Right off the bat I would like to declare that I am a fan of Zumba. In fact, I’ve recently begun taking a zumba class here in New York City two times a week after discovering the studio/class during New York Dance Week.
In case you’re not familiar with New York Dance week, it’s a little over a week, and hundreds of dance studios allow folks to check out their classes for free. I actually checked out two zumba classes held at different studios that week and decided on the one I’ve been attending for reasons I’ll cover in just a second.
I had done zumba before through the workout videos where the guy with the accent and the interpreter get on a very nightly colored stage and dance to different genres of music for approximately five minutes each. The videos were pretty cool but it wasn’t something I was crazy about, the way many Zumba devotees praise their method of training.
I just like to switch up my routine, and an hour of the zumba videos did leave me sweating – mission accomplished.
The zumba class that I attend now was completely packed my first day, and every day I’ve attended since then. I’ve also gotten a chance to chat with a few of the women and was surprised that many of them had been doing Zumba faithfully for months!
The problem is, they didn’t have much to show for their hard work. Before you take offense, I obviously understand that just because someone is not a size 2, doesn’t mean they haven’t made any progress. Who knows where they could have been coming from right?
No one understands this more than me. I am specifically talking about women who have been dancing Zumba multiple times a week over a long period of time who complain about not losing any weight – but coming back anyway because class is in their own words, addictive.
Perhaps you can relate?
Zumba is really fun and doing the live classes with a bunch of other folks really creates a sense of community, but what’s the point in paying for a workout program if you aren’t getting the results you want?
ZUMBA AND WEIGHT / FAT LOSS
If you put in a search on the internet for zumba and weight loss, you’ll find countless stories from women who have lost weight using Zumba as their only method of exercise. Clearly, it is possible to lose weight with this program. After all, it’s cardio – and cardio burns fat and will assist you in losing weight by allowing you to burn more calories than you ingest.
So the immediate answer to the question of whether you can lose weight with zumba is, yes!
However, that being said there are reasons why someone might find themselves plateauing or even gaining weight from just doing Zumba alone.
1. You’re not working hard enough
I see it all the time in the classes I’ve attended – people with low energy, doing modified steps, taking long bathroom or water breaks, etc. If you’re doing a half-assed job of working out, just know that you’re not burning nearly half as many calories that you think you are.
2. The Zumba Teacher Sucks / Lacks Energy
As I mentioned, I tried out two different studios offering zumba. The second class I tried was at the infamous Alvin Ailey dance studio. The class was huge compared to the studio I currently attend, but the instructor was not nearly as motivational or energetic as he could have been. Perhaps it was a long day or something, but the energy of the teacher as well as his/her choreography is going to make a world of difference in the results you can expect.
If the choreography is way too complicated, you’re going to be spending most of your time flubbing steps than actually burning calories. If your teacher is modifying the steps, it’s unlikely that you and your fellow dancers will choose to do the advanced version to push yourself. It all starts at the top!
3. The Group / Class Dynamic
Additionally, the overall energy of the class is important to your success. If your class is full of beginners or people who are not very fit, it’s likely your instructor will try and cater to the majority of the participants and do simpler moves. You’re better off finding a more advanced class with folks at a fitness level more in line with yours or higher that will challenge you.
4. Over-estimating the Calories Burned
The very first day of class my teacher proclaimed, are you ready to burn 800 calories? My face immediately distorted as I know the amount of effort it takes to burn 800 calories is quite significant. Sure, we burn a lot of calories dancing but not anywhere near 800 in my one hour class that includes a 5 minute warm up and 5 minute cool down.
If you are being told you are burning 800 calories and go home and eat as though you actually are, be prepared to not lose a single pound – and probably even gain a few. Remember, you need a calorie deficit and in order to figure that out you have to be accurate about not only the calories you are eating, but the energy you are burning.
5. Your Body Adjusts
Zumba is great and all, but the thing with any workout that we do all the time, your body adjusts. It gets more efficient at doing things you require it to do often (we’re awesome like that). If you are not incorporating other workouts and challenging your body in other ways, or your instructor is not modifying their routines often enough, rest assured that you burn fewer and fewer calories every time.
6. You Haven’t Addressed Your Diet
Remember, that diet is key to weight/fat loss (80%), while exercise is only approximately 20%. For some people, intense cardio makes them feel entitled to eat a feast because they’ve earned it. We’re not talking about feasting on protein and vegetables either. If you end each class with a celebratory cheesecake, don’t be shocked if the weight isn’t falling off you. One fast food meal (even from the kiddie menu) alone could wipe out your exercise efforts / calories burned.
You must, must, must address your diet to lose weight. There’s simply no way around it.
7. You Might Have Water Retention
You know I love the subject of water retention. In fact, my new book “How to Lose Water Weight – ” is almost complete and is slated to come out next month. I’m excited for you all to read it, but I digress.
In the book I talk about something called the whoosh affect, also known as dieter’s edema. This is when after a while of cutting calories and working out to create a deficit, the body retains a large amount of water that hides your fat loss. Then, seemingly overnight one day you wake up a few pounds lighter, where you remain until your next whoosh occurs.
The point is that you may actually have lost weight because you’ve been doing everything right, but that weight loss is not visible on the scales because of water retention. There are many ways to get rid of water retention (I give 1 day, one week and two week plans in the book for when you need to shed water weight fast for an upcoming event), but if you’re not in a rush lowering sodium, drinking more water, cutting carbs and eating foods that act as natural diuretics is a good place to start.