Good morning, everybody. Today, I’m going to answer a question from one of our SWAT members and outline the smart way to lose weight. If you have a question you’d like me to answer please feel free to send it in. 

If you would like to listen to Simon answer this question in video format, please click HERE

The question

Today’s question was asked by Dan Newbould, who recently joined SWAT.  He said, “I’d like to lose about 15 pounds over the next one to three months, I’m sitting at around 195 pounds now, although I’ve been hovering between 195 and 205 for the last couple of years. In the last few months, I’ve got down to 195 pounds and I feel way better for it” 

Dan goes on to say, “I want to feel light when I run”.

That’s a fantastic reason for being a bit lighter.

He goes on to say, “I’m wondering if any of my training could be focused around high intensity, or anything, which will help me to lose weight. Or maybe I take a different approach and lose the weight through my diet.”

More questions…from me?

My first question to Dan or anybody else out there that wants to lose some weight for their sport or just for their health is, “What’s your objective, and what’s your goal?”

In Dan’s case, the goal is 15 pounds. So why try to lose that weight in one to three months? Most people don’t put weight on that quickly, it’s a slow process, sometimes over a couple of years. It only takes a couple of extra 100 additional calories per day and a little bit less exercise. 

And then suddenly you realise that that you’re 10 kilos heavier. 

Now for some maths

So, Dan wants to lose 15 pounds (7 kgs) in the next one to three months.

Let’s do the maths on that first to get a feel for the size of the task in front of him. If he wants to lose it in two months, he needs to lose two pounds a week. That’s an awfully big commitment, equivalent to 7000 calories, which means you’ve got to find a deficit of 1000 calories per day. You’re probably going to have to do that by upping your exercise and dropping your food intake. The problem with that is if you’re training hard, you might not get the fuel back in to help you recover or to fuel your next training session. You then end up in a negative energy balance, and that has all sorts of complications. So drastic weight loss is perhaps not the best way to go about this.

 Now, if you lost a pound a week it will take 15 weeks, almost four months, but is slightly more manageable and a less drastic change.  There is still a drop of 500 calories a day. 

Given that Dan’s a young man, he doesn’t need to lose the weight in one to three months. Aiming for a loss of half a pound a week will take much longer, eight months. However, it’s a smaller adjustment and much more sustainable. And it requires fewer hard choices in terms of exercise and food. 

My preference, always, when you want to lose weight, either for sports or for health, is to take the long-term view. I’m in my late 50s. But I’m still planning on being on this planet for another 20 years at least. So if I want to make a change, it doesn’t need to happen next week or next month. As long as I start moving towards that goal with micro-adjustments, then that’s fine, isn’t it? I’m moving away from my start point towards a long-term goal. And of course, with some long-term goals we probably never actually get there anyway. Think of it as a journey, not a destination.

Eat less or workout more?

The smart way to lose weight

The other thing that Dan asked was, should the weight loss be achieved through nutrition or a change in exercise? The first thing is that HIT training is super high intensity while you’re doing the work, and it burns lots of calories, but the work part is very short. You might do an hour’s workout with 10 minutes of high-intensity training in there. I know that there’s some post-exercise calorie burn, but still, there are better ways to burn fat through exercise, probably at a lower intensity where you can keep going for longer. 

To be quite frank, upping your exercise is not the smart way to lose weight. You’ll probably find if you’ve got extreme weight loss goals, nutrition is going to account for about 80% of your results and exercise will account for 20%. Exercise is good for helping you to maintain your weight and keeping weight off. But nutrition is the key. And since we’d like to keep the weight off long-term, we want to make sustainable long-term changes to our nutrition, which will then benefit other aspects of our health as well. Aim to reduce the empty calories, get rid of the processed foods and refined sugars, eat more vegetables and fruits (pretty much unlimited), and more protein, and off you go.

The benefits of protein

While we’re talking about protein you should be aware that it also helps to build muscle. So, what I would also recommend is adding a little bit of strength training. At 195 pounds, Dan might feel that strength training is the sort of thing that’s going to build a bit of muscle and yes, it will do, but muscle is useful for more than just looking fit and strong. As we get older, we want to make sure that we keep hold of our muscle.  Like any pension, the sooner you start paying in, the more benefit you’ll get at the end. 

To summarise, the smart way to lose weight is by taking a long-term approach. Focus more on nutrition than exercise. Think about finding a sustainable nutrition plan and try to enjoy what you’re doing. Thanks for reading and remember, if you’ve got any questions, please send them in and I’ll do my best to answer them. 

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