Weekly Wellness: Small changes can yield big results

<p>Getty Images</p>

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Our weekly fitness column, “Weekly Wellness,” is back again. This week, Matt Gallagher, from MFC Sports Performance in Darien, discusses how making just minor adjustments in your workout routine can mean a large difference in your weight loss results.

In the last two “Weekly Wellness” articles, I talked about the importance of body recomposition, and how increasing your body’s muscle mass has a dramatic impact on your metabolism. Now that we have established the importance of gaining muscle for improved body recomposition, I would like to suggest several small changes that you can make in your fitness routine that can help you to burn more fat and build more muscle. 

Shift from cardiovascular workouts to strength training

If you are spending more time doing cardio than you are strength training, the amount of cardiovascular work needs to decrease, and the amount of strength training needs to increase. This is simply a shift in time, not adding more time to your workouts. If you typically spend 60 minutes, 4 days a week on the elliptical or walking on the treadmill, take half of those 60 minutes and do strength training in its place. The highest percentage of cardio I would typically recommend someone to do in a given week is doing cardio for 50% of their total workout time.

Most of my clients spend more time strength training than doing cardio. My clients typically spend 75% of their workout time strength training and 25% of their workout time doing cardio. I often see clients in their 50’s slowly but surely lower their body fat, gain strength, and improve their body shape and muscularity, as a direct result of focusing their efforts on improving their strength. Remember, without some form of regular strength training, muscle tissue will not break down, and your metabolism will not increase.  

Change the cardio workouts you do

While I don’t recommend cardio being your primary focus when working out, the type of cardiovascular work you do is crucial to burning fat. In fact, cardio done at the right tempo and intensity can actually build a bit of muscle, but that is just a lovely side effect. Most people typically walk or jog, or perhaps do the elliptical at a steady state, low to moderate intensity, for 30-60 minutes. While this can help build a baseline of cardiovascular fitness, the overall effect of the workout is not that dramatic. You burn calories in the moment, some carbs, and some fat, but there is limited after-burn. You have not stimulated your metabolism enough to produce a whole day’s worth of calorie burning.  

What is the missing factor in this type of cardio work? Intensity. Many studies have confirmed that high intensity interval training (HIIT) done for 8-12 minutes has a dramatic effect on the metabolism for up to 24 hours after the session. Literally, from one 8-12 minute HIIT workout, you can burn calories for hours or an entire day due to its metabolism-boosting affect.  

Pay attention to your diet

Assuming you have added the strength training (which breaks down muscle tissue) and some HIIT training, your body will demand a bit of extra protein to recover from the workouts. Extra protein in the diet will certainly help your efforts, over time, when it comes to improving your body recomposition.  

When working with my clients, I find out how many total meals or snacks they prefer to eat in a day and then figure out a way to have protein at each of those meals. Protein should be the foundation of each snack or meal, as it is the only nutrient that rebuilds muscle tissue in your body. Protein has a metabolism-boosting affect, as well as a satiating affect. In general, the more protein you eat, the less sugar or refined carbohydrates you are likely to eat, as protein simply fills you up. While it is individualistic as to how much protein per meal or per day people need, protein at each meal will repair broken down muscle fibers, boost your metabolism and regulate your hunger. All of these factors are crucial for improving body recomposition over time.

The Takeaway: I am confident that making these small life changes will improve your lean muscle mass, reduce your body fat and provide you with much more daily energy.

Matt Gallagher is the Fitness Director at MFC Sports Performance in Darien, which specializes in functional training for both adults and younger athletes. You can reach Matt by emailing him at Matt@MFCSportsPerformance.com

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