Many years ago I exercised for the sole purpose of losing weight and ultimately maintaining a killer physique. Sure, doing so also made me feel strong, energized and completely unstoppable, but in the end, it was all about the build. You see, I had conquered obesity before and was determined to never go there again.
These days, however, my exercise goals are way more grounded.
I have a strong desire to stay healthy and disease free in order to increase the odds of my growing old with my husband, being around to watch my kid grow up and perhaps even being a grandmother some day. Yes, aesthetic benefits are a natural consequence of working out but not necessarily my ultimate objective.
Living in this thin-obsessed world it might be hard to believe that some people’s exercise goals aren’t simply driven by weight loss.
Personally, I know many ‘thin’ people who’ve cut out exercise altogether for fear of losing weight. Not a good idea at all. In addition to its physique-related effects, exercise is absolutely critical for heart, muscle and bone health amongst many other things.
At the end of the day I wholeheartedly believe that most people just want to be healthy and exercising regularly is a sure way to get there. But, if you’re one of the few folks who are NOT seeking to lose weight you might be wondering if it’s even possible to work out without weight loss.
Lucky for you it is! However, when attempting to do so, it’s best to implement a consistent workout routine comprised of cardiovascular (cardio) exercise and strength training while bearing in mind a few basic strategies.
1. Perform any and all cardio exercises quickly and intensely.
Through beneficial effects on the heart, lungs and other vital organs, cardio exercise can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and numerous forms of cancer. This type of exercise is also one of the most effective ways to increase the amount of calories you burn on a day-to-day basis.
Unfortunate for the NON-weight loss seeker, consistently burning calories with cardio exercise will over time lead to calorie deficits and consequential weight loss.
For instance, you can burn about 500 calories an hour by performing exercises like jogging or running, bicycling and swimming. Since there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, creating such a deficit on a daily basis can easily cause you to drop a pound a week. This is totally counterproductive if you’re not seeking to lose weight.
Instead of long, monotonous workouts, I recommend short bursts of high-intensity exercises like running or cycling sprints. Some other good activities include rope skipping, cardio-kickboxing and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), as such exercises can greatly enhance the overall functioning of your cardiovascular system.
To reduce the likelihood of creating calorie deficits and, ultimately, losing weight, it’s important to minimize your cardio exercise to no more than 20-30 minutes a day, 3-5 days per week. Now, if you prefer to exercise more frequently or for longer periods of time, you may be able to offset deficits by taking in more calories, as I’ll explain later.
2. Incorporate challenging strength training segments into your workouts.
Strength (resistance) training increases both muscular strength and endurance, both of which are needed to carry out simple everyday activities like walking up and down stairs, lifting children or even carrying a few bag groceries. Regular strength training is also crucial for maintaining a healthy ratio of fat to lean (muscle) mass.
Unbeknownst to many, you can actually be “thin” and “fat”, a situation that dramatically increases the risk of chronic health problems like elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Indeed, one in four thin people have pre-diabetes and are classified as ‘metabolically obese’.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or not, it’s important to perform at least 2-3 days of strength training each week. If you don’t use your muscles, you’ll surely lose them.
Focus on exercises that specifically target the major muscles groups of your chest, back, shoulders, arms and legs. For substantial gains in muscular strength and endurance, perform at least 2-3 sets of all exercises using weights that fatigue your muscles within 6-10 repetitions.
3. Eat more frequently and more sensibly.
If your exercise goals aren’t centered on weight loss you should never ever skip a meal, as doing so is a sure way to create calorie deficits. This holds especially true if you regularly engage in prolonged bouts of cardio exercise like distance running, cycling or swimming.
Some of the athletes I’ve trained in the past have consumed as much as 3,500-5,000 calories on workout days in an effort to offset unwanted weight loss. The key to successful weight maintenance is to focus on continually replenishing any calories you burn during exercise.
Simply put, if you burn 500 calories in a single exercise bout, consume an extra 500 over the course of the day.
But, it doesn’t stop there!
Fueling your workouts with wholesome foods is of the utmost importance, as proper nutrition is essential for achieving physical fitness and overall good health.
Consuming extra portions of high-quality carbohydrates in the forms of vegetables and fruit, whole grains and legumes is an excellent start. You can do this effortlessly by eating an additional 2-3 servings of foods like oatmeal, wild rice, beans, sweet potatoes or bananas on workout days.
I also suggest adding at least one serving of protein and healthy fat to every meal. Some of the best protein sources include beef, chicken, seafood, soy and whey proteins, eggs and dairy products while oily fish (salmon, tuna and trout), nuts and nut butters, olive oil and avocado house substantial amounts of good fat.
I always emphasize that exercise is medicine and optimal nutrition is an enabler of good health. So, if you’ve fully embraced your size and shifted your focus to living a healthier, happier life, following these strategies will put you on the road to long-term success without so much as a pound of weight loss.