for a very long time, but has only recently gained mainstream attention. You can throw in any cardio-based exercise you like. Chose from a cardio exercise you can do with intensity—jumping rope, box jumps, pushing a prowler, dragging a sled, swinging battle ropes, StairMaster, sprinting, you name it.
The key is to work hard for a certain interval, then rest. I often suggest clients pick four to six exercises, performed with high intensity for 30-60 seconds each. Rest 10-60 seconds between each exercise. Rest two to four minutes, then repeat for four to six sets. As you improve, rest intervals can become shorter, and sets per workout can be increased. When done correctly, H.I.I.T. should take only 15-30 minutes.