By Brent Moore, CSCS
Everybody wants the magic answer for losing body fat. The truth of fat loss is that it takes time, effort, intensity, and proper nutrition in order to see results. If a trainer could guarantee weight loss with training once a week, he would likely be the most popular trainer in the world. Trying to determine the optimal number of days per week to train can be overwhelming for most people as they try to balance work life, home life, and fitness. There also seems to be an exorbitant amount of information telling people how often they should train and at what frequency. The government has its recommendations, the American Council on Exercise will have its recommendations, as will every trainer on the planet. In order to best determine what the right amount of time is, each person has to know his or her own body, but there are some studies that can give you a great starting point.
One study was conducted with ninety participants aged between 22 and 74, where the participants’ weight changes were measured over the course of eight weeks. The study measured the correlation of frequency of exercise within each week and the amount of fat loss. The results of the study showed an average loss of 4.7 pounds for participants training once per week, 4 pounds for participants training 2 to 3 times per week, and 13.3 pounds of fat loss for participants training 4 to 5 times per week (Willis, Smith, & Willis, 2009). Each bout of exercise had to be for at least 30 minutes to count and no regard was given to the workout intensity or nutritional habits of the participants. This study clearly shows the benefit to getting to the gym at least 4 times per week.
Taking a look closer to home, where residents of the community tend to eat out often and there is a culture that encourages wine knowledge and consumption, the results at Pulse Fitness shows a similar trend. In looking at the results of clients who train with us once or twice a week gained an average of 2.5 pounds over three months. Clients who trained with us 3 times per week lost an average of 4 pounds and clients who trained with us 4 to 5 times with us lost an average of 9 pounds. The clients who recently went through the 21 day weight loss challenge, where the train 4 to five times a week and eat healthy, while cutting out alcohol, over 3 weeks lost an average of 6.5 pounds.
Looking at the results of participants in a controlled study and looking at the clients at Pulse Fitness, it becomes immediately apparent that those who are truly committed to exercise get the greatest results. The truth of it is: if you are only getting to the gym once or twice a week, you will not see much change. Even if you are not training with a coach every time you work out, you still need to make sure you are getting at least 4 training sessions in each week. It is also likely that the clients who are training 4 or more times per week are eating healthier. When you make it to the gym more often, you become more in tune with your own body and you begin to realize the toll that poor nutrition and alcohol consumption takes on your body. At the end of the day, you cannot out train a bad diet, and you cannot build a fit body without a fitness routine.
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Willis, F., Smith, F., & Willis, A. (2009). Frequency of Exercise for Body Fat Loss: A Controlled, Cohort Study. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(8), 2377-2380