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Most people including people in the fitness industry place an emphasis on “getting fit” rather than focusing on what will actually assist the body to lose weight. When a focus is placed on getting fit, the emphasis is always on being able to do more exercise or exercise for longer. Example being able to run 2km, then 5km then 10km.
Too much of the wrong type
For years the focus has been on doing more and more cardio exercise in order to burn fat. Regular gym goers consistently dedicate themselves to completing the same gym classes or using the same cardio machines over and over again. Their routines whether it be classes or usage of machines follow the same format for the same length of time with the same routine with no real objective.
We might end up getting fitter i.e. being able to do more work in less time but it doesn’t always result in looking better.
We sometimes invest hours a day exercising with little or no result. There are plenty of people who are overweight but are able to run, ride or swim long distances. Their bodies have simply become efficient at moving long distances. The workouts they are completing don’t have the correct hormonal after effects that will result in effective weight loss
Focus on burning calories
We’ve also been conditioned into thinking we can use exercise as a trade off for bad habits or if we burn a certain amount of calories per day we will then go into calorie deficit and then lose weight.
Equipment used to measure energy burnt either from exercise machines or heart rate monitors can
be notoriously inaccurate
This then comes back to the idea that we can force our bodies into losing weight. However this notion is completely flawed.
There are 7,700 calories of energy per 1kg of body fat. That is an enormous amount of energy, especially if your body is conditioned to storing fat and your nutrition intake is inadequate. If you are looking to lose 1kg of fat per week that equates to an energy deficit of 1,100 calories per day.
Running at a moderate pace for one hour will probably burn around 400 calories. Less than half the required amount meaning you’d need to create the remaining 700 calorie deficit from food intake reduction. Trying to maintain this daily is not sustainable and will not work. Your body will also become efficient at completing the same routine meaning less energy output for the same result.
When you take into consideration how much energy our body uses in order to stay alive and get us from A to B, exercise is a fairly inefficient way to burn energy. Your body also doesn’t just utilise fat for energy.
Inadequate nutrition to cope with work load
If we don’t give our bodies that right fuel and nutrients cope with the added stress of exercise, fat loss will not occur. Remember if our body is already stressed from inadequate nutrition intake or other kinds of stress, adding the stress of exercise will only lead to further weight gain. This can then lead to overtraining in an attempt to force weight loss.
Overtraining can lead to whole body inflammation, constant muscle soreness, muscle wastage, suppressed immune function, loss of motivation, mood swings, hormonal imbalances, fatigue and fat storage. You can end up adding more stress to an already stressed system. The flow on affect can then lead to cravings for the wrong types of foods and further weight gain. The stress placed on your body can result in increased cortisol levels. Remember cortisol also says to our body store fat, slow metabolism and use muscle for energy. Nutrition intake needs to be adequate to support exercise
The scattergun approach to exercise such as trying to do everything in the hope something will work, will not work. Exercise needs to be strategic, not random.
Exercise needs to focus on what will give us the right hormonal adaptations that will result in our bodies wanting to lose weight. We need to also allow adequate recovery time. The aim is to complete the least amount of exercise that will provide the greatest response. This will create a cascade effect that will increase your insulin sensitivity and metabolism. This will then lead to sustainable consistent weight loss.
It will take time before the effects of increased insulin sensitivity result in weight loss. Everyone’s metabolism responds differently.
Improving insulin sensitivity through exercise
Recent studies are now showing that shorter intense levels of exercise promote greater fat loss than longer moderate paced formats of exercise. As little as 3-5, 20-30 second intervals performed at maximum output have shown to be effective in increase insulin sensitivity. This equates to around 2.5 minutes of exercise per session. If performed three times per week, this will equate to 7.5 minutes of work per week.
How can this possibly work?
The maximum effort required break down stored muscle glycogen in muscle cells. The cells then need to obtain more glycogen in order to function. This then leads to lower blood sugar and better insulin sensitivity. When we have better insulin sensitivity, blood sugar is pushed into muscle cells and not stored as fat.
Olympic sprinter V’s marathon runner
Compare the body shape of a marathon runner and an Olympic sprinter. The marathon runner runs very long distances often at less than maximum output. The sprinter runs very short distance very few times but at maximum output. Both are lean, however given the amount of work the marathon runner does, the Olympic sprinter looks far better with far less output. This type of exercise can be completed without a gym or any equipment.
We don’t necessarily have to sprint; other forms of exercise can create this response such as body weight exercise (Push ups, Squats etc), push bike or stationary bike, Rowing machine, Free weights or Kettlebells.
What to keep in mind
Intensity – brief but maximum output. Exercises should work the whole body or large muscle groups. Don’t focus on calories burnt. It’s the hormonal adaptation that is important which is increasing insulin sensitivity.
There is a common misconception about weight training that you will end up with large bulky muscles. This is very common with females who have not undertaken any previous weight training before. To dispel this myth, gaining large amounts of lean muscle mass naturally, takes years and years of hard work, dedication, meticulous nutrition and supplementation and even then there is no guarantee you will get the desired outcome. Putting on large amounts of muscle for the purpose of weight loss isn’t required.
Regarding women and weight training, women don’t have anywhere near the testosterone levels of men which is required for gaining muscle. Women won’t bulk up.
Increasing lean muscle tissue will have a twofold effect: Firstly, resistance training will help improve insulin sensitivity, and secondly, the increase in muscle size will result in higher metabolic rate. The extra muscle tissue will utilise more energy.
What should we focus on?
Exercises that work multiple joints and use the largest muscle groups. The three main muscle groups should be targeted, chest, back and legs. Arms will also be worked when training the back and chest.
For example, a bicep curl (isolation exercise) works only one joint and one group of muscles, whereas a lat pull down works two joints and multiple muscles of the arms, shoulders and back (Compound Exercise).
The lat pull down is more efficient and effective as it utilises more muscles
When to start exercise?
Your nutritional intake needs to be adequate enough in order to support the added stress of training. If you are not consistently including the right nutrients with each meal every day, exercise will have limited impact. With inadequate nutrition intake, the extra stress on your body can cause constant fatigue, muscle soreness and suppressed immune system and you may even gain weight.
How much exercise?
3-4 times per week – max
For a full list of exercise routines refer to your exercise e-book
Ibañez, J…Gorostiaga, E. Twice-Weekly Progressive Resistance Training Decreases Abdominal Fat and Improves Insulin Sensitivity in Older Men With Type 2 Diabetes. American Diabetes Association.
Poliquin, C. Insulin Sensitivity, Body Composition and Weight Training.
Trapp, E, Chisholm, D, Freund, J and Boutcher S. The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women. International Journal of Obesity.