Don't shoot the messenger, but I'm here to let you in on a dirty little secret about your workout routine: Steady-state cardio or endurance training makes is a lousy choice if you want to become lean and strong.
Sure, spending an hour on the elliptical machine four times a week is a great way to read a magazine, and jogging through the park certainly allows for pretty views, but people who rely solely on cardio-based efforts often struggle to lose weight.
"[L]ong distance running tends to not be the most effective path to weight loss," writes Kyle Babiuk. "Why? Once your body reaches a certain threshold, it adapts and begins to store fat, becoming very efficient when it comes to running and using energy."
Studies support this. "Most exercise protocols designed to induce fat loss have focused on regular steady state exercise such as walking and jogging at a moderate intensity," writes Stephen H. Boutcher in the Journal of Obesity. "Disappointingly, these kinds of protocols have led to negligible weight loss."
When I tell people all their hard work on elliptical machines or long runs could actually create weight loss resistance, some react defensively. Others sigh relief. They realize treadmills and long runs drain valuable time they could be using for other activities. And when I tell them about a fat-blasting workout that takes just minutes a day, they really perk up.
So, why is endurance exercise not ideal if you want all-day fat burning and fast, lasting fat loss? For one, it raises stress hormones that break down lean muscle tissue. Lower- and moderate-intensity exercise also doesn't require any metabolic post-exercise repair. Not only that, but you burn fewer calories during exercise.
In other words, when you do a long run or walk on the elliptical machine, you're burning fewer calories during your workout and no post-workout calories or fat.
For fast, lasting fat loss, high intensity interval training (HIIT) becomes your most efficient, effective alternative to steady-state cardio. Burst training raises anabolic (building) hormones like testosterone and growth hormone that counteract the stress any exercise can create. Better yet, short bursts train your body to handle stress and recover.
Repeated, intense bursts also raise lactic acid, which raises GH and supports fat burning. More intense exercise creates a bigger metabolic cost, so you burn more calories, particularly fat calories, after you exercise.
Not only is burst training fat blasting and time-efficient, you can do it nearly anywhere. If I'm at a hotel, I'll hit the stairwell. If you have a nearby park, burst up the hill. If you use the elliptical machine, alternate a fast-paced stride with a normal pace.
Other ways to burst train include:
- Biking intervals
- Swimming laps (specifically butterfly stroke)
- Turkish Get Ups
- Jumping rope
You can even do burst training as a runner "by running for shorter, more intense bursts (sprinting), combined with longer rest periods within the same run," says Babiuk.
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