Question of the Week: What does your pride keep you from accomplishing?
Nugget of the Day: Cardio is not the best way to burn calories- Part 2- Anaerobic exercise burns a higher total amount of fat calories and carbohydrate calories combined.
In my previous post on this topic, I told you that for lower intensity, longer duration activities, fat is the predominant energy source. Proportionately more fats are burned versus carbohydrates while participating in exercise that keeps the heart rate at a lower level (50% of maximal effort or below). It is this fact that led to the “aerobics” craze of the 80’s, and it has still been a driving force in the minds of exercisers when choosing an activity to help them reach their weight-loss goals. Hence the seemingly endless rows of cardio machines at the gym. And this all sounds good. Why not? I want to burn body fat, so naturally I should choose this style of activity, right
Here is where that logic falls short. I’ll go back to my dinner plate analogy. If you looked at the energy burned in an aerobic-style activity like a dinner plate, a typical cardio workout “plate” might hold 3 Twinkies, and 1 granola bar, with the Twinkies representing fat and the granola bar representing carbohydrates. This 3 to 1 ratio of fats to carbohydrates is the most effective way for the body to provide the energy it needs to complete the task. (Understand that protein is also used as an energy source, but for the sake of clarity I have left it out for now). As the intensity of exercise goes up, the proportions present on the plate changes. In a highly anaerobic (“without oxygen”) workout, it may be 3 granola bars and 1 Twinkies instead. Carbohydrates do not require the presence of oxygen to be used as energy.
So why can a higher intensity, anaerobic exercise be more effective for body fat loss than aerobic exercise? The important thing to understand is that while the proportions may have changed at a higher intensity, the anaerobic workout requires more overall plates. You may have to have 3 plates worth of food to provide the energy necessary for a higher intensity workout. 9 granola bars and 3 Twinkies at the higher intensity workout, and only 1 granola bar and 3 Twinkies at the lower intensity workout. You can see from this analogy that the same amount of fat is burned at both workout intensities. However, with the increase carbohydrate usage comes increased calorie burning altogether. The result? Assuming the nutrition is dialed in, and without going into too much detail about the biochemistry of it all, the body uses fat stores post workout to replenish the energy lost during the workout and the overall body fat loss is higher than with the aerobic workout. Understand that time plays a factor here. 5 minutes of high-intensity exercise is not going to necessarily negate an hour of low-intensity exercise. But minute for minute, the bang for your buck is much higher. The game you are trying to play is calories in versus calories out. And any time you can maximize the calories out, like with a high intensity workout, the more effective body fat loss you will achieve.
(Note: Always consult your physician before engaging in a high-intensity exercise program)
Featured Exercise: Side Plank
Primary Muscles: Obliques, Hip Abductors
Secondary Muscles: Low Back, Latissimus Dorsi, Shoulders
OK. So you think you have mastered the regular plank. Well, here’s a new challenge. The Side Plank is another great body-weight core stabilization exercise to add to your routine. No equipment needed and it can be performed anywhere. Like the regular Plank that I featured before, this exercises utilizes just gravity to provide resistance. As opposed to the deep transverse abdominis and outer rectus abdominis muscles stressed in the regular plank, this particular version targets the obliques (the muscles on the side of the abdomen responsible for side bending and torso rotation), muscles essential to a healthy and stable core. But due to the total body nature of the exercise, it also enhances muscle strength around the shoulders and hips. Here’s how it goes:
Lie on your side with your elbow directly beneath your shoulder and your legs fully extended and stacked on top of one another. Draw in your abdomen and lift your torso and hips off of the floor, keeping the back in a straight position. The only two points that should be in contact with the ground are the bottom elbow and bottom foot. Keep the neck in line with the rest of the body. Hold the position for as long as you can, and keep your breathing regular as you hold. Switch sides and repeat the exercise. If this version is too difficult, you can switch to the bent-knee version. The only difference is that instead of extending the legs, bend the knees at a 90-degree angle. This means that when you lift the torso, the only points of contact are the bottom elbow and the bottom knee.
I hope this exercise adds a little variety to your routine! Enjoy!
The marketing strategy for Tootsie Pops, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?”, reminded me of a truth as it relates to our physical and spiritual lives. We have already established that life is a journey. A succession of smaller steps leading to a destination. But to maintain direction, it is essential that we have milestones. Markers to show the progress that we are making. Especially when the destination is very far away. A couple of months ago I was hiking with the family in the sand dunes of coastal Oregon. We parked at the trailhead and began the journey along a well-marked path. But it wasn’t long before the trail opened up to a sea of sand as far as I could see. I stood for a moment, surveying the landscape wondering which way the trail went. The constant wind had blown away all traces of footprints that would have marked the path. Having a general idea of which direction to go, I climbed the first dune to the top and examined the surroundings. Off in the distance, breaking up the smooth, blonde landscape was the dark, sharp image of a wooden pole stuck in the sand with a blue stripe at the top. This was our only marker to show us the trail. So down the dune we headed towards the pole. Once we reached it, we again made our survey and were able to spot the next pole in the distance. It was in this pole-to-pole fashion that we were able to reach our final destination, a beautiful, secluded beach. Without these markers , we would have been walking blind, never quite sure if we were heading in the right direction or if we were making progress towards our destination.
In order to reach a goal in your journey towards optimal physical and spiritual health, it is essential to have these markers. Smaller, more achievable goals that when combined together, lead the way to your destination. Instead of looking at the 30 pounds that you need to lose, break it into more manageable 5-pound segments. If you are wanting to read the Bible cover-to-cover for the first time, set a goal of 1 book a month or one chapter a day. If you are starting from a position of not exercising at all, then instead of focusing on a weight loss goal it might be beneficial to just set a goal of exercising once, twice or three times a week for the first 2 weeks. Achieve that goal first before moving on to the more difficult ones. Same with the Bible goal. Start with committing to read the Bible 3 times a week, two times a week, or even one time a week. Then, reward yourself when you reach a goal. It is an accomplishment! When you stand on top of the dunes and see the ocean way off in the distance, it is sometimes easy to get discouraged because it looks so far away and you can see the many dunes that need to be climbed before you get to the end. However, if you can set your sights on the one marker in front of you, once you reach it you will realize that the next marker doesn’t look that far away, and you will find the strength to make it to that next marker. Like the Tootsie Pop, no one knows how many licks it will take. Just take it one lick at a time.
Nugget of the Day: Cardio is not the best way to burn body fat.
I thought I would start this nugget on the positive side of things. What is cardiovascular exercise good for, and why do we use it as our “go-to” exercise when we want to lose weight? What we call “cardio” should be more accurately termed “aerobic” exercise. The term “aerobic” literally means “with oxygen”. The body can breakdown food into energy in the presence of oxygen or without oxygen present. However, the fat molecule needs oxygen in order to be broken down into energy to be utilized by the body. Because the intensity is not as high in aerobic exercise, the body is able to get enough oxygen to meet the energy demands of the body. This allows fat to be utilized as a major energy source. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, can be burned with or without the presence of oxygen. But fats provide a little more whallop to their punch, supplying more energy per gram than carbohydrates, so it is a more efficient fuel source. This makes it the more prevalent provider when the intensity of exercise is low enough to allow it to be utilized properly.
To see the big picture, you need to understand that it is a matter of proportions. You never are just utilizing one energy source. You are always using a combination of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins as energy at all times. While engaged in aerobic exercise, you burn a higher proportion of fat calories versus carbohydrate calories. As an analogy, let’s look at it like a dinner plate, with the food on the plate representing the amount and type of energy burned in an aerobic workout. At a low intensity, the plate might hold three Twinkies and one granola bar (the Twinkies representing fat and the granola bar representing carbohydrates). You might have as much as a 3:1 ratio of fats burned versus carbohydrates when engaged in aerobic exercise. Fats are the major source of energy in this case. Sounds like a good recipe for weight loss, right? Wrong…and I’ll tell you why in the next post…