Exercising for Fatloss


What is the most effective way to exercise if you want to drop body fat?

There is and there also isn’t a straight forward answer.

Two things we need to consider:

  1. You cannot out exercise a bad diet. The best way to lose weight is to nail your nutrition. My approach is always Food First!
  2. The most effective exercise is that which you actually do. Therefore, even though there is a “science” to what is more effective at changing body composition, if you don’t do it, it’s not doing you any favours. Moving your body in a way that you enjoy is better than sitting around and eating cake!

So now that we got that out of the way, let’s look at some more “ideal case scenarios”. In a perfect world, what would I recommend and why?

In my online coaching program I divide my clients into two broad categories:

  1. Over-eaters: those people that each too much, probably carbohydrates and don’t do enough exercise
  2. The over-achievers: those people that are into Fitness but take everything to the extreme and probably over-exercise (usually high intensity workouts) and don’t have the right nutritional balance to support what they are doing which results in what I call “stress weight”.

So what are the metabolic consequences?

  1. Over-eaters: exercise has many positive benefits including building muscle mass, increasing metabolism and improving insulin sensitivity. But apart from the inner biochemistry, learning how to move properly, mobilising what is tight and strengthen what is weak improves posture, prevents injury and changes body shape.


It is sadly all too common to see someone who is over-weight thinking they need to start running to lose weight and ending up injured from the large amount of impact and the repetitive movement exacerbating already present musculoskeletal imbalances.

  1. Over-achievers: Just because someone is exercising a lot, doesn’t mean they are exercising effectively. I know very few people who move well. Unless someone has been coached before, I find that most people have tight hip flexors and lower back and weak glutes, hamstrings and abdominal muscles (see picture above). Therefore, even though the typical over-achiever might be training hard, they are ingraining ineffective movement patterns which means that they are likely to get injured and then do that rebound thing when they can’t train and they comfort eat or they continue to exercise but their body shape never really changes for the better.

Additionally, the massive amount of stress created by too much exercise and not enough recovery from a time and nutritional perspective, means that they can be in a constant state of oxidative stress. The biochemical term for internal rust which creates ageing. This causes damage to the part of the cell that burns fat (the mitochondria) and they become ineffective at turning fat into energy, which means that it is more likely to get stored than burned off.

Poor recovery often means there is no muscle development – and remember we need muscle to increase metabolism, change body shape and improve physique with postural changes.

Finally, there is a whole host of other complications, poor sleep, low energy and changes in hormones.

So what do I recommend?

If you have been following me for a while you will know that I support and less is more approach. Less exercise, less food restriction, less orthorexia and more results! I am sure some of you reading this are doing calorie restricted low carb diet and lots of HIT training and getting results. Good on you! But I work with a lot of women who have been there, done that and rebounded. The most effective way to get results is by doing something you honestly could sustain lifelong.

Despite relocation, change in career, holidays, change in relationships, family stress and all the things that life throws at you, I have managed to maintain a stable body weight for years, because my eating and exercise practising are sustainable!

Here is a visual representation for you:

Exercise Balance

Low Intensity: you should be able to exercise and sing e.g. walking

Moderate Intensity: You should be able to talk but not sing e.g jogging, moderate intensity weight lifting, cycling or aerobics classes

High Intensity: No talking and definitely no singing! e.g. High Intensity Intervals, Sprints, Circuit Classes etc.


I’m a big advocate of resistance training for the reasons that it is progressive, build muscle and therefore increases metabolism across the board, improves posture and changes body shape (provided exercises are performed properly). That said, if you want to run or cycle or do cardio classes I won’t stop you, but understand there is little room for progression in these exercise modalities increasing the likelihood of a plateau. 

New health guidelines now recommend 2 resistance training sessions per week. This is obviously beneficial for reasons already discussed in addition to maintaining bone density, balance and to prevent sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) associated with ageing.

Frequency & Duration

Realistically, you need to look at your schedule and be honest about what you fit in. No point in saying you will exercise 5 days a week and then only end up going 3 times because your life is busy and then beating yourself up and eating a pile of sugar as a result!

Provided your diet is good and you use the time that you do have to exercise effectively, a minimum of 3 sessions a week can still get some great results.

I recommend a maximum for 5 sessions per week, 4 times is a good middle ground, with 2-3 rest days where you could do some walking or yoga. Anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour is plenty! I will spend a maximum of an hour in the gym which includes warming up and some lower intensity core based work at the end.


Having variety in the intensity at which you train can be beneficial on many different levels.

From a psychological perspective it can be easier to actually get to the gym if you know it’s not going to kill you every time

Different level of intensity use different energy systems so you can develop your efficiency to burn both fats and sugars.

It can be difficult to progress if you only do high intensity work. When you are always working as hard as you can other aspects of fitness might suffer such as strength and movement quality. Using moderate intensity sessions to really work on body position will go a long way to improving muscle development and body shape.

So what would a typical week look like?

There are many different options. For beginning exerciser we usually recommend whole body workouts using exercises that encourage the use of multiple joints and large muscle groups (think squat, lunge, deadlift, press ups, pull ups or lat pull down).

As you get more advanced you might want to hone in on specific muscle groups or body parts on certain days. Leg training would be more intensive where days that only use the upper body may be more moderate and thereby you create that variety in intensity.

For me personally, I currently do the following:

Monday: Legs (High Intensity)

Tuesday: Chest and Back (Moderate Intensity)

Wednesday: Gymnastic Skills (Moderate Intensity); muscle ups, handstand holds, core work etc.

Thursday: Rest Day: Walking

Friday: Legs (High Intensity)

Saturday: Recovery jog along the beach (Moderate Intensity)

Sunday: Rest Day: Walking or Yoga

Bear in mind that I would be a more advanced exerciser so someone just starting out might do the following:

Monday: Full Body Workout (Moderate Intensity)

Tuesday: Rest walking

Wednesday: Full Body Workout (Moderate Intensity)

Thursday: Rest: walking

Friday: Interval Sprints on the bike or rowing machine (High Intensity)

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Rest Day: Walking or Yoga

In Summary

I hope you have learned the following:

  • Movement that you enjoy is better than no movement at all
  • You cannot out-exercise a bad diet
  • Sometimes doing less exercise can be a more effective tool for fat loss
  • Exercise between 3 and 5 days a week using a combination of moderate and high intensity
  • Stay active on rest days with things like yoga or walking
  • Incorporate a minimum of 2 resistance training days per week into your schedule for muscle development, postural improvement, bone density, improved balance and change in body shape
  • Beginner lifting should focus on large muscle groups and use the whole body
  • More advanced trainer can focus on specific muscle groups
  • Learn to move properly, stretch what is tight and strengthen what is weak!

desert CAMPING (2)


Do you need to reverse your diet?


If you have been following my posts since the beginning of the year you may know I am on a reverse diet.

A reverse diet is what the name says, the reverse if dieting.

If dieting is taking calories away, the reverse dieting is adding them back in. So this is exactly what I have been doing.

It is a strategy I often suggest to many of my weight loss clients. Which you are probably thinking seems kinda weird because if they are “weight loss” clients, then why I am doing the reverse of dieting with them!?

There can be a lot of positive benefits to reverse dieting which can actually be very helpful for weight loss. So I thought I would share a little of the theory and my observations.

If you have watched some of my webinars like How to Smash Through a Weight Loss Plateau and How to Lose 2 Stone without Dieting and Restriction you will probably know a little bit about me and how I work.

In a nutshell, most women believe they that restriction and/or over-exercising is the way to lose weight and many women lack the lifestyle balance and mindset to find a lifelong healthy body weight (not to mention a positive relationship with food and body image).

When we diet, as we restrict calories further and further, our metabolism down-regulates over time (see the image below from the How To Lose 2 Stone Webinar)

lose 2 stone

This is a good thing, it prevents our skeletal muscle and organs from shrinking as we break down proteins to create sugar in a carbohydrate and calorie depleted state.

Roughly the resting metabolic rate of a woman is 1400 calories (maybe a little more for bigger people and a little less for smaller people)

This means we need 1400 calories, give or take, so that we can function properly before we’ve got out of bed, moved around, maybe done some exercise, run around after our children and done the house work.

Your metabolism

I see many women who are stuck eating 800 to 1200 calories a day and wondering why they still have that little bit of fat around their stomach, if not more.

This is because their metabolism has slowed down. Further calorie restriction and adding in more exercise is not going to work with these people.

Adding in more exercise to an already depleted body is an additional stress on top of the stress of calorie restriction. Not to mention the stress of life itself, work, bills, commuting, relationship etc.

Exercise in the right amounts is beneficial for health. But when we exercise without the tools to recover we create what is known as oxidative stress. It’s really a fancy name for biochemical rust which causes ageing.

When we are rusting out bodies from the inside-out, this causes damage to the machinery in our body that burn fats basically meaning our ability to take fat and turn it to energy is negatively affected.

So, not only do we lack energy, sleep badly, feel emotional, lose our hair & struggle with hormones, but we also cannot burn fuels well so we have to store them somewhere. Hello Belly Fat!

So when you can’t take more food away and you can’t add more exercise back in, the only way to go is up!

This can work in 3 ways;

  1. Slowly increase calories
  2. Reduce exercise
  3. Slowly increase calories AND reduce exercise

Now most of my clients as well as myself, are already exercising a sensible amount (which is another blog in itself). So I’m going to spend most of my time looking at the increase in calories.

However, I won’t spend that much time on it because there isn’t that much to say.

What we do is increase calories by around 50kcal-100kcal per day per week. This is usually from carbohydrate but sometimes from fats too.

This means that if you were eating 1200 calories a day this week you are going to eat 1300 calories a day and next week 1400 calories a day.

The goal is to continue with this increase until a point you feel like you are putting on fat weight.

In people who are particularly restricted an increase carbohydrate intake can initially cause an increase in water weight that will settle over time (we store 3g of water for every 1g of muscle glycogen).

As an observation, almost all my clients who have done this with me actually lose weight first before maintaining. I’ve had one client who has lost about 10lbs or 5kg whilst doing this. In case you don’t believe me, see the comment below:

Reverse Diet Quote

What is the point of maintaining weight if you still have more to lose, you may ask?

If you still have fat to lose you aren’t actually using a reverse diet to lose weight (although this often happens). But what you are doing is rebooting metabolism (not to mention your will power and relationship with food!) so that you can diet again after a period of time.

In other words, if you build calories back up from 1600 to 2200, you could probably drop 50g of carbs and take you to 2000 and start leaning out again.

The problem is that many women when you tell them to eat more freak out and go running for the hills! But every client I have had who has done it and followed through with it consistently has been really pleased with the result.

It gives you an opportunity to know what your body is capable of. I’ve unfortunately had some disruption due to travel but prior to that I was eating an average of 2250 kcals per day, 220g of carbs but up to 280g on hard training days per week.

These are my stats below; I dropped fat as measured by skin-folds in this time although you can see my overall weight on average stayed the same. The red days are day 1 and 2 of my cycles so you can also see how my body changes with that time of the month but returns back to normal within a week (I’m sure yours does too!)


I haven’t completely finished the experiment as of yet but what that information allows me to do is know what my limits are. Lorraine, one of my coaches on The Ladies that Lift Program, followed this process with me after reaching her body comp goal when she was once a client of mine. She got her intake up to 2500 calories every day and got leaner in the process. She was the leanest she had ever been eating the most food she had ever eaten! This means she knows what her body can do. She knows she maintains on 2500 calories and definitely loses on 1800 calories, but there is a whole range in between she can play with.

So what to do with this information?

The main reason for writing this is I meet so many women through my coaching program who have fear of food. Fear to eat more, yet stuck in a rut of eating less.

I really believe in the less is more approach.

  • Less stress
  • Less dieting
  • Less exercise
  • Less orthorexia and food phobia

= more and better results.

Results that are sustainable because;

  • You didn’t starve and punish yourself for 6 months trying to achieve them
  • You spent time building a strong and stable metabolism
  • You learnt how to nourish your body instead of punish it

desert CAMPING (2)