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Depending on your health and fitness goals, you’ll need to commit to a minimum of 3 days of exercise each week to see results. Any fewer than that and each workout will feel like you’re starting all over again each and every time.
The ACSM recommends that healthy adults all need to be performing a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio, 75 minutes of vigorous intensity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous intensity exercise per week. Resistance training and flexibility training should be practiced at least twice per week.
Don’t forget that you can break these recommended workout times into smaller chunks if necessary. Not having enough time to exercise is no longer an acceptable excuse
Ideally, you should have some form of fuel in your system before you work out. Eating an easily digested carbohydrate an hour or so before you hit the gym ensures that you’ll have enough energy in the tank to get through your program. Try fruit and yogurt or toast and peanut butter; not too much or you’ll feel sluggish and heavy.
If, however, you exercise first thing in the morning, eating before your workout may not be an option. Many people find that they can tolerate cardio on an empty stomach, but need fuel to get through a strength training session. Experiment with the types of food and the timing of your pre-workout meal to discover what works best for you.
Eating after a workout is important. You need to replenish your glycogen stores and ‘feed’ the muscles that you’ve just trained. Sports nutritionists suggest that you eat a small snack consisting of protein and easily digested carbohydrates within about an hour of training and then your next meal an hour or two later.
Common post-workout nutrition ‘mistakes’ include eating too much (if you burn 300 calories during your workout, you don’t want to be consuming a 500 calorie protein shake) and choosing less than healthy options (perhaps as a reward for working out).
Excess fat on the belly, upper arms and inner thighs doesn’t typically occur in isolation. If you’ve got it there, chances are you’ve got it everywhere. You can’t spot reduce. No exercise will target fat cells in just one part of the body. You need to target them all via exercise and proper nutrition.
And if you really want to see muscle definition once the layer of subcutaneous fat is shed, make sure you’re following a strength training program designed for muscular hypertrophy (here’s where having a personal trainer comes in handy).
While cardiovascular training is great for building strong hearts and lungs, it doesn’t provide the stimulus your body needs to build bigger, stronger muscles and bones. Why? Our bodies adapt fairly quickly to the load we ask them to move; unless you’re gaining weight, your legs will always be subject to the same load and moving that load through the same, limited range of motion.
Adding strength training to your program allows you to (1) increase the load on your legs, (2) change the range of motion you move your joints through and (3) target muscles that you don’t typically use during cardiovascular training.
The ideal frequency of personal training sessions varies from person to person. Just getting started with exercise and healthy eating? Need regular motivation and support to get to the gym? Have an injury that you’re working through? You’ll probably need to see a trainer once or twice each week. Many of my weekly clients reduce their frequency of personal training sessions to bi-weekly or even monthly once they’ve demonstrated the ability to consistently get to the gym and progress their exercises as recommended.
Although I miss seeing their smiling faces, I’m always pleased when clients reduce their need to see me because they’ve become self-directed exercisers.
Expect to FEEL the results of your training sooner than you SEE them. People who start a new exercise program and are consistent in getting their workouts done typically report improvements in sleep, mood and energy levels within two to three weeks. Changes in body composition often take longer to notice; the more consistent you are with your workouts and the closer you adhere to your nutrition plan, the sooner the results will become noticeable (to you and to others too!).
Try focusing on non-scale victories like how many more pushups you can now perform and how your favourite jeans fit.
The short answer? Any diet you can stick with for as long as it’s going to take. Studies have shown that regardless of the diet followed, adherence is the only thing that predicts success.
Beware of any diet that promises rapid weight loss (and expects you to consume fewer than 1000 calories per day); although you may lose a few pounds in the beginning, chances are you’ll be unable to stick to it long term. When it comes to weight loss, slow, steady and sustainable are key.