Three Legs of the Fitness Stool

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Clients will often ask, ‘what’s the single most impactful thing I can do to lose weight?’ The answer is, ‘there are three things’. You see, there is no silver bullet. I like to refer to them as the three legs of the fitness stool; strength training, cardio and proper nutrition. It’s the combination of these three attack modes that are most effective in the weight loss process.

Strength Training

In order to burn fat, resistance training is needed to strengthen your muscles and raise your metabolism. In fact, it elevates our metabolism for hours after we engage in it, and long term it will raise your metabolism permanently.  This is because muscle tissue burns fat – even when resting! Consider this:

  • 1 lb. of muscle burns about 50 calories a day
  • 1lb of fat burns 4 calories a day

Since we know that muscles consume more energy than fat, it is safe to assume that when you increase in muscle, you will also decrease in fat.  But, ONLY if your caloric intake does not increase.

Strength training is also one of the BEST activities to strengthen bone density. This is because strength training increases calcium absorption in bones which makes them stronger. Here’s how it works: When your muscles are resisting against the weight that is pushed or pulled, your bones are also being tugged on by your tendons and ligaments. This tugging results in your bones building themselves stronger to compensate for your muscles being stronger.


Cardio Training

Your body’s decision to store fat is based on the equation of Energy In vs. Energy Out. Cardio work, which raises your heart rate and increases the rate of blood flow takes a lot of energy. This increased ‘energy out’, equates to less fat stored on your waist, hips and thighs.

Cardio also strengthens your heart, protecting against heart disease (the leading cause of death in America) such as stroke, hypertension and diabetes. Another great side benefit of cardio is increased endorphin release. When our bodies are under stress our brain produces neurochemicals called endorphins, which are natural pain killers. Endorphins are structurally similar to the drug morphine to give you an idea of their strength and effect on the body. The upside is that it’s an all-natural high. The overall effect is that they bring about feelings of euphoria and general well-being.

If you have knee, hip or foot issues that tend to make cardio difficult, or even impossible for some people, there are alternatives. Elliptical training still provides an excellent cardio workout while minimizing impact on the joints. Rowing is another fantastic cardio exercise, which works the upper body and almost completely eliminates impact on any leg joint.


Proper Nutrition

Nutrition is needed to sufficiently fuel your body for workouts, but it can also help you burn fat effortlessly while you sleep!

Even minor changes in the way you eat will jump start your metabolism and turn you into a calorie burning machine (even overnight). Begin changing your relationship with food by eating small meals throughout the day. This simple act can increase your metabolism! Eating every 3 – 4 waking hours will speed up your metabolism and reduce fat storage. It’s very important to note that the opposite is also true. Eating too few meals throughout the day will shift your metabolism in hibernation mode. When you don’t eat enough, or eat just once a day, your body isn’t sure when the next meal is coming. To compensate, the body slows down your metabolism to conserve energy. This is why ‘starving yourself’ doesn’t work!

Eating at home goes a long way toward proper nutrition (and a healthy pocketbook as well!) Eating out usually leads to overeating, and restaurant food typically contains high amounts of sodium, which will cause you to retain water and interfere with your metabolism. Begin any new dedication to eating better by taking a 30-day hiatus from eating out, and you will see a dramatic difference in your weight loss. Instead, select foods that have not been processed or were touched the least amount of times on its way from the farmer’s field to your mouth. 


Last, but certainly not least, proper hydration is one of the most important factors to a healthy lifestyle. What I’m talking about is water, water and more water. Not sugar-laden soda, iced tea, fancy coffee or energy drinks, which all contain loads of sugar and caffeine. These two ingredients will wreak havoc on your health, sleep rhythms and weight loss efforts. Water intake can also help keep you feeling more awake during the day, fuller between meals, and prevent cramping during a workout or cardio session.

I commonly refer to strength training, cardio and proper nutrition as the three legs of the stool, because in the absence of just one your foundation falls out from under you. Why not make a clean slate and commit anew to reengaging your fitness efforts to build a better foundation, and a better you!?