Another sample from the book. This time, the first pages from Chapter II…
The dreaded exercise
“Start wide, expand further, and never look back.”
– Arnold Schwarzenegger
Exercising your options...
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend 2 to 3 hours at the gym. Nor do you need to do aerobic exercise for an hour or more. You can if you want, and done properly it can be very healthy.The ideal weight training session should be shorter than 30 to 45 minutes. Any higher than that and your cortisol levels rise too much and your body will start eating your muscles for energy.
The way to lose weight is to increase your metabolic rate and change your body composition, remember? We do that by increasing the amount of muscle on us, which is achieved by lifting weights or doing resistance training.
The ideal aerobic exercise will be something that is low impact like riding a bicycle or swimming. Running can be too demanding if you’re heavy. Start slow to warm-up, increase the intensity, and aim to finish hard. Your intensity for the last 5 minutes should be as hard as you can go.
Aerobic exercise is important, but you don’t want to do more than 15 minutes. Nobody loses weight on aerobic exercise.
Yeah? You just lied!
Well, you can lose weight on aerobic exercise and you can stay trim and lean. But do you really have so much spare time that you are willing to go on the bicycle, stair master, or treadmill for 3 to 5 hours everyday?
I won’t stop you if that is what you want, it will be good for you. The brain enjoys longer periods of aerobic work and there are many health benefits, one of them being a mood boost effect. If you’re starting from nothing, you can take it slow and progressively increase your running distance.
The ‘Couch to 5k‘ project is a great resource and many people have great success and enjoyment from it. The necessary Couch to 5k link…
Take it easy if you’re taking this approach to weight control. You’re trying to get in shape and not get dead. You will lose weight once you’re dead, but somehow that’s not quite what we’re after.
Remember, aerobic exercise is great for weight control, but it requires a lot of time investment and sheer will-power. Unless you find an aerobic activity you find enjoyable and challenging, it simply isn’t the best option for weight control. Running with groups of people seems to be more enjoyable than running alone which is why many people fail.
Sure you will be fit, but the time investment becomes ridiculous and running is the weight loss regime with the highest amount of people that quit and gain their weight back.
Plus, Humans have evolved to be really efficient at running long distances. Humans are ‘persistence hunters’ meaning we can chase our prey until it is exhausted. We evolved springy tendons that minimize the energy required to run and apparently we can even outrun horses.
Climbing the ladder…
The main reason why exercise makes such an impact in our lives is the cumulative effect of the metabolic adaptations that come with it.
To understand why we’re doing things in a certain way, we need to thank Russian scientist Nikolai N. Yakovlev, who elaborated the basic principles of training from 1949 to 1959. These consist of a period of initial fitness, training, recovery, and supercompensation.
When we train, we cause damage to our muscles. To protect us, many regenerating mechanisms come into play and we start recovering. These mechanisms will act as if they expect another ‘attack’, so they over-compensate by making us stronger than before so we can tolerate the ‘damage’ better.
We can progress and build on our physical condition by allowing the body to recover, and only train again once in the supercompensation period. We build our ladder to peak physical condition by relying on the effort of our past self.
Needless to say, we can only recover at a certain speed, and that is dictated by our genetic capacity, the amount and quality of food we consume, the quality of rest, and the quantity of stress in our life.
A negligible amount of stimulus won’t generate much supercompensation. Too much stimulus will compromise the recovery time. This is something we learn to balance as we progress.
If you paid attention, after the supercompensation period there’s a decline. This is why inactivity is so bad for us. Our metabolism requires movement, and without it, we simply wither away.
Key points on resistance exercise…
Performing weight or resistance training gets you great results with as little as thirty minutes three times a week.
Your workout should not take more than 30 to 45 minutes.
Aerobic exercise should be avoided when you are trying to promote muscle growth. If you do aerobic exercise, stay below 15 minutes and finish with intensity in the last 5.
If you want to speed up your weight loss you can do 30 minutes on a bicycle or low impact machine. Ideally never on the same session where you’ve just trained with weights, but on a split day only.
What is a split day?
This is when you go the the gym and do your aerobic only in the morning, and after 8 to 10 hours away from the gym, you return to do a weight workout. This is quite effective in helping you loose weight. But once again it has to be said, aerobic exercise will blunt muscle growth.
Advanced drug fuelled bodybuilders tend to use split days and will lift weights twice in the same day. (i.e. Go in the morning to train shoulders, go back at night to train biceps. Each session will last 1 to 2 hours.)
So why can’t I leave the weights alone and just do aerobic?
Oh, I’ll tell you what happens in most gyms… People are impatient, and want results now. So they are put on a treadmill or other aerobic machine of torture, and in two weeks they loose a lot of weight or at least something they can measure. But then the progress goes away and their weight stays the same. What happened?
I’ve been killing myself in the gym
yet my weight stays the same?
You lost muscle mass! After an hour sweating on the treadmill you lost body fluids, and your body ate the nutrients in your muscles. Yet, after a week you felt hungrier and ate more negating any weight loss. You wasted your time.
See if this helps you understand the problem…
If I offer you a cold tub of lard and a bowl of barbecued chicken, which one do you fancy???
The yummy chicken? Well, your body has the same exact idea. Once your blood sugar is exhausted it empties the reserves in the liver and your cortisol goes up. It now seeks the energy and resources that exist in your muscle cells (the greasy chicken in this case).
So, to prevent muscle loss, you must workout with the aim of growing muscle. The real goal is body recomposition to elevate your Basal Metabolic Rate. For this, you must challenge yourself and safely push your limits in a short session.
Aerobic exercise to shed vast amounts of excessive fat is a bad idea because your body will be eating your muscles too.
Long aerobic sessions will deplete you. Marathon runners aim to increase their long distance performance and will eat prior, during, and after exercise. It’s called Carb loading. Make no mistake, this is how you run or cycle long distances.
Isn’t that how most people regularly eat?
Exactly! Most people are consuming the same exact thing professional athletes do to power a demanding and long endurance test of their abilities. No wonder we have metabolic syndrome going rampant. Carb loading without using the loaded carbs.
Our goal is weight loss and body recomposition. Once your body is depleted, cortisol levels go up and this promotes the search of resources from muscle cells. Since muscle mass strongly affects your metabolic expense, by doing long periods of aerobic exercise you’ve compromised your healthy weight loss goals.
Why the need to change body composition?
If you cut 10 grams of fat and drop that sample into a bowl of water, fat will stay floating on top. If you cut 10 grams of muscle fibre and put that in water, it will go to the bottom of the bowl.
Muscle is denser, it is more useful and it costs our body energy and resources to maintain.
Fat does not cause a significant metabolic expense. It seems to only use 2 calories per pound of weight. Fat has pretty much no blood vessels going into it and is stored mostly under the skin. It’s a great thermal insulator and our bodies know that. In comparison, muscle costs 6 calories per pound everyday.
Unlike fat cells, when we move muscle cells also need to consume more calories and that results in more energy consumption.
Sadly, by having more fat under the skin, our body will consume less energy in keeping us warm which in turn will only help us get fatter. A vicious circle, right?
One way aerobic exercise helps is if you keep it short and intense. It’s been found that short but intense aerobic exercise will keep you burning fat even while you’re sitting behind a desk. But only an intense aerobic effort will cause this after-burn of calories.
Once you have established some basic level of fitness, you should try using a technique called Interval training. This creates a high metabolic response and will seriously improve your fitness.
Defined as High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT, it consists of periods of hight intensity along with periods of low intensity for recovery.
A typical 15 minute Interval training routine could be, you run or ride your bicycle for 5 minutes at an intensity you feel comfortable with, and then you go really hard in intensity for a full minute and then reduce back down so you can recover your breath for the next 3 minutes before you repeat the 1 minute at full blast.
For example, you can jog or cycle:
a) Warm-up and find your balanced intensity spot for the first 5 minutes
b) Go full-force and give all you have for 30 seconds to one minute
c) Slow down to a speed you can recover without stopping
d) Go back to b) until your 15 minutes are done
You could run fast for 30 seconds and then walk for 10 seconds or until you have your breath back, then go for another burst and repeat.
Remember, these are guidelines. You could simply go on high intensity for 30 seconds, then slow down until you catch your breath before you repeat. A routine like this could be as short as 10 minutes, and still benefit you with great results in less time. This is more fun to do than longer periods of boring aerobic exercise.
Doing aerobic exercise for longer periods means cortisol will get involved, and unless we put more food into our bodies, we will start eating ourselves up. Don’t get me wrong, cardio is great and our heart, brain, and lungs need it. It is important to be cardio fit, but for weight loss it can be ineffective and dangerous.
Final word on Aerobic Exercise!
I must reinforce a few concepts and seal aerobic exercise in its coffin. Sure, it’s fun to perform aerobic activities and there’s such a thing as a runner’s high. For weight loss it simply doesn’t work by itself. With this said, keep in mind short bouts with Interval Training work great.
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