Colin continues his series for Lifting My Spirits with this Part 4 – Training. This is an excellent resource for those of you who were asking me whether you should lose weight first and then lift, or start lifting right away. I’m posting this one with my before/after picture because I didn’t start to see the results I wanted until I started weight training in 2010.
In my first blog for Tammy I discussed why the majority of people who lose weight struggle to keep it off long-term and gave some tips on how to keep the weight coming off by avoiding plateaus. In the second blog we talked about flexible dieting and the importance of avoiding super restrictive diets. Last time we talked about how to calculate your macros and I gave you a couple of options for tracking them. So now that I’ve covered much of the nutrition side of things for weight loss, I’d like to move onto training. Don’t you worry though – there is still plenty to talk about with regards to nutrition in the future.
Just like there are many misconceptions with regards to dieting, the same goes for the best way to burn fat from training. It seems most people think the only way to drop the weight is to spend hours running on a treadmill. But these people tend to run and run but get nowhere, literally.
While steady state cardio does tend to burn more calories while actually working out, it can’t hold a candle to the powers of strength training in the long run. See with steady state cardio (IE. Jogging) once you’re done with the exercise and your heartrate returns back to normal you’re done burning calories for the most part. But with strength training and other forms of interval training you get what’s called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.) With EPOC your body continues to burn calories while at a resting state as it tries to recover and repair itself from what you just put it through. This effect can happen for a few hours up to even close to two days depending on many factors. (1)
The other benefit to strength training is adding lean body mass to your frame. This not only helps with body composition (“toning” is the combination of muscle mass plus lower body fat) but increases in muscle mass helps your body burn calories even in a rested state. While some have severely overblown the affect additional muscle mass has on your daily expenditure, each additional pound of muscle could help burn roughly an additional 6-10 calories per day. (2) While it’s not a lot, every little bit helps right?
Now before you start worrying about getting “too big or bulky” I’d like to squash that right away. Trust me, people spend years TRYING to get “too big” and can’t. I don’t think anyone in the history of time has ever “accidentally” built too much muscle. Plus less be honest, if that scenario ever really did happen, could you just train less then? Anyway especially for women, who have about one tenth the testosterone of men, they’ll have a much harder time adding that extra muscle. Honestly for most people to get the results they want, I encourage them to do everything they can to TRY and build too much muscle.
Okay you get it, muscle = good. Strength training is better than cardio for fat loss. But should you be doing cardio at all? Well I’ll say this: Some cardio for general cardiovascular health is never a BAD idea, as long as it’s not extreme. However, honestly at least in the beginning the less cardio you can do the better. Remember how I previously talked about eating as many calories as possible while still losing weight so you have room to make adjustments when things stall? Cardio works similarly. You want to do as little as possible while still losing weight for the same reason. This way when things stall you have more options to get it going again. You can take away calories, you can add in cardio to supplement your weight training. You have options. But if you go low cal and do a bunch of cardio right off the bat, what are you going to do when you hit a plateau? You can only take away so many calories and do so much cardio.
The other thing to think about with regards to cardio is what kind to do. Once again I’m going to pick on poor steady state cardio. Sorry, it’s just not a very efficient use of your time! Perhaps you’ve heard of something called HIIT? It stands for high intensity interval training. This has been shown to be more effective than it’s steady state counterpart while allowing you to burn more calories in less time. (3, 4) It does, however, require some intense work and can be tough for some individuals to perform.
Basically you perform extremely intense exercise for short intervals mixed with a period of rest. This could be done by sprinting, biking, car pushes, sled drags, prowler pushes, etc. The point is you put forth maximum effort for a short period, maybe 20-30 seconds and then do a little active rest like walking until you feel recovered and do it again. Typically 3-5 minute rest periods are good for most people. I see a lot of people make the mistake of doing things like 30 seconds on and off, but chances are they aren’t putting in the maximum effort required to get the most of this training or they wouldn’t be able to go again in 30 seconds. If you can carry a conversation at all after your interval, chances are it wasn’t intense enough.
You can also combine the best of both worlds so to speak. High intensity interval resistance training has been shown to be very effective for additional calorie burn from EPOC as well as fat oxidation. (5) While I would approach this similarly as to save this type of work for further down the road, it can be a good option for anyone who has time restraints in the gym. If you need to get in and get out, working on strength training with very short rest periods can be an effective training method.
With all of this said there is one caveat to it all (there always is, isn’t there?) I’m basically telling you what I see as the most optimal way to go about burning fat. But what’s optimal isn’t always what’s best for each individual. If you absolutely hate one form of exercise and love another one, you’re going to have a lot better success doing the thing you love. Regardless of how “optimal” something is (this goes for both training and nutrition) the #1 factor in seeing results is adherence to the plan, being consistent. If you aren’t going to stick to something, it’ll never work. There is nothing wrong with steady state cardio so to speak, it’s just less efficient for both fat loss and body composition. But if that’s what you love and what you’ll continue to do, by all means do what you love.
So that’s all I have for this article. Not even sure what I’ll talk about next month, but don’t you worry, I’ll be back!
Also if you are looking for more information from me you can follow me on Facebook and you can also download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on my email newsletter where you will get daily emails for a little motivation, guidance, and possibly a small kick in the rear from time to time… Warning – I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. So if you are sensitive you may want to pass. But if you’re serious about changing your life and taking ACTION, you should love it.
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