What a great feeling it is to be motivated! However, if you're so motivated that you find yourself working out twice a day for weight loss, you might be doing more harm than good. Unless you're planning your two-a-day workouts carefully, this practice could be counterproductive.
You’ll lose weight if you burn more calories than you take in, but in some cases, exercising twice a day is unnecessary or even harmful.
On the other hand, exercising twice a day (or even three times a day) might be the best option for some people. So how can you tell whether you're doing it the right way or the wrong way? Here's a breakdown of how to safely do double workouts to lose weight or get fit.
Read more: The Dangers of Working Out Too Much
Double Workouts to Lose Weight
Generally speaking, weight loss comes down to a pretty simple formula. As the American Academy of Family Physicians explains, it's necessary to create a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of fat. Ideally, you should create that deficit through a combination of diet and exercise. Aim to lose weight at a safe, steady rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week, with an approximate deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories a day.
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, even if you're not trying to lose weight. Harvard Health Publishing states that regular exercise helps protect you from high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and chronic diseases.
People work out for different reasons, such as:
- To stay healthy.
- To lose weight and keep it off.
- To train for athletic competitions or events like team
sports or marathons.
Current guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise every week to stay healthy. People who are trying to slim down or reach a certain level of fitness may require more.
For a variety of reasons, it might make sense to divvy up your time. The American Council on Exercise notes that double workouts are sometimes called two-a-days by athletes, primarily football players, who train intensely to get into shape for competition. They might need to divide their workout time into sessions in both the early morning and the evening to avoid the hottest times of the day.
In other cases, an athlete training for a triathlon might want to do a swimming session in the morning. This could be followed by a cycling session in the afternoon or evening, as an example.
Read more: The Three-Month Marathon Training Plan
You might find that you're hard-pressed to find a 30-minute chunk of time in the middle of the day to get in a good workout. In this case, working out twice a day for weight loss could be effective. The National Cancer Institute recommends a tactic called Take 10. The idea is to get 10 minutes of continuous moderate activity three times each day to get the same health benefits as 30 minutes of nonstop exercise.
Burning just 75 calories during each 10-minute session will help you burn about 225 calories per day. If you then eliminate 275 calories from your diet, you can easily create a 500-calorie deficit — which is enough to lose weight safely.
Avoid Overdoing It
Whether you're doing double workouts to lose weight or reach a certain fitness level, it's important to avoid overtraining. Exercising too hard or too much can have negative effects on your overall health.
The Cleveland Clinic notes that overtraining is common among college athletes, triathletes and endurance athletes, but it could also be a problem for people who are just starting out with an exercise program and who attempt to do too much, too soon. This may result in problems like weight gain and performance decline and plateaus — all the opposite of what you're trying to accomplish.
This point is furthered by a March 2012 review published in the journal Sports Health, which observes that rest is required if athletes are going to increase their load and improve their performance. Without proper rest, excessive exercise can lead to overtraining syndrome, which negatively affects the body's neurologic, endocrinologic and immunologic systems.
In some situations, such as the cases of three young women examined in a May 2015 article published in the British Journal of General Practice, excessive exercise can lead to iron-deficiency anemia.
So what's the distinction between two-a-days done properly, and overtraining? The Marshfield Clinic recommends splitting up your energy systems and muscle groups by doing different types of workouts during your two sessions. You could do an aerobic workout in the morning and then a strength-training workout in the evening. Maybe one session is a high-intensity workout, while the other session is a low-intensity workout.
It's also important that you don't do these two-a-day workouts every day — limit yourself to just once or twice a week and be sure to take a full day off once a week. Also, watch out for signs of overtraining, such as fatigue and soreness.
- American Academy of Family Physicians: “What You Should Know Before You Start a Weight-Loss Plan”
- Marshfield Clinic: “Use Two-a-Day Workouts Sparingly”
- American Council on Exercise: “Are Two-a-Day Workouts Right for You?”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “How Much Exercise Is Optimal for Heart Health?”
- National Cancer Institute: “How 10 Minutes Can Be a Workout”
- Cleveland Clinic: “7 Signs That Exercise Is Actually Hurting Your Health”
- Sports Health: "Overtraining Syndrome"
- British Journal of General Practice: "Exercise-Induced Anaemia"