You’ve bought a shed load of informative magazines, subscribed to every available podcast and watched countless hours of TV programmes about diet, exercise and weight loss. You may have tried fad diets and found they worked in the short term but you’ve piled on the weight straight away after finishing said fad diet and now you’re back to square one again. Disgruntled and fed up, you don’t know what to believe, and what will work for you.
Nutrition and exercise is the only healthy and sustainable method, but when you are new to it all where do you start? I am going to give you 2 very simple but thoroughly effective strategies to get you off the blocks to a flying start. One method, exercise based, and the other, diet based. Combining the 2 will yield you results almost immediately.
Starting with diet, the single most effective tactic to employ is to cut out all fast acting carbohydrates (sugars). Your body doesn’t need to work hard to break these molecules down, so the energy is ready in an instant, meaning that if you don’t use it (exercise) your body will store the excess calories as fat. To compound this further, you will get a ‘high’ (insulin spike) when the sugar hits your blood stream, followed by a low. The sugar crash can make you feel tired, lethargic and even head achy, meaning you’re likely to grab at something sugary for your next ‘fix’, and so the cycle repeats. If you are training very hard, there is no reason why you can’t implement fast sugars (in moderation) post workout, but if you are serious about losing weight, it’s safer to avoid them altogether until you’ve reached your goal.
You should not cut out all carbohydrates however, starchy carbs which are slow releasing are your friend, you need to replenish glycogen levels in your liver and muscles by eating complex carbohydrates. These come in the form of oats, white and sweet potato, vegetables, rice, pasta, quinoa, lentils, whole-wheat bread and cereals such as muesli. Be aware however, that packaged cereals generally contain a lot of sugar and are best avoided. Fruit also contains sugar in the form of fructose which is slower release as it has to pass through the liver first. Fruit has the benefits of vitamins and antioxidants, so, although you should limit your intake, it still has its place in a balanced diet. Eating more vegetables than fruit is the key.
Try to limit your carbohydrate meals around the times when you train. A good example for the 2 meals would be –
Pre-workout - chicken breast and white rice with plenty of green vegetables.
Post workout - oats, whey protein powder and blueberries.
Joining your local gym can be quite daunting on your own for beginners, so why not start off exercising at home, or schedule an early morning walk or cycle into your routine? Get up a little earlier, drink half a litre of ice cold water (to kick start your metabolism) and exercise for 30 minutes.
My recommendation is ‘fasted cardio’ or cardio-vascular exercise before eating in the morning. The idea for fasted exercise is that your body will be forced to burn fat as fuel since you haven’t eaten for at least 6/7 hours whilst sleeping. Steady state cardio is ideal for this, such as a brisk walk or bike ride. The reason I recommend steady state cardio only, is because if you were to perform HIIT your body will need glycogen for fuel rather than fat, and if there isn’t enough stored then the body will begin to break down muscle to convert to energy. HIIT cardio should always be performed after eating, and steady state before. They are the rules I adhere to. Also, if you are only a beginner it would be impractical and even dangerous to start off with high intensity interval training (HIIT) as a form of cardio, you need to work up to a level of fitness before straining your body in such a way.
Once you have been following fasted cardio for approximately 4 weeks you can begin to introduce sprints. Ultimately HIIT will work much better when you are fitter, but not before time.
Employing both these strategies should see the weight dropping off in a healthy and sustainable way.
So avoid sugars (including those cheeky ones in your coffee, in your ‘healthy’ granola bar, and in your ‘fat-free’ products) and exercise for 30 minutes every morning on an empty stomach. It really is that easy.