Thursday, 2 May 2013

Is your training confused? Fat Loss or just Fitness?

One of the most common things I see in the gym (or outside) is people confusing their training strategies with their training goals.

Does your training match your goals?

The two most common mismatches I see are people trying to lose fat spending hours on the cardio equipment or running; and people trying to “bulk up” and gain a “cover model” physique trying to lift the heaviest weights possible.

For this post I’ll briefly cover the first group – the Fat Loss group.

Although cardio was long thought of as the best way to burn fat, with a so called “fat burning zone” and the “just move more” attitude, it’s [not so] recently been proven in study after study that there are far more efficient ways to burn fat. I’m not saying that traditional cardio training isn’t beneficial, but that it’s the long road to take if fat loss is your goal and may never get you looking the way you want to look.

Your body will adapt to whatever you put it through - which is why when you start you might only be able to run 100 metres, but within a couple of weeks you can run miles. This is a warning signal! You're body becomes more efficient at running, meaning it uses less energy (calories) to do so. So although you may lose weight running initially, you'll soon hit a plateau. Most people think the answer is to run more, and although that may help, it's not a good way to go (especially given the amount of injuries runners suffer - with about 80% of runners suffering from injuries every year!)

Interval training (short bursts of extremely high intensity work followed by periods of slow recovery work repeated a number of times) has been proven to provoke a much greater fat burning effect. It releases the hormones needed to build or maintain muscle as well as burn fat for energy, and also, unlike traditional cardio where any calorie burning stops when you stop, intervals create an excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which basically means you’ll be burning extra calories for periods up to 48 hours (or even more) after your training session has ended!

The stress on your body and muscles whilst sprinting is what brings about these hormonal responses, and without it, you’ll struggle to burn off as much fat as you’d like and likely just be burning through valuable muscle tissue instead.

So if you hate the gym and love running, then at least change your training to include intervals - you still get to run, but you get all the benefits of high intensity exercise too.

On top of that, the more time you spend running/cycling/X-training etc. means less time lifting weights; and without working your muscles with resistance, you’ll also struggle to switch on your fat burning hormones.

In short, for fat loss, you need to ditch the long, steady pace cardio sessions and replace them with short (10-30 minute) interval sessions and weight training.

If you can train with weights 3 times per week, and use interval training twice a week, and use the other two days as rest days (maybe try some yoga or stretching), then the training side of your fat loss plan will be well under way. Then you just need to work on the nutrition side of things – because you can’t out-train a bad diet.

As a start, (after a good warm-up) try to sprint as far as you can, as fast as you can for 20 seconds (this will feel much longer!), then walk for 90 seconds to recover. Start with 4 or even just 3 rounds and build up to 8. Make sure you’re putting in 100% effort for the full 20 seconds though, no matter how tough it is – this isn’t “jog –walk” it’s “SPRINT-walk”.

As for the weights, avoid the machines and sit-ups, and head for the freeweights. Squats, Lunges, Deadlifts and Presses are the order of the day here.

If you want help with either training or diet you can contact me through my website

Next post I’ll talk through the second group – those who want to be bigger – and why “how much you bench” doesn’t even come into it!

Mark :)