How to lose weight and keep it off

For most of us every new year starts with goals to shed the weight gained over the festive period.  Few of us actually stick with or achieve our weight loss goals.  Tinus Jordan Biermann, a personal trainer at Viva Gym in Cape Town, shares his best advice on how to lose weight and keep it off.


To provide some context, I started working and studying when I was 18. I built up experience as a personal trainer and went on to work and study in London.  While there, I started specialising in Pilates, yoga, boxing, spinning, rehabilitation as well as pre- and post-natal training.  I’ve now been in the health and fitness industry for 18 years.  I’ve gained varied experience working on cruise ships, at the Franschhoek Health Club and The One & Only hotel.  I’ve worked at Expresso for 2 years and was even part of the Mr South Africa pageant.  Currently, I work at Viva Gym in Cape Town.

In my experience, sustainable weight loss all starts with one’s mindset.  If you believe you can achieve your goals, you are almost halfway there.  After that, you need to put in specific training and be consistent about it.

If considers the various Olympic athletes, who are the fittest looking?  Usually these are the sprinters, short-distance swimmers, gymnasts and weight-lifters.  Why is this?  Well, it’s very simple really – the most toned, fittest looking athletes are those who predominantly have fast-twitch fibres in their bodies.

Our bodies have two kinds of muscle fibres:  fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibres.  Fast-twitch muscle fibres give definition, and if well-toned, are what makes one look good.  Fast-twitch muscle fibres also help increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR).  Your BMR refers to the number of calories that you burn while you are at rest.  In order to achieve sustained weight loss, your ultimate goal should be to speed your BMR up as much as you can.

What is the best way to do this?

A recent study of cardiovascular exercises revealed that exercises like boxing, swimming, rowing, cycling and running in that specific order are best suited to targeting fast-twitch muscle groups.  This makes sense if you consider boxing, because the goal is to hit the pads or the bag very explosively.  This, in turn, increases fast-twitch muscle fibre count, so naturally your metabolism speeds up.  For sustained weight loss, your focus needs to be on explosive movements in cardiovascular exercise as well as on resistance training exercises to increase your fast-twitch fibre count in our bodies. This will increase your BMR and speed your metabolism up.

It is also important to mix up aerobic and anaerobic exercises to get that EPOC (external post-oxygen consumption) effect in the body.  This is also known as the afterburn effect.  Have you ever done an intensive workout and you still feel the afterburn hours after the workout?  This is why people often talk of being able to eat as much as they want and still lose weight while doing it.  This is largely due to the fact that the person’s BMR is very fast and they are burning calories at a very fast pace even when they are not working out.

It is important to remember that our muscles can only go in one of two directions.  They can either be in a state of hypertrophy, which is when you are healthy, fit and strong and burning heaps of calories even when at rest – or it can be in a state of atrophy which is when you have a predominantly sedentary lifestyle and are not burning many calories when at rest.  The sooner you get the muscles in your body into hypertrophy mode, the sooner you’ll start seeing results.

This said, food and alcohol intake are also massive players in achieving and sustaining weight loss.  Diets may help you lose weight for a period of time, however, the chances are that when you stray from your diet, you tend to regain the weight.  Diets therefore have more of a yo-yo effect.

I personally encourage my clients to have realistic expectations when it comes to weight loss.  It’s impractical to expect to lose weight gained over years within a month or two and keep it off permanently.  The reality behind losing weight and keeping it off is that it is going to take time and positive effort.  Ultimately, sustained weight loss is achieved through a combination of discipline; correct, targeted training and good food choices that allow enough protein into our bodies so that those amino acids, the building blocks of our muscles, can replenish the broken fibres in our muscles after a good, explosive workout.

Wishing you well on your weight loss journey!


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