If You’re Working Out 5 Days a Week to Lose Weight, Here’s What Experts Want You to Know
You’re going all in with this workout thing, hitting the gym five days a week. You are unstoppable. While we know working out regularly has a slew of benefits, including increased strength and energy, stress relief, and improved sleep, most people start exercising with one goal in mind – to lose weight. But after a month of five-days-a-week workouts, will your effort pay off and result in weight loss? Here’s what experts had to say.
If I Work Out 5 Days a Week, Will I Lose Weight?
If a person is eating a healthy diet and exercising five days a week, they may expect to see results, said Davoncie Granderson, M.S.Ed, ACE CPT, an exercise physiologist at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Health & Wellness Center. She said to keep in mind that genetics and diet play a large role in weight loss.
Christopher McGreer, MS, NSCA CSCS, personal training coordinator at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Health & Fitness Center, agreed and added that “five days a week of exercise doesn’t automatically ensure weight loss.” The type and intensity of exercise a person is doing will significantly impact weight.
Another important point to note is that a person could very well maintain or even gain weight, said Kate Huether, MD, if the person eats additional calories. It’s also important to note that you can lose fat and your body could look leaner but your weight could stay the same or increase if you’re gaining muscle from exercise.
How Long Do I Need to Work Out Consistently to See Results?
Results can be measured in so many different ways. If a person is looking at the scale, exercise physiologist and NASM-certified personal trainer Krissi Williford, MS, from Xcite Fitness said they should see the numbers going down week after week, as long as they’re eating in a calorie deficit.
Granderson added that if an individual is participating in a strength training program, she may lose body fat mass and gain muscle mass. Though there has been a decrease in fat mass, the increase in muscle mass may make the number on the scale seem stagnant. You will slim down, but the number may not change on the scale for a period of time.
If a person is using the way their clothes fit as a gauge, it could take several weeks to see a difference depending on how fast the person is working to lose weight. Williford said, “one clothing size is about 10 pounds, so you’d need to lose somewhere between five and 10 pounds for clothes to fit better.”
If the way you look in the mirror is the measure for results, then it may take longer – usually at about 15 to 20 pounds of weight loss, the person will see a difference in the mirror, said Williford. She added that a good tool to see results is to take pictures. Most people are reluctant, but if you take them every one to two weeks, they’re a great way to see changes in your body. McGreer said that within a month or two of strength training, a person will start to see muscular changes.
Williford noted that consistency is key for exercise. If you aren’t consistent, then you absolutely won’t get any results. It’s also important to be patient and recognize that body change takes time. Dr. Huether said the person will most likely see results before other people notice and will also feel better almost immediately.
What Weekly Exercise Routine Should I Follow if I Want to Lose Weight?
If you want to lose weight, your exercise routine needs to include strength training in order to build lean muscle, said Granderson. She explained that lean muscle is metabolically active, meaning that it draws energy from our fat stores throughout the day in order to function. “The more lean muscle we possess, the more calories we burn at rest, which will result in a lower body fat content.” Dr. Huether added that resistance training increases basal metabolic rate (BMR) by about five percent for up to 48 hours.
Williford added that strength or resistance training will not only help you lose weight, but it will help you tone and change the shape of your body.
As for cardio, ACSM’s guideline is to complete 150 to 300 minutes of activity per week at a moderate intensity. The higher the intensity, the less cardio that you will have to complete to achieve the same benefits. Granderson recommends high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which gets your heart rate up in a shorter amount of time.
Performing exercise that kicks metabolism into gear is responsible for afterburn, allowing our bodies to burn more calories up to one to two hours after the workout is complete. Dr Huether agreed and pointed out this study that shows how just six minutes of HIIT training can increase calorie burn for the following 36 hours.
For a balanced weekly workout routine, McGreer said you can focus on strength training three days per week and cardiovascular interval training (such as HIIT) the other two. Make sure you enjoy it, though! Williford warned that boredom can make you give up on exercise, so she said to find workouts you like and build your exercise routine around them.
Does What I Eat Matter?
“Working out is only one piece of the puzzle in weight loss – the most important piece is food and diet,” explained Williford. Everyone wants to just exercise to lose weight and not make any adjustments to their food intake, but this is an error in the mechanics of weight loss. Food and diet are the drivers for weight loss, and exercise is meant to support the calorie deficit that you need to lose weight. She said, “regardless of the number of days of exercise, the person must be in a calorie deficit to lose weight.”
Do I Have to Exercise 5 Days a Week to Lose Weight?
When people start a workout program, they want to come out of the gate in a sprint, but what happens is they can’t maintain that sprint, and they eventually give up and stop the program altogether, said Williford. “Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint.” To be consistent with weight loss, she said you have to maintain whatever level of activity you started doing to lose that weight, and if you hit a plateau, sometimes you have to increase the exercise activity to get through it.
But that doesn’t mean you have to work out five days a week. McGreer doesn’t think it’s necessary to commit to five days a week to make significant goals. He added, “if an individual can commit to three hour-long sessions of well-planned and moderately intense effort, significant gains can be made in just a couple months.” You want to start a routine that you both enjoy and that’s sustainable over time.
Exercise has amazing benefits for overall health from mental health to heart health. However, “it is actually more effective for weight maintenance rather than weight loss,” said Dr. Huether.