Will more time in the gym produce greater results?

March 10, 2012

Q: I have always been of the opinion that if you want to get results, you have to go to the extreme. Therefore, I have found myself eating less to lose weight, doing large amounts of cardio and spending lots of time in the gym, but I have not been able to achieve the results I’d hoped for. I recently read an article that went against everything I have been doing, and I feel as if I’m wasting my time. What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you have any suggestions that might help steer me in the right direction?

A: It’s not always how hard you work, but how smart you plan, and if you want to get results, you’re going to have change your thought process. Here are four suggestions for helping you use your time more effectively.

Will eating less help me lose weight?
You would think figuring out why you’re gaining weight is a no-brainer, right? If you eat too much food, you’re obviously going to pack on the pounds, but who would have thought eating too little could be even worse? That’s right, not eating enough food can actually cause your body to panic and begin to conserve calories, resulting in rapid weight gain.

That’s why I tell my clients to eat 5-6 small meals a day spaced approximately 2-3 1/2 hours apart for optimum results.

Will adding more workouts get me in shape faster?
Quality, not quantity is the name of the game if you want to get the most out of your workouts. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how many times you go to the gym if you are not constantly challenging yourself.

If you are lifting weights that are easy, taking long rest periods between sets, and able to have conversations while doing your cardio sessions, step it up and add some intensity to your routine before you add more days of leisurely workouts.

Do large amounts of cardio yield more benefits?
Research has proven that shorter, more intense cardio is the best way to burn fat and preserve lean muscle mass, elevating your metabolism 24 hours a day.

However, long, excessive, slow cardio burns muscle and smothers the metabolic flame that will help you get in shape and stay there. For best results, make your cardio sessions more intense and keep them in the range of 20-45 minutes and you will be amazed at how quickly your body will respond.

Can more time in the gym equal greater results?
Most people think spending more time in the gym will give them an advantage, but there is a limit where too much becomes counterproductive.

The average time for a weight training workout should be somewhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Anything more than that and you begin to produce large amounts of cortisol - a stress hormone - and your body begins to break down muscle mass and retain body fat. This is why people who spend too much time in the gym or do obsessive amounts of cardio for long periods of time never seem to get results. In fact, in a lot of cases, they end up unhealthier even though they are working hard and working out on a consistent basis.

Remember, if you are willing to put in the time, anything can be accomplished, but it makes sense to find out the most effective ways to use your time and incorporate them into your routine.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out