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How Much Do You Actually Need To Work Out To Lose Weight?

Jonathan Maxim
January 28, 2017
Jonathan Maxim
By Jonathan Maxim
mbg Contributor
LA-based Jonathan Maxim is an app designer, digital marketer, and is the founder and CEO of Vea Fitness
January 28, 2017

Six months into your first professional job, it hits you: "I can't stand this job any longer." Translation? "My income isn't growing in relation to how hard I'm working."

Work productivity, specifically in sales jobs, can be a bit like fitness. More work doesn't always equate to better results. Heard the term "work smarter, not harder"? Executives often warn sales managers about "burning out" their team. Morale is a factor affected by burnout as well as the physiological effects of being overworked. Sales jobs often burn new hires out within a year.

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In the same way that we're eager to become a successful businessperson, it's tempting to work out every single day, particularly in the early stages of our fitness journey. But results can wane if you simply proceed with brute force on your fitness journey.

Fat loss isn't necessarily improved by "more" working out.

Muscle gain isn't necessarily achieved by "more" working out. Pace yourself. It's vital you structure your workout plan to maximize the diet you're eating from.

Because fat loss and muscle gain relate directly to your metabolism and how the body cultivates energy from your food consumption, there are times when your body is burning fat and times when it's burning carbs (the majority).

The reason many can't seem to lose weight is because the stored fat around your waist is burned second—after carbs are burned. It is "storage," after all. "It's to be used only when needed," your body proclaims.

The end of a workout is usually when your fast-burning energy is low (carbs).

It's important to exercise at times when your body is burning fat in order to actually lose weight. Workouts that burn fat include:

  • Sprints
  • Fasted cardio
  • Jumping rope
  • Box jumps
  • Bicycling
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There are several other options, but before we talk about workouts that burn fat, we must address how and why fat is burned. Since the human body burns primarily glucose for energy, working out uses carbohydrates most. Carbs are converted to glucose after consumption. If there are excess carbs consumed, they’ll be put away as stored fat, for later use.

After carbs, your body looks to protein for glucose production. So you'll actually consume muscle before burning "stored" fat. To burn fat, your body first has to be deprived of carbs, and then it needs high-intensity workouts to activate emergency fat stores—and convert them to energy. Contrary to carbs, though, when fat is converted to energy, it creates a ketone instead of glucose.

So if you simply drink an orange juice and then go workout, by the time you're done with one hour of moderate-intensity workout, you'll have burned almost no fat.

If you're looking to build muscle, take a one-day break between workouts to allow the body proper recovery time. Soreness should start to subside before you work out again. This schedule equates to three to four workout days per week.

If you're looking to lose weight, do 10 to 15 minutes of fasted cardio, first thing in the morning. Butter and coconut oil in coffee can help fuel this. A moderate-intensity, versatile workout plan done three to four days per week should be plenty for fat loss. Learn more here, if you're interested in the specifics.

Exercise is not the biggest driver of fat loss.

Diet is. So you must strategically combine your workout frequency with a proper diet.

A few reasons some trainers recommend only dieting at first (and not working out) is that working out increases appetite, it provides a mental expectation of rewards (e.g., tasty food), and it helps us rationalize other unhealthy decisions.

If you're only dieting at first, you learn to get the self-control aspect under control before your expectations are elevated by what you think your body deserves after a hard workout. This is why many can be total gym rats who lift amazing weight but appear quite soft.

So before you start working yourself to the bone on the treadmill, think about what you're using for fuel.

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Jonathan Maxim
Jonathan Maxim

LA-based Jonathan Maxim is an app designer, digital marketer, and thought leader in the fitness and technology realms. After leaving his job at a Fortune 50 company, he merged his management experience with his passion for technology and innovation to create apps that encourage fitness and wellness. Educated at San Diego State University first in graphic design and user interface, he went on to gain his master's of business from SDSU as well. He currently serves as founder and CEO of Vea Fitness, an app that rewards you for working out with monetary incentives.