Ask a health and fitness specialist

This column features health, fitness and nutrition questions from students that are answered by someone specializing in that field. Many of us have health and fitness questions that we just never get around to asking. Here is your opportunity to get some answers.

This week’s specialist is Ben Hodges.

Ben Hodges graduated from the Bachelor of Physical Education degree program at the University of Manitoba in 2009. Within the program, he received a Respect in Sport certification, national coaching certification, as well as training in resistance and conditioning from Manitoba Fitness Council. As a personal trainer, his philosophy is to improve quality of life and increase an individual’s knowledge of the benefits of physical activity so much that it rubs off onto third parties. Ben plays and competes in many sports including hockey, badminton, and soccer among others. He is also a musician in a rock band called Left of Centre.

The Manitoban: How long into a workout can I expect to see weight loss results?

Ben Hodges: To answer this question, let me explain a few myths about weight loss. A lot of people think that only doing plenty of cardio workouts and no weight training is the best method to weight loss. Many think this because when they think of weight training, they think of getting big muscles. This simply is not the case. Adequate cardio, appropriate weight training, and a healthy diet are all essential parts to weight loss. Cardio-respiratory exercise is used to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, build endurance, open up important blood vessels to operating muscles in the body, and of course, to burn fat. Weight training builds the metabolism rate in your body, which in turn gets your body to burn more calories in the activities you do. So basically, the better condition your cardiovascular system and muscles are in, the more calories will you will burn.

So now that I informed you on the background of weight loss procedures, how long will this all take to get the results that you want? If you’ve never done weight training before and want to get that push to overcome your ever-going weight battle, listen up. It’s going to take plenty of patience. Weight loss does not happen over night, unfortunately. When doing weight training for the first time, there will even be some temporary gains in weight which will only last for approximately the first six weeks. This is where the muscle strengthening outgrows the burning of fat. In fact, you may notice circumferences getting wider within those six weeks. After those first six to eight weeks, weight loss should become more evident with a healthy weight loss (not water weight) of 1-2 pounds per week.

M.: What are some strategies to overcome weight loss plateaus?

B.H.: If you’ve hit a weight loss plateau and you can’t seem to shed those last couple pounds, here are a couple strategies that you could use. Let’s start with what you eat. Make sure you eat your three meals a day with snacks in between meals. If you’re starving yourself from meal to meal, your body is going in and out of “survival mode.” “Survival mode” is what your body does to try and keep itself alive for the longest time if there is no incoming energy from food. Your body stores fat from the last meal intake for energy if there is no food coming into the body for long periods of time. If you have regular feedings, your body will have no need to store fat for energy. As well, cut out carbs, caffeine, all sugars, sauces, sodium and even alcohol. All of these foods can add up to a large amount of calories that can hold back one’s weight loss plan.

Another thing you can do is switch up your workout routine. If you’re sticking to machines, it may be time to switch up to free weights. If you’re sticking to free weights, add some stability training to it with a stability ball, bosu, resistance band, or balance board for example. This will activate more muscle fibers in your exercises and give you a more challenging workout. However, don’t advance to stability exercises unless you’re absolutely positive you can handle the workload. As well, making aerobic exercise a daily routine can have a dramatic effect. According to Canada’s Daily Fitness Guide, it only takes 30 minutes of continuous and moderate to vigorous intensity exercise a day to become healthier.

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