Reduce Calories and Reduce Unnecessary Time Spent Working Out

August 12, 2009

If you reduce calories consumed you can get the same fat loss results with less time spent exercising. Eating 2,000 calories more per week than you need and then doing cardio 5 times per week to burn those 2,000 calories leads you to a net fat loss of nothing. A lot of people ask me how many times per week they should workout. My answer is that it depends upon how many excess calories per week they plan on eating. I enjoy exercise, but it is just a small part of my life. I used to train 4-5 times per week, but now I am more likely to get in 3 sessions per week. The key is that I have reduced calories to get just as good of results with less visits to my gym.

reduce calories

[By simply “eating less” and staying active day to day, you can reduce the amount of official workouts per week. Although it sounds simple, many people eat too much and then burn off those excess calories with many unnecessary hours in the gym.]

Getting Great Results With Just 3 Short Workouts Per Week

I decided that this summer I was going to deliberately back off on working out and only go into the gym 3 days per week. No matter what I wouldn’t put in more than 3 days (even if I only made it into the gym 2 days the previous week). So most of the weeks I did get in 3 workouts, but a few times I only managed 2 times per week. My physique is about as sharp as it normally is with much less time and effort. Gotta like that!

I Backed Off On Calories to Make Up For Less Time In the Gym

I knew I didn’t have to go crazy and drastically reduce calories…I simply ate slightly smaller portions a lot of the time. Obviously I still had the occasional big meal, but I did my best to simply eat “a little less”. To be honest it was pretty easy. Exercise can increase the appetite, and since I was exercising less…I craved less food. I didn’t count calories, but just followed my instincts of eating a little less. Like many of the readers of this site, I do Intermittent Fasting twice a week as well.

3 Weeks Into Summer I Broke My 3 Day Rule…

One of the weeks I decided to workout 4 days per week (old habits die hard). My reasoning was it would make me “extra sharp” for the following week when good weather was suppose to hit. I also reduced my calories a little more. What happened was I felt fatigued and grumpy and my girlfriend noticed that my face and body “somehow looked different”…and not in a good way. I knew it was because that I was slightly overtrained and carb-depleted. Although this is a quick way to drop those last few pounds, the price isn’t worth it to me anymore. I did a quick adjustment and dropped my workouts down to 2 days the following week and ate a bit more that week as well. Quickly back to normal.

Spent a Lot More Time Swimming, Walking, and Skimboarding

One of my goals is to spend much more time being active outside. Luckily for me the weather in Seattle this summer has been outstanding. One of the days it hit 104 and we went swimming in the cold Puget Sound at 8PM. Another thing I am trying to do is walk to places in the city that are near my apartment instead of driving. I still need to improve in this area, but I’m getting better. I used to think walking was for people who weren’t fit enough for a “real workout”, but I’ve changed my tune. Here is a post I did on that subject: Why Walking is Necessary for Good Health – Even If You Are Extremely Fit and Lean

Easily Drop a Workout if You Just Slightly Reduce Calories

You don’t have to cut back much as far as average daily calories to equal what a workout would burn. Honestly, just 100-200 calories less per day would do the trick. If you combine this with walking more often and increasing recreational activities, you will achieve the same effect with one less trip to the gym. I actually believe you would be healthier in the long run as well. Eat a little less and walk a little more. Pretty simple and it works.

Circumstances That Require More Workouts Per Week

My advice is to put in a little more effort in the beginning to quickly reach your fat loss goals, but then figure out the minimum “gym-time” it requires for you to maintain that physique. Certain things like getting ready for a movie role, training for a triathlon, or training for a power lifting competition…will require more time in the gym. The main thing is that these should be exceptions to day-to-day life. At some point I am also going to outline a 3 week routine that will help you get “vacation ready”, if you want to reach really low body fat levels.

It Also Doesn’t Hurt to Train a Little More In the Beginning

There is something to be said for building a base of strength your first 1-3 years of training. In this case, it would be fine to train 4-5 days per week. The key is to back off once you have hit your ideal size. From that point forward it will be about getting leaner and stronger without having to live in the gym. A few strategic workouts per week can do the trick…especially if you walk a lot and stay active when you are not training.

Note: Please send me your comments about how many times per week you like to workout. On Friday and Saturday I’m floating down a river on the other side of the mountains where I live, so there will be a delay in when they will show up. When I get back I will approve all the comments and answer any questions the following day.

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Rusty Moore

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{ 87 comments… read them below or add one }

Yavor August 18, 2009 at 9:24 am

Rusty – just in front of my building there is a school with pullup bars, monkey bars, parallel bars for dips, etc. So that’s where I train sometimes, especially when it’s hot. I used to do weighted chinups and dips there with a backpack full of stones lol

Hassan August 18, 2009 at 10:55 am

how often do you think i should be working out during ramadhan, seeing as i wont have much time, rusty can i have your opinion on what i should do to just build up my shoulders a bit and slim down alot during ramadhan, i was thinking i might try a CKD diet for that month as in no carsb at all while i eat and fast and workout after breaking fast. do you think this is a good idea?

David August 18, 2009 at 11:18 pm

Awesome, thanks rusty!

My weight training coach, who is a moron, only gives us about 15-20 minutes to lift a day. However, I go to lift during my lunch period, so that is 30 more minutes.

Now, say I am working chest and back on one day.

Would I still get good results doing the 5×5 sets for my chest exercises (2 exercises) then finish up at lunch with my back workouts?

Or is it most beneficial to do it all in the same workout?

mindbodygoal August 19, 2009 at 8:48 am

Hi Rusty,

You should give the Kettlebells a go, everyone I have introduced to them have loved them……you dont know what your missing !

Very Best Wishes

Joe August 19, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Hi Rusty and anyone else who can comment,

I am trying to speed up my workouts so I can get done with weights in 15-20min so I have more time for cardio. i am wanting purely tone, so what is shortest rest time in between sets I could have w/o sacrificing strength, tone etc? I was thinking 30secs and maybe the last heaviest set 45sec – 60sec the most… would this be okay?

David August 19, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Hey Rusty.
Just got done running 4 miles! I feel great.

I weighed myself before the run and I am down to 6.9 BF %, very proud of myself.

The funny thing is, i thought that I had gained 5 lbs today because my stomach looks and feels much bigger and flabbier than normal.

I am 6′ 0′ and weigh about 137 right now, with a moderate amount of muscle, but still working.
You suggested I do 5×5 sets/reps but I was hoping to do size lifting every other week. Would you suggest that? )I would be taking advice from the “sensible way to build muscle” thread.

mindbodygoal August 20, 2009 at 3:36 am

Joe,
As you asked, for optimal time and results I would suggest doing super sets of exercises using opposing muscles.

For example, Bench Press/Bent Row which would be 1 set. Rest 30 – 60 seconds and repeat.

Other ideas include Military Press/Lat Pulldown or chins.

Muscles such as arms are relatively small, so I would be inclined to perform a 2 Tri sets of something like, Barbell curls to alternate dumbell curls to cable curls and just perform 2 tri sets then move on.

Hope that helps

Nove August 23, 2009 at 3:35 am

hey rusty
if u just go to the gym 3 times a week, what kind workout u do? fullbody workout or u split it ?

Physique Bodyware USA August 24, 2009 at 8:13 am

The gist is that you should balance your workouts & calorie intake which will help you in achieving your desired physique. Thanks Rusty

Ashley August 28, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Hi Rusty! Another great post. It’s so nice to be informed and inspired. :)

I could use some advice… I would like to lose 10 lbs. I gain muscle very easily – may be genetics or because I’ve been active since a very young age, not sure. I don’t know how to incorporate resistance training without gaining unwanted muscle – I don’t like how it makes my body feel heavy. Should my focus be HIIT and steady-state cardio with no resistance training at all for a bit? I know I can get my body to where I’d like it to be, I’m just confused as how to go about it. I need a plan! :)

I currently do eat stop eat 2x/week, eat mostly paleo, little alcohol, walk almost everyday, and do HIIT + steady state cardio 2-3x/week. What do ya think? Hope all is well!

Marius August 29, 2009 at 9:28 pm

You are more than welcome to visit me here in Norway, Oslo.

stomach fat October 18, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I think we all need to stop focusing on counting calories. It’s the elevated insulin levels that is the real problem, and you get that via the endless amounts of processed carbs and sugar in today’s diet.

Kylee November 9, 2009 at 10:08 am

Rusty I do weight training 3 days a week and I make sure I have 1 full days rest in between these days but I power walk 5 days a week and take 2 days off for rest and to spend time with my family.
It’s worked pretty well for me.
I also just eat good food all the time and don’t diet, I don’t even count calories because the last time I did I got down to 49 kilos and looked gaunt in the face , drained and lethargic.
Now that I lift weights I can’t afford not to have any energy.

Aaron Curl January 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Good article. I have been exercising and eating less for the last couple of months because over the summer I was doing some shape of exercise everyday and eating fewer calories. That strategy helped me lose a lot of fat! Now I’m basically just maintaining through the winter months. When spring hits I’m going to try and refrain from over training….or eat more. Time will tell.

Mona March 17, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I’ve been reading for a while now really good info here, also started ESE and cut down my calories intake and workout days, trying to lose 15-20 pounds to reach my goal, my only concern is about the loose skin .Is it true if you lose the weight you will have loose skin? If it’s true,how do I avoid that?

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