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“I just want to lose weight. How many calories do I have to burn each workout?”

Posted By: Scott Baumann, General Manager Miami personal trainers on 06/30/2010


Losing weight is not just about how many calories you burn during your workout or how many calories you eat or don’t eat. It is a very complicated equation that is not quite that simple. Playing the calorie game, burning lots of calories with excessive cardio or eating extremely low calories is something that provides only a short term answer. You will lose weight, but will you look better? Probably not. Why? Because losing weight in a hurry usually means loss of muscle and water, not fat. What most people want when they say they want to lose weight is to lose fat. Less fat and more muscle is what most people actually want. If I were to show you a picture of someone whose body you admire, it most likely carries more muscle and less fat than yours. So how do you get that?

We need to change your metabolism so it burns more calories. Not just during a workout, but all day long. So in addition to restricting the calories that you eat, we increase the calories that you burn, even at rest. This is done by adding muscle through weight training. Now even if you haven’t built a lot of muscle yet, the process of building muscle and repairing broken down muscle tissue from intense training burns lots of calories. That is a very important point to remember. The afterburn (the burning of calories after exercise) from intense weight training or intense cardiovascular training is much greater than the afterburn of lower intensity aerobic training.

Cutting calories too drastically causes your metabolism to slow down and survive on less food. That is why this type of dieting only works for a short while. When your body catches on to what you are doing, it simply slows down your metabolism to burn less. It does this by losing muscle tissue because muscle is the most metabolically active tissue in your body, meaning that it burns the most calories. It is important to track your eating habits and keep of calories, to be sure that you are taking in the right amount of calories to lose weight. Most of us take in too many calories for the amount of exercise that we do, which leads to weight gain.

Not eating for hours at a time will slow also your metabolism. Eating small, nutrient dense meals all day long will build your metabolism so it is imperative that you eat every 3 hours to build a fast metabolism and lose fat. If you do not do this, you will not lose fat. Period.

Cardiovascular conditioning should be done with the goal of increasing your body’s ability to burn fat, not simply to burn calories. You must do high intensity cardio (intervals, jump rope, kickboxing) to crank up the burning of calories and build the cell’s ability to burn and low intensity cardio (walking, jogging) to enhance the fat burning process.

In summary, to lose fat you need to do the following:

  • Weight train hard 2-3x per week. Do high intensity cardio 2-3x per week.
  • Do low intensity cardio (walk or easy jog) 3-6x per week.
  • Eat nutritious, small meals of protein and veggies every 3 hours.
  • Do not skip meals.
  • Track your meals and calorie intake

Remember, to lose fat you must build a fast, fat-burning metabolism. Always remember that it is about building and feeding that metabolism and not simply about reducing calories.

- Written by Scott Baumann, co-owner Fitness Together South Miami Personal Trainers

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