Tag Archives: high intensity interval training

Sifting Through the Fitness Bull#@*%

I’ve been a fitness professional for over 25 years. During that time, I think I’ve seen and heard it all before. But then, something else will come down the line leaving me scratching my head. What I’m talking about is all the lies and deceit that fitness marketing pushes on you, the consumer. Allow me to explain.

The Great Ab Deceit

Abs, short for abdominals, continue to be one of the top reasons someone will start to workout or continue to workout. It’s assumed that if one trains their abdominals hard  and excessively, they will attain the coveted 6 pack. That will never happen. All of the ab programs, DVDs, classes, etc. are nothing more than a pipe dream that will never see the light of day. But they’re sold and presented in such a way that the buyer thinks that this time will be different. This time it will work. Again, that’s a big no. First of all, being able to see the abdominals divided into 6 separate parts has so much more to do with diet than any exercise. Period. Second, it’s a conscientious, consistent, and difficult dietary journey that many people don’t even possess the genetics to make happen. It should never be one’s ultimate goal, just something that potentially, and I mean potentially can occur. And the marketers will continue to lead you otherwise.

The Great Cardio Myth

Cardio, short for cardiovascular, is great exercise. Don’t get me wrong. Cardiovascular exercise works the cardiovascular system, plain and simple. But where that ends is when people are led to believe that it’s the only way to lose unwanted pounds. You see it in the gyms and health clubs where 2/3 of the equipment in there is cardiovascular exercise equipment. In January, they are occupied to the fullest, complete with sign up lists in some places. Again, cardio is good and yes it does burn calories, but no where near the amount that most of those machines are programmed to report. Why do they do that? To keep you engaged and working towards a misguided number. It’s easy to use numbers as a guide, but in the end they rarely correlate with effort..

The High Intensity Faux Pas

If cardio is not effective enough, then higher intensity, HITT for short, must be the way. Not necessarily. HITT is a great side car to an already strong exercise base. Meaning it’s not a great place for a beginner to start. Exercise is a stress and if you are not adapted to the stress of exercise to begin with, HITT can severely hurt you. These HITT programs are sold and marketed as the next best thing and what you’ve been missing. They are good when applied appropriately, not thrown at you as the best way to exercise.

The Spot “Toning”, Spot “Reduction” Fallacy

Toys and gadgets are sold on the promise of delivering quick results to a certain location on the body. Good news: you can spot “target “ a specific muscle or body part. However, that doesn’t mean miraculously the fat layer on top of said muscle disappears. That’s the result of a systemic loss in body fat. When someone says they want to tone, what they’re really saying is that they want the muscle to show and that won’t happen without fat loss occurring systemically. Consequently, you can not work a specific area exclusively and hope to decrease the body fat that is present. It all takes place as an overall effect, not a specific one.

The Nutritional Fiction

I am a fitness professional, not a dietitian, but I would be remiss to not discuss nutrition. The topic of nutrition is probably the biggest source of deceit when it come to exercise success because they are closely associated. Without getting into the semantics of carbs and protein and fats (the macronutrients), I can 100% assure that there are no cleanses, magical foods, detoxes, or super supplements that will answer or correct a poor or even so-so eating pattern. You will continue to be duped and reeled in because that is how the machine works. Sell, sell, sell, and sell more.

The True State of Fitness

It’s all of the outside distractions that take away from something that’s inherently very basic. It’s an annual battle that continues and unfortunately will continue leading more and more into a state of confusion and craving the next best thing. The message has never changed – you need to exercise in whatever form you enjoy. You just need to do it. You need to be mindful of not only what you eat but how much you eat. If it’s off, it’s easy to blame it on something out of your control. The thing is, you always have control. You just need to find what works best for you, not others. Nothing, and I mean nothing will ever replace hard work done honestly and consistently. If you’re capable of those two things, you can never be disappointed.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Is Cardio Necessary to Lose Weight? 2013 – 12 Days of Fitness: Day 7

(This is Part 7 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Pre-Workout-MistakesIt stands without question that the most popular piece of equipment at the gym (or in home gym purchase) is the treadmill. Is it because everyone enjoys walking or running so much that on a beautiful day they’d still prefer to walk the human hamster wheel inside? Or is it that it just doesn’t get more convenient than pushing a button and starting the workout without any knowledge of proper exercise technique? Could be any one of those things and not to pick on just the treadmill but cardiovascular (cardio for short) exercise seems to take precedence when someone heads to the gym to workout. Why? Because of the belief that cardio is the best way to lose weight. But is that necessarily true?

The Requirement for Weight Loss

In order to lose weight, it comes down to one simple equation – you need to eat fewer calories than you burn – plain and simple. All the minutia doesn‘t matter if you aren’t creating a calorie deficit. You could be lifting weights 5 times a week, doing HIIT (high intensity interval training) cardio on your non-weight training days, eating whole, clean foods, and managing your stress levels, but none of that matters if you aren’t creating a calorie deficit. You can still lose fat while maintaining your weight or even increasing it. Weight and fat are not always one in the same. However, if you want to get lighter, the calories (energy) that you are storing on your body need to be burned off.

Creating a Calorie Deficit

There are a few different ways for you to create a calorie deficit. They will all give you very different results in body composition. For example, you could create it through:

a)    Through Diet Alone – You will also lose quite a bit of muscle in the process. However, by simply eating fewer calories than you burn, you can lose weight.

b)    Through Exercise Alone – Let’s say that without any exercise, you can eat 2,000 calories a day and maintain your weight. To lose weight, you could keep your calories at 2,000/day and create a calorie deficit through exercise.

c)    Through Diet and Exercise – You can also create a calorie deficit through a combination of diet and exercise. For example, you could reduce your 2,000 calorie diet by 500 calories through diet, and then another 500 calories through exercise.

While these 3 methods for creating a calorie deficit will all help you lose weight, only the ones that include exercise will provide a stimulus to your muscles to keep them from wasting away while dieting. Your ratio of fat loss to muscle loss will be much greater if you include exercise. Muscle boosts your metabolism and helps keep fat loss humming right along.

Does Cardio By Itself Do The Trick?

Plain and simple, resistance exercise is going to give you the biggest return on your investment. Cardio is nice, but if you are strength training a few times a week at a high intensity, then dedicated cardio sessions aren’t even necessary to lose weight. Cardiovascular training is great, and you should do it for other reasons, but separating cardio and strength training, or even prioritizing cardio sessions as your primary means to weight loss can be a waste of time. Is cardio necessary to lose weight? Based on the above facts – no, it is not necessary to lose weight. Will it help you lose weight? Yes it can if you’re using it to create a calorie deficit. However, if you’re doing cardio without a calorie deficit, you can obviously forget about any kind of weight loss. Of all the methods for creating a calorie deficit, it’s through a combination of diet and exercise that will yield the greatest result. These methods will allow you to eat the most food, get in the most nutrients, while at the same time building and maintaining the most muscle – all while dropping a high percentage of body fat.

Keep your diet spot on 90% of the time, create a calorie deficit through high-intensity strength training, and you will begin to notice that you don’t have to labor day in and day out on the treadmill to get results. Be smart about your food choices and how much you eat, and push yourself in the gym when you do go, be active, and you will begin to see great improvements in your body composition.

See you tomorrow for Day 8 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.


Can I Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle? 2013 – 12 Days of Fitness: Day 3

(This is Part 3 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

fatlargeThe #1 reason most people start an exercise program is to lose weight which unfortunately most times overlooks the other benefits of exercising. When someone says they want to lose weight they’re generally referring to losing the fat.  It’s an important distinction because losing weight and losing fat are two separate things. The goal with any type of such program should be to lose fat while maintaining and/or increasing lean (muscle) tissue mass. Inevitably due to improper training or adherence to dietary recommendations, lean tissue mass also decreases. Furthermore, fad or scheme dieting plans characteristically decrease body weight by decreasing muscle mass which is not good for long term successful fat loss. So is it possible to lose fat without losing muscle? Absolutely! It will take a little more effort than simply eating less and moving more, but the long term effect is sure winner. Here’s how.

Keep Your Calories Up

If you’ve ever began an exercise program to lose weight and after the initial couple of weeks progress stalled it’s because you’re not eating enough calories to lose weight. Contrary to what most believe, but when you go too low on calories, negative feedback survival mechanisms kick in such as a decreased metabolic rate, reduced thyroid output and lean tissue loss. Muscle becomes expendable because it burns too many valuable calories that are needed to maintain key body functions. Always better to err on the side of starting higher with your calories and then come down as needed – not vice versa.

Stimulate The Muscles

If you don’t give your body a reason to hold on to your muscle, it’s going to break it down and use it for energy. Some form of resistance training is mandatory if you want to lose fat without losing muscle. If you try dieting without any concern for muscle, you will still lose fat, but the ratio of weight loss will start shifting more towards muscle loss. As stated previously, weight loss and fat loss are not the same thing. If you want the majority of your weight loss to come from fat stores, give your body a good reason for why it should hang on to your muscle.

Keep Your Protein Intake High

Muscle is mostly made up of protein. Protein not only makes up your muscle tissue, it’s also a key component in every cell of your body. Protein is one of two essential macronutrients that you don’t want to under-consume. The amount of protein you need will vary based on many factors like your activity level and gender, but generally speaking, an intake of .8-1 gram/lb of lean body mass will be sufficient to maintain a positive nitrogen balance and prevent muscle wasting when under calorie restriction.

Don’t Run Out of Gas

Carbohydrates are stored in the muscle as glycogen where it can readily be broken down at the muscle for energy through two different pathways: aerobically and anaerobically. For short intensity activities such as lifting weights or H.I.I.T (high intensity interval training – proven to be most effective for fat loss) muscle glycogen is the primary source of energy for prolonged anaerobic activity. Without it or limited amounts, your workouts despite your best efforts will suffer. The easiest solution is to eat complex carbohydrates periodically throughout the day to build those stores.

Cut Back on the Cardio

For many people, cardio and weight loss go hand and hand. But here’s the truth – cardio exercise as you know it is not necessary to lose weight. Can you lose weight doing cardio? Of course you can. Is it necessary? No. The only thing that is necessary for weight loss is a calorie deficit. Better yet, find ways to make your strength training more intense so that you can incorporate cardiovascular training at the same time.

You don’t need to kill yourself with exercise every day of the week to get results. While you might burn a few hundred calories during your workout, you burn thousands the rest of the day just by being alive. Focus on using exercise to create a favorable metabolic environment and creating a sustainable calorie deficit through your diet to lose unwanted fat, not just weight.

See you tomorrow for Day 4 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.