If you see a rather jacked guy with well-toned muscles and excellent condition, the immediate assumption is that this person spends extended periods of time in the gym daily; a minimum of an hour and a half to say the least. Furthermore, if you are this lean and mean person, a common question that you’re most probably asked on a consistent basis is how long you spend in the gym a day and how many days a week you go to the gym.

It’s no secret that in order to lose any significant amount of weight, you need to be consistent with your training endeavours and you need to make sure that these endeavours are performed at a level that’s at least sweat worthy (i.e. if you’re able to be on your cell phone while you’re training, you’re not working hard enough). However, a common misconception that is frequently purported out there is that you need to spend hours upon hours in the gym to make any real sort of progress in your fat loss goals. Well, it’s time to bust some myths and show you what you actually need to do and how you need to train in order to reach your fat loss goals.

Cardio is not necessary for fat loss.

Wait, say that again???

That’s right. Cardio is not a necessary or even pivotal component in the system that is the fat loss puzzle. A very popular, and also extremely controversial, post made by Dr. Brad Schoenfeld states this:

Aerobic exercise is not necessary for fat and unless you commit a lot of time to it on a daily basis, it’s overall effects will be modest… moreover, resistance training is essential (and thus more important than aerobic exercise) for maintaining or even increasing lean mass during energy restriction. That said, cardio can be used in combination with diet and lifting to enhance weight loss, and it has numerous other health-related benefits as well. Just don’t expect to hit the treadmill a few times a week to shred fat.

Now that is not to say don’t do cardio at all. But you have to take into consideration that the body will utilize a lot more energy during an intense lifting session than during a mundane period spent on a treadmill. In addition, it is far more tempting to not put in a high amount of effort and energy when spending time in a steady-state activity pattern than it is for you to try doing the same thing during sets of heavy or explosive movements that require you to focus intently in order to complete the movements and execute them well and safely. If you want to burn the same number of calories during steady-state cardio as you would during a highly intensive session (be it lifting weights or interval sessions), you’re going to have to spend excessive amounts of time to meet those same energy expenditure requirements.

Cardio is a tool in your box and shouldn’t be the bulk of your fat loss strategy. Employ it if you have the time.

You don’t need to be in the gym for two hours at a time.

More is always more, right??? Wrong!!!

The more you train, the more cortisol you produce. Now, cortisol in and of itself is not a bad hormone. If anything, it has a range of benefits to the body when it comes to body composition, fat loss and muscle growth. However, too much of anything is a bad thing and cortisol is no exception. When cortisol levels are too high, a potential danger of it is that “cortisol antagonizes the immune system and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent (that is to say that cortisol production increases as inflammation increases, which is an immunosuppressive process). Chronically elevated endogenous cortisol production also poses metabolic risks such as impaired insulin response (i.e. insulin resistance), cardiovascular risks such as elevated blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, mental health risks such as depression and anxiety, and bone health risks such as osteoporosis.”

Additionally, training for periods of 2 hours or more (for the majority of the populace) is bound to cause breakdowns in mental focus and motivation levels. One of the keys to fat loss is sustainability and when you have to fight yourself every day to get to the gym for those long and arduous sessions, something is bound to give eventually. At that point, negative images with general health and fat loss build-up and your training will go out of the window.

Therefore, keep it short and sweet. A recommendation from Ben Pakulsi (Honours Degree in Kinesiology and Founder of the MI40 Nation) is for an individual to spend anywhere between 40 minutes to an hour in the gym and no more, with a rest every third or fourth day. This will allow the body optimal time to rest and recover and give the mind time to recuperate its motivation levels. As a result, the days spent in the gym will yield a much greater total net benefit when it comes to burning calories and developing a sustainable routine: two pivotal keys that are compulsory when it comes consistent and maintainable fat loss.

Take home message, find a strategy that can fit into your life without encroaching on its other areas. Then find a plan that you can subscribe to that will be easy for you to maintain and stick to. Lastly, work hard.

You don’t need hours to achieve that perfect tone. You just need effort and consistency.

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