Training 3 times a week feature image

Is training 3 days a week enough to lose fat?

So, you’re only getting 3 days of gym-time in a week?

There is a common saying within the fitness industry that best deals with this question: you can’t out-train a bad diet. It’s also questionable if you can out-train a good diet. That’s because exercise in isolation is largely inefficient at reducing weight. 

You see, there is a growing body of research that shows that, in general, exercise in isolation offers no weight loss benefit, or that the effect is modest at best. In fact, some argue that exercise actually makes you more hungry, making it harder to resist the urge to overeat after hard sessions. This is often referred to as exercise-induced compensation hunger and it generally cancels out the calories that you burnt during training. It’s a survival mechanism really; a way for your body to ensure that the energy you expend gets replaced, and then some. 

Furthermore, most people, including you, simply don’t have enough time to exercise for the duration required to burn any significant amount of calories. To give you an indication, training in the gym three times a week for an hour will likely only burn a total of 1,800 calories – 600 per hour – and that’s only if you train at a high intensity for the entire duration of your session, using a combination of weights and intense cardio such as running or skipping. 

You’re not going to win

As you can see, if you’re banking on using exercise as your main means to lose weight then you’re fighting a losing battle. If you’re being strict with your daily calorie intake, then a single day of eating could conceivably erase the calories your burn each week doing exercise.

One trip to a fast food outlet could have the same effect. 

Yes, abs are made in the kitchen

The trick, then, is to get your diet right. Unfortunately that topic is beyond the scope of this post, but we’ve written extensively on every possible diet that has the potential to work for you in Fitness Mag. 

We suggest you follow the basics of cutting all sugar and processed food from your diet. Stick to whole, natural foods, with a good balance of natural fats, carbs and protein. Reduce your carb intake, and be strategic about when you eat most, if not all of your carbs each day. Approaches such as carb backloading or carb cycling are extremely effective at aiding weight loss. Lastly, if you’re extremely overweight, some variation of a low-carb, high-fat diet might be warranted to restore insulin sensitivity. Once that is achieved you can start to increase your intake of natural low-GI carbs, within reason. 

With that, we’re sure you’re wondering if it is still worth exercising? Well, the answer is a resounding, yes! The sooner we stop thinking about exercise as a way to merely lose weight or burn fat, the better. Regular exercise is important for improved physical and mental health, greater strength and mobility, and enhanced vitality and zest for life, and for the sheer enjoyment of movement, too.

We suggest you find something you enjoy doing. If reshaping your body and benefiting from more energy is your main aim, train with weights. Do a full-body resistance routine on each of your three days. Try metcons, barbell or dumbbell circuits, Tabatas or traditional supersets. 

Mix it up. 

Target every muscle in your body by including as many exercises as possible. Then, if you do manage to get a fourth session in, try something that is cardio-based for the health benefits. I would suggest using the opportunity to get outdoors and meet new people by joining a cycling or running club at first. 

Once you’re into your training then you can start experimenting with things like fasted cardio or fat adaptation, but the effect will be minor in relation to the time you’re able to spend training, so rather use exercise to derive other meaning in your approach to a healthy lifestyle. 

So, yes – 3 days will do just fine!

Author: Tanja Schmitz

Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.

Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You'll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.

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