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.
[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.