In the first part of this weight loss article series, we went over the nutrition side of rapid weight loss in detail.
In this article, we’re going to look at exercise tips that can help you lose weight fast without losing muscle, damaging your metabolism, or otherwise harming your health. In the final article in this three-part series, we’ll talk about how to use supplementation to further help your weight loss efforts.
If you’re a man around or above 20% body fat, or if you’re a woman around or above 25% body fat, and you combine all the strategies outlined in these three articles, you should be able to lose 15 – 20 pounds in one month, with a large percentage of it fat, and little-to-none of it muscle. (A certain percentage of weight loss is always water and glycogen).
So then, let’s get to the training strategies that help you lose weight fast!
Training Frequency and Losing Weight Fast
The more you exercise, the more fat you burn, but if you push things too hard, you can quickly find yourself burned out.
You see, just being in a calorie deficit raises cortisol levels (cortisol being your body’s “stress hormone”), and intense exercise—both lifting and cardio—further stresses the body.
In terms of weight loss, the proper training frequency is one that provides maximum fat loss while keeping physiological stress levels moderate and under control.
There are many opinions as to what this means in actual hours spent in the gym.
On one end of the spectrum are the “no pain, no gain” types that want to spend 10+ hours per week exercising, and on the other end are the extremely “conservative” types that believe you should dramatically reduce training frequency while cutting to avoid over-stressing the body.
The reality is there is no one-size-fits-all answer to optimal training frequency, as some people’s bodies deal with stress better than others. In my experience, however, both with my body and with the hundreds of people I’ve worked with, it’s quite a bit harder to reach this point of overtraining than some experts believe.
Generally speaking, readers on my programs have absolutely no issues lifting 3 – 5 times per week and doing cardio 3 – 4 times per week while cutting. I’ve actually yet to meet someone that had to dramatically scale back their lifting or cardio due to issues of overtraining.
The success of my readers is likely due to a combination of factors:
- Proper training volume (the workouts aren’t long, grueling bloodbaths)
- Proper nutrition (maintaining a mild calorie deficit, using good macronutrient ratios, eating plenty of healthy, micronutrient-dense foods)
- Proper rest (sleeping enough, giving muscles enough rest before training them again)
- Supplementation that reduces bodily stress and inflammation, and improves overall health, such as spirulina, fish oil, and vitamin D
If, however, one were to make the workouts too long or too intense, make the calorie deficit too severe, replace nutritious foods with junk, sleep too little, or drop out supplementation altogether, it’s more likely that the training frequency cited above would result in burnout.
So, my recommendation for losing weight quickly and healthily is this: Lift weights 3 – 5 times per week, and do cardio 3 – 4 times per week.
- If you’re a man, I highly recommend you follow my Bigger Leaner Stronger program, because it will not only help you lose fat quickly, but can help you build muscle at the same time
- If you’re a woman, I highly recommend my Thinner Leaner Stronger program, which can do the same for you as well
Find the Perfect Supplements for You in Just 60 Seconds
You don't need supplements to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy. But the right ones can help. Take this quiz to learn which ones are best for you.Take the Quiz
Why Heavy Weightlifting is Best for Weight Loss
Many “gurus” recommend that you follow a high-rep, low-weight routine to really help “shred up,” but this is actually the complete opposite of what you want to be doing.
The reality is your body is “primed” for muscle loss when you’re in a calorie deficit, and by focusing exclusively on muscle endurance (higher rep ranges), you’ll be setting yourself up for rapid strength loss, with the potential for significant muscle loss as well.
The key to preserving strength and thereby muscle while losing weight is to lift heavy weights. When you do this, you continue to progressively overload your muscles, which is one of the primary mechanical drivers of protein synthesis and muscle growth.
There are fat loss benefits to heavy weightlifting as well.
A study published by Greek sports scientists found that men that trained with heavy weights (80-85% of their one-rep max, or “1RM”) increased their metabolic rates over the following three days, burning hundreds more calories than the men that trained with lighter weights (45-65% of their 1RM).
Yes, hundreds more calories. That’s significant.
And if you want to really score extra calories burned, focus on compound lifts like squats and deadlifts, because these are the types of lifts that burn the most post-workout calories.
(This, by the way, is one of the reasons why people do so well on my programs both in building muscle and losing fat–they are performing heavy, compound lifts every day.)
Strategically Use Cardio to Burn Fat Faster
The best way to include cardio in a weight loss regimen is to do as little as needed to reach your desired rate of weight loss and stay fit, and no more.
For best results do . . .
- At least two low- to moderate-intensity cardio workouts per week of 20-to-40 minutes each.
- One HIIT workout per week if you enjoy it.
- No more than 2-to-3 hours of cardio per week.
- Cardio and weightlifting on separate days. If that isn’t possible, lift weights first and try to separate the two workouts by at least 6 hours.
Although you’ll often hear fitness gurus tout HIIT as the most effective kind of cardio for fat loss, this isn’t true. Moderate-intensity, steady-state cardio is just as good at fat-burning, easier to recover from, and doesn’t sap your motivation or energy as much as HIIT, which is why I recommend you do it for the majority of your cardio workouts.
Try Training in a “Fasted” State for a Weight Loss Boost
When you eat food, your pancrease produces insulin and releases it into your blood.
Insulin’s job is to shuttle nutrients out of the blood and into your cells, such as the amino acids from protein, the glucose from carbohydrate, and the fatty acids from dietary fat.
When your insulin levels are elevated–when you’re in a “fed” state–no fat burning occurs. Your body uses the glucose in the blood for all its energy needs, and stores the excess. Depending on how much you eat, this state can last for several hours.
But, as the nutrients eaten are absorbed, insulin levels decline, and the body senses that its post-meal energy is running out. It then shifts toward burning fat stores to meet its energy needs.
Day after day, it juggles these states of storing nutrients you eat, and burning its stores when the temporary supplies run out.
Now, your body is in a “fasted” state when insulin is at a “baseline” level, and your body is relying completely on its energy stores. After you eat a moderate-sized meal, it takes 3 – 5 hours for your body to enter this state.
Exercising in this fasted state accelerates fat loss, with weightlifting particularly effective in this regard. Fasting for longer than 6 hours has been shown to further increase your body’s ability to burn fat, so early-morning fasted training is a great option.
Fasted training does have one significant drawback, however: accelerated breakdown of muscle tissue. Fortunately, preventing this is simple.
You should supplement with 10 grams of BCAAs or 5 grams of leucine (as this amino acid directly stimulates protein synthesis) 10 – 15 minutes before training, which will suppress muscle breakdown during your workout.
I should note that some people simply don’t do well with fasted weighlifting. They have very low energy levels and their strength really takes a nosedive. If that happens to you on your first fasted lifting session, try it for a few more days.
If, after a week or so, your body still hasn’t adapted and you feel like going to sleep during your workouts, then you should reduce the frequency of fasting lifting (maybe only 1 – 2 days per week), or stop altogether. Keeping your workouts intense is more important.
Another option is swapping your cardio and lifting workouts if you’re separating them, doing your cardio fasted and your lifting later in the day.
A Summary of the Rapid Weight Loss Strategies Covered Thus Far
We’ve covered a lot of ground in the first two parts of this series, so I want to just give you a quick summary of the key points thus far:
- Maintain a mild-to-moderate calorie deficit, not a severe one
- Don’t just focus on calories, but on proper macronutritional ratios to maximize weight loss while preserving muscle
- Create an exact meal plan to follow and stick to it every day
- Don’t cheat on your meal plan as it will only slow things down
- Train with as high of a frequency as your body can take, which is likely no more than weightlifting 5 times per week 2-to-3 hours of cardio per week
- Lift heavy weights, and focus on compound lifts
- Do high-intensity interval cardio
- Train in a fasted state
Well, that’s it for the exercise advice for rapid weight loss.
In the third, and final, part of this article series, we’ll go over how proper supplementation can help you lose weight fast.
What did you think about these exercise strategies to lose weight fast? Have anything else you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments below!
+ Scientific References
- Pitkänen, H. T., Nykänen, T., Knuutinen, J., Lahti, K., Keinänen, O., Alen, M., Komi, P. V., & Mero, A. A. (2003). Free amino acid pool and muscle protein balance after resistance exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 35(5), 784–792. https://doi.org/10.1249/01.MSS.0000064934.51751.F9
- Achten, J., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2004). Optimizing fat oxidation through exercise and diet. In Nutrition (Vol. 20, Issues 7–8, pp. 716–727). Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2004.04.005
- Kraemer, W. J., Fleck, S. J., Maresh, C. M., Ratamess, N. A., Gordon, S. E., Goetz, K. L., Harman, E. A., Frykman, P. N., Volek, J. S., Mazzetti, S. A., Fry, A. C., Marchitelli, L. J., & Patton, J. F. (1999). Acute hormonal responses to a single bout of heavy resistance exercise in trained power lifters and untrained men. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 24(6), 524–537. https://doi.org/10.1139/h99-034
- Derave, W., Mertens, A., Muls, E., Pardaens, K., & Hespel, P. (2007). Effects of post-absorptive and postprandial exercise on glucoregulation in metabolic syndrome. Obesity, 15(3), 704–711. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2007.548
- Surina, D. M., Langhans, W., Pauli, R., & Wenk, C. (1993). Meal composition affects postprandial fatty acid oxidation. American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 264(6 33-6). https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpregu.1993.264.6.r1065
- Newsholme, E. A., & Dimitriadis, G. (2001). Integration of biochemical and physiologic effects of insulin on glucose metabolism. Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology and Diabetes, 109(SUPPL. 2). https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2001-18575
- Gergley, J. C. (2009). Comparison of two lower-body modes of endurance training on lower-body strength development while concurrently training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(3), 979–987. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181a0629d
- Stephen H Boutcher. (n.d.). High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss - PubMed. Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21113312/
- MacPherson, R. E. K., Hazell, T. J., Olver, T. D., Paterson, D. H., & Lemon, P. W. R. (2011). Run sprint interval training improves aerobic performance but not maximal cardiac output. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 43(1), 115–122. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181e5eacd
- Trapp, E. G., Chisholm, D. J., Freund, J., & Boutcher, S. H. (2008). The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women. International Journal of Obesity, 32(4), 684–691. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803781
- Treuth, M. S., Hunter, G. R., & Williams, M. (1996). Effects of exercise intensity on 24-h energy expenditure and substrate oxidation. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 28(9), 1138–1143. https://doi.org/10.1097/00005768-199609000-00009
- Farinatti, P. T. V., & Castinheiras Net, A. G. (2011). The effect of between-set rest intervals on the oxygen uptake during and after resistance exercise sessions performed with large-and small-muscle mass. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(11), 3181–3190. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e318212e415
- Fatouros, I. G., Chatzinikolaou, A., Tournis, S., Nikolaidis, M. G., Jamurtas, A. Z., Douroudos, I. I., Papassotiriou, I., Thomakos, P. M., Taxildaris, K., Mastorakos, G., & Mitrakou, A. (2009). Intensity of resistance exercise determines adipokine and resting energy expenditure responses in overweight elderly individuals. Diabetes Care, 32(12), 2161–2167. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc08-1994
- Garber, C., & Blissmer, B. (2011). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and. Medicine and Science …, 43(7), 1334–1359. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e318213fefb
- Tomiyama, A. J., Mann, T., Vinas, D., Hunger, J. M., Dejager, J., & Taylor, S. E. (2010). Low calorie dieting increases cortisol. Psychosomatic Medicine, 72(4), 357–364. https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181d9523c