Exercise and diet go hand in hand

By Peter Rana

Dieting alone is not enough to keep weight off says Peter Rana.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

In the spring of 1986 I opened my first gym in East Hampton, New York, home to the Big Apple's elite. Very quickly, this small gym became the destination for many time-poor businessmen and women, most of whom had the same request: "I want you to make me look my best and I want it now! Got it?"

I was fresh out of university and armed with only a PE degree. My new gym's success depended on these summer clients dropping inches off their hips, thighs and waistlines and in a matter of weeks.

In New York, there's no such thing as a second chance, especially when it comes to the rich and powerful. If you succeed, word gets out fast. Mess up and it gets out even faster.

My recommendation was and always is pretty straightforward: a regimen of one-to-one training five days a week comprising three high-intensity strength training sessions (HIT) interspersed with two high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio work-outs on the off days.

The emphasis was heavily weighted on the exercise part of the diet-and-exercise equation. The nutritional plan was secondary. Why? Because what we did know was that people who used diets alone and lost weight never kept it off.

The golden rule: what you buy and put in your cupboards eventually goes into your stomach. So be selective with what ends up in your fridge. It wasn't the quantity of food I was emphasising (although that's not to say it's not important), it was the quality I was after.

Thankfully, the formula proved highly successful and my gym prospered. These clients were experiencing a total metamorphosis. Their fat wasn't just reducing, it was melting away. Their strength and muscle size increased, but their bodies appeared smaller and fitter because muscle is denser than fat and takes up less volume per kilo of weight.

So, don't buy into the myth that bigger muscles mean you'll look like you belong on the roller derby team.

What I recommended then is still basically what I recommend today - with the exception of cutting down the frequency of work-outs to three times a week. Train hard, briefly and infrequently. High-intensity strength training will strengthen your body and increase your functional ability to take on a variety of cardio challenges outside the gym.

Here's a formula that will work well for you:

• Train with adequate intensity - it's the cornerstone of getting results from exercise.

• Train briefly - if you work out hard, you won't last long. It's a physical fact.

• If you want to lose weight, get the exercise part right first. The eating plan, second. I find most people are more successful when the exercise part of the equation is working for them. One of the benefits of HIT is how it trains the brain to do its part in helping you regulate when you've had enough to eat.

• Think quality food first before calorie reduction. Eat a balanced diet of whole or minimally processed foods. Spread out your calories during the day by eating less more frequently.

• Do high intensity strength training for strength. It's by far the most productive exercise you can do. And do high intensity interval training for cardio. It's a potent combination.

I hear you asking, "Where and how can I do HIT?" Simply start exercising. Push yourself, a little bit to start. If you're jogging, sprint between two lampposts, jog for a few, sprint again. Climbing the stairs, go as quick as you can for one flight and raise your heart rate.

Word of warning: be wary of pushing yourself too hard. Best advice: join a gym that offers supervised HIT training.

• Peter Rana is the founder of BodyTech Gym

- Herald on Sunday

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