Every year as the first few signs of spring peak their heads out from underneath the blanket of winter, (only to hide again, re-emerge, and drive you crazy until it finally makes up it's mind), you'll see a different energy, or fervor, in your gym/health club of choice.
It's "cutting" season. It's time to shred the fat from the winter holidays, claim your treadmill, and start concoting seemingly endless circuits that use every possible piece of equipment within your reach. A season of heavy lifting and calories in surely must mean that all we do is calories out.
No shame in your game you start busting out burpees in the squat rack, only to get up and do some curls, shoulder press some dumbbells, and finish with some highly misinterpreted version of a stability exercise that you saw some trainer do that one time.
Surely, you are about to get all types of shredded. We'll all marvel at the lake-of-sweat forming at your feet! You'll brag to us about how you cut out carbs, went paleo, and only consume organic elephant protein (not a thing) because it doesn't bloat you.
Even worse, you may even start wiping the sweat off your forehead with the bottom of your shirt, instead of the top, or ya know.... a towel. Yeah yeah, we see your sorta there abs. Now put your shirt down before you poop yourself from squeezing so hard.
Ok Seriously, Here is the Message.
I'm honestly not making fun of people who are trying to cut down and kick off some body fat that they may accumulated (intentionally, or unintentionally). In fact, it is always a great pursuit that can typically motivate people to not just show up at the gym and do some curls and snapchats, but rather, do some hard work.
I am, however, drawing attention to this rapid about-face that most people do in the gym when it comes time to lose a few pounds. Every cardio machine has a body on it, metabolic-conditioning classes are packed wall-to-wall (I know, I teach one), and people start cutting calories from their diet without thought of the reprecussions that may, and likely will, follow.
Sadly, this method often leaves people frustrated, confused, and down right disenchanted with the whole gym culture. Phrases like "she has better genetics", or "he is probably taking drugs" start getting thrown out in lieu of a successful cut down.
The age-old solution of more exercise and less calories has proven to be far less effective than you would think. In fact, current research and publications from individals such as Layne Norton, and Alan Aragon, point to the notion that depending on exercise level one may actually need to INCREASE their calories in order to effectively lose body fat.
Furthermore, regardless of what some "If-it-fits-your-macros" guru might suggest...no, 500 calories of Oreos IS NOT the same as 500 calories of baked chicken breast and vegetables.
I remember being in school at the University of Maryland and hearing one of my professors lecture us on the topic of bioenergetics, AKA, the metabolism/interplay of food and energy. It was described as a bank account in which energy is stored, or saved, for later use, or spending.
This is NOT untrue, but rather an overly simplified look into an overwhelmingly complex science of how a biological entity breaks down and utilizes food, liquid, and air, and even it's own byproducts to produce and use energy.
To defend the professor, the class was a 200 level course, and an introduction to kinesiology. At that point I was proud enough to be able to put on my pants, cook Hamburger Helper, and not burn down the house without my parents...let alone understand the complexity of the human metabolism.
The New Facts
All is not lost if you have already begun your dramatic cut of calories, and abandoned your previous workout routine in favor of a sweat-drenching metabolic conditioning class, or circuit.
I have a few tips, promoted by science, that will help you cut down that body fat, keep your muscle, and make you not want to punch someone in the throat because your so hangry.
Keep Lifting Heavy
I think this one bothers me the most of all of the "fouls". I feel as though there is a certain level of common sense that goes into this equation.
What do you think burns more calories?
5 Repetitions of a Deadlift at about 85-90% of your maximum EFFORT
30 repetitions of a single leg balance lateral dumbbell raise done at a hummingbird's pace?
Now, I clearly pre-loaded the question, but the answer is the deadlift. Here is why:
While, the lateral raises are going to burn like battery acid in your shoulders you aren't neccessarily expending a ton of energy. Rather, you are rapidly increasing, and "trapping" lactic acid in a muscle until the completion of the set. You are creating localized muscle fatigue by decreasing the pH of the blood trapped in the tissue (making it chemically fatigue).
The heavier breathing is a result of your body increasing respiration rate to help you get rid of all the carbon dioxide that is built up in your body, because...it doesn't like having too much of it.
Yet, about ten to twenty seconds after it's over...well...it's over. Depending on your conditioning level you may be a little sore from it if you do a few rounds, but it isn't going to make body fat fall off your bones.
The Deadlift on the other hand is a full body exercise that requires a near maximal level of exertion. You are lifting a significantly heavier resistance which requires significantly more ATP, (your body's energy currency), and engaging larger muscles that consume more carbohydrates and fats to operate correctly.
If you do a few sets of deadlifts at the above intensity you'll definitely feel it after the set, and in the days that follow.
Looking for a boost in heart rate and sweat? Just limit your rest periods to thirty seconds to a minute. Oh...boy....
Not to mention the EPOC you'll generate. EPOC is excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. In layman's terms, it stands for HOW MUCH oxygen your body NEEDS to return it's baseline. The increased respiration leads to a greater oxidation (burning) of fats, and mobilization of glucose into muscles and the liver (as opposed to storing as fat). The more intense the output typically translates to a great demand.
Don't do Cardio. Condition.
This isn't my idea. In fact, I saw an article on T-Nation a few years back about the difference between the two modes of exercise.
Cardio, like distance running, makes you really good at running really far at a slow pace.
Conditioning on the other hand, has a built in level of variability, and taps into fight or flight system by pushing yourself to fatigue.
Cardio makes you really good at burning calories indiscriminantly so that you can continue plodding in the direction you are going until you decide you are finally done.
Conditioning on the other hand burns through immediate energy stores, stored glycogen (body sugar), and lends itself to one hell of an EPOC (see above).
Cardio IS THE workout, or is the reason you spend two hours at the gym instead of time with friends, family, sleeping, or refueling your body.
Conditioning, however, can be added to the end of another workout, last no more than fifteen minutes, and leave you feeling like you could beat Chuck Norris in a fight!
I don't know about you, but I know where my vote goes.
Quality is Just as Important as Quantity
It is most typical that people start cutting meals out of their diet in an effort to lose weight. Out goes breakfast, dinner gets smaller, and my GOD, don't you dare consume a calorie after 6:52pm. Yet, lunch had a small bag of chips, a diet coke, and a lunchmeat and cheese sandwich.
Well this is just WRONG
Eat Breakfast, eat lunch and dinner, and even afterwards. Just cut out the stupid soda and chips. Focus on eating quality foods that are full of nutrients instead of just looking at the calorie content.
When people cut breakfast out, they often are cutting out cereal, bagels, egg-mcmuffins, etc.
Why not, instead of cutting it out, you replace it with two eggs and some oatmeal?
Instead of starving yourself after dinner or binging on Oreos while you watch the Walking Dead...
Why don't you just have a small slice of salmon, another egg, or if you are craving some carbs, an apple?
NOW, I'm not saying that you don't have to cut back on calories if you want to lose body fat. If you are eating 3,000 calories, but burning 2,200...you aren't going to be happy with your results.
I'm simply pointing out that it's often better to look at WHAT you eat as opposed to HOW MUCH.
Hopefully you found some information in this helpful. It is critical to understand that there isn't a magic pill, or secret workout out there that will suddenly have your abs popping through your shirt. The fat isn't going to melt from your arms because you spent 60 minutes on an elliptical.
Filter everything you read or hear through a filter. Research it. Your body is your masterpiece. Don't be lazy in your preparation and valient in your efforts!
Be the best You!