Wellness programs should focus not only on reducing calories, but also on preventing muscle loss. When we diet we typically lose muscle mass which means that we end up slowing down our metabolism. That makes it harder not to regain the weight we worked so hard to lose.

Wellness Programs Need to Target a Reasonable Pace of Weight Loss

Wellness programs for weight loss need to take a go-slow approach to preserve lean muscle mass.

According to WebMD, one study showed that dieters who lost the same amount of weight on 500 calorie diets versus those who ate a 1,250 calorie diet lost different amounts of lean muscle mass. Participants on the very-low calorie diet lost 3.5 pounds of muscle, whereas the 1,250 calorie dieters only lost 1.3 lbs. of fat burning muscle. So, losing weight more slowly and not restricting calories so severely works better as a weight loss strategy.

Wellness Programs Should Focus on More Intense Exercise

New research shows that wellness programs that emphasize high-intensity interval training exercise burn more fat than moderate-intensity workouts.

Moderate-intensity exercise, such as a brisk walk or dancing, has been shown to reduce the lowering of one’s metabolic rate while restricting calories. The study conducted at the University of Alabama looked at whether high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, could have an even greater effect.

High-intensity interval training is a process in which a person performs near maximal exercise for a short period of time, and then actively recovers for two to four minutes. For example, you might run at a fast pace on a treadmill and then recover by walking. Then, you person repeat cycle about four to five times.

Although continuous moderate intensity exercise burns more calories, people who perform high-intensity interval training save time by burning calories faster. A high-intensity exercise might burn the same calories as a moderate workout in 20 minutes versus one-hour.

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that combining a calorie-restricted diet with high-intensity interval training could be the winning combination for reducing weight regain after weight loss.

Eric Plaisance, Ph.D., study author and assistant professor of exercise science in the UAB School of Education, says that “One of the major problems when you restrict calories on a diet is that you lose muscle mass, and as a result, your metabolism slows down to accommodate the restriction of food.” That’s why 80% of people who lose weight by dieting gain all of it back in with four-to five-years.

The team found that a calorie-restricted diet and high-intensity exercise training preserved muscle mass and had a greater impact on the way the body uses glucose for energy than exercising at a steady state.

According to the researchers: “This study has important implications for how we guide people through weight loss and help them keep the weight off. Being able to maintain weight loss is important to reducing the risk of diabetes, helping to improve blood pressure, and many other diseases and ailments associated with obesity.”

The time savings are important because, according to Plaisance “The number one reason that people tell us they do not exercise is due to a lack of time.” He concludes that if you’re going to start a calorie-restrictive diet, high-intensity exercise is a critical component.

Click here to read the full article about wellness programs that include caloric-restriction and high-intensity workouts.