How many times a week do we need to work out to see a difference?
Generally speaking, when talking about the maintenance of physical condition, it is recommended that you work out three to four times a week. However, if your goal is to lose weight or gain muscle mass in a short time frame, a minimum of four to six workouts per week is recommended. If you go over this limit, recovery is impaired and you will risk overtraining. Even though the frequency of workouts is important, two other deciding variables need to be considered to have good results.
First of all, you need to consider the intensity of your workouts. It is probably the most determining aspect that you can modify in order to get the desired results. If you have been doing the same workout with the same intensity and the same frequency for more than 3 months, then it is time for you to upgrade the intensity. For example, for one cardio workout out of two, you could apply the interval* training principle, which will help you burn more calories in less time. During your weight lifting sessions, use heavier weights so that you feel a noticeable strain during the last repetitions. You could also completely change the exercises you do to involve your muscles in a different manner. By upgrading the intensity, you will force your body to adapt and recuperate, and this will improve your physical condition and help you reach your goals faster!
Another essential aspect will be the food you eat. An active body needs to be properly fed in order to perform well during your workouts and accomplish your daily tasks without making you tired. The quality of the food you eat is as important as the quality of your exercise sessions. Therefore, it is not only the total quantity of calories that matter, but also the quality. An ill-fed body will suffer from dietary deficiencies, which will inevitably affect health, but physical performances as well. One sure thing is that you have to provide your body a variety of healthy foods (including carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water). If you are more active, you will need to eat more. The quantity you will need will depend on your goals (weight control, weight loss, muscle mass gain), on your level of physical activity, on your weight, and on your sex. Even if you want to lose weight, you will need to eat a little bit more to keep being active. Keep in mind that this will help you perform better during your workouts! You must also never eat below the requirements of your basal metabolism. The quantity of calories you eat in a day needs to be at least equivalent or superior to your basal metabolism, because otherwise your body will get used to functioning with fewer calories and will lower your basal metabolism… which is something we want to avoid!
To give you an idea regarding the quantity of food you need, carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, whole grain flours, etc.), which constitute your principal source of energy, should represent 50 to 60% of your plate. The rest should be made up of proteins (around 20%) and fats (20-30%). Another key aspect to consider is your post-workout food intake. By eating a snack within 30 minutes of the end of your workout, you will provide your body with everything it needs to replenish its energy stores and maximize its capacity to recuperate.
For optimal results, rely not only on a regular training schedule, but also on effective workouts and a good quantity of balanced food. Do not hesitate to seek advice from a sports nutritionist that will help guide you in your choices and from a personal trainer who will help you determine the best training intensity depending on your needs. At the end of the day, it is the results you get that will motivate you to keep going!
*Interval training consists of alternating periods of high intensity effort with recuperation periods of average to low intensity.
By Karine Larose