Cardio Is Not the Best Way to Burn Calories-Part 2

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)

You’re Not a Burden

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2

The other day I was talking with an acquaintance about the shared experience of adoption, and we were talking about how both of us involved other people in providing for the adoption of our children.  We loved the fact that people we cared about were able to be a part of our children’s stories.  We also found it interesting that while other cultures in the world embrace the idea of eliciting the help of others, our western culture is less inclined to ask for help.  Maybe it’s a pride thing.  We don’t want to admit that we can’t do it on our own.  Maybe it harkens back to the “American Dream” mentality of our ancestors.  Pull up your bootstraps and get it done because nobody’s going to do it for you.  Maybe it goes back even further than that to the founding of our nation.  We don’t need another country telling us what to do.  We want to be independent.  Whatever the reason, the simple fact is that we don’t like to ask for help.  We don’t want to burden someone else with our problems.  But this thinking is flawed.

Your life journey was not meant to be a solo effort.  Why else would God have created people with different skill sets, different personalities, and different passions?  We are made to live in community, and the purpose of this community is to come together to build one another up.  To help each other out according to the strengths that we have been given.  By not asking for help, you are actually denying another individual the opportunity to help.  We think it is selfish to ask for help, but I’ll say that it is selfish not to ask for help.  Who are you to deny another person the opportunity to use their God-given gifts in service?

Trying to better your personal health, especially when it comes to weight loss, is often a very personal struggle.  Most don’t readily open up to just anyone about their hang-ups.  But it is very difficult to stick with a journey that is this challenging if you do it alone.  You need someone to keep you accountable when the temptation to slack off comes (because it will).  You need someone to share the pain of exercise with (it is much more tolerable that way).  You need someone to talk to who will encourage you when you feel like giving up.  I know that there are people in your life that want to help you.  Don’t be afraid to ask.  They are going to bless your life, and what you might not realize is that you are going to be a blessing to them in the process, not a burden.


The Power of Small Changes

Think of the last time you decided to make a complete overhaul of something you wanted to change in your life.  How did that turn out for you?  What about the time you were going to wake up 1 hour earlier every morning to read your Bible and pray?  How long did that last?  Did you make it a week?  What about the time you cut out all extra activities in your life to spend more time at home with your family?  How long did it take for “important” things to start creeping back in?  I applaud those of you that recognize that it is time to make some changes in your life.  That is the first, and possibly the most important step in the process of change.  But where you go from there is key to whether or not your pursuit will end in success or failure.

In the area of health and fitness, I have found that more often people approach change with an “all-or-nothing” mentality.  It’s time to start exercising, so they get an expensive gym membership and commit to 6 days a week working out.  Or it’s time to start eating right, so they decide to eat a diet of 1000 calories consisting of nothing but rice cakes and water.  How long do these changes last?  A week?  Two weeks?  A month if you’re lucky.  Most people set out desiring permanent changes, but approach it with the mentality of an actor or actress prepping for a temporary movie role.  And the results are nearly always the same.  All progress, if any was even made to begin with, is lost as soon as the individual “burns out” and is no longer able to keep up the pace.


Small adjustments that are readily achievable create habits that last.  Did you know that by removing one soda a day from your diet, you could lose over 15 lbs in a year?  Did you know that by cutting the average dinner portion in half you could lose nearly 30 lbs in a year?  Forget the wholesale overhaul that you and I both know won’t last.  Find something small in your diet that you can change.  Something that doesn’t need to be there, and that you know you can live without and start there.  Be patient and you will start to see real changes.  Lasting changes.


Do Women “Bulk Up”?

Question of the Week: When is it ok to stop serving?

Nugget of the Day:  Women don’t “bulk up” from strength training.

I’d like to speak to the ladies with this particular fact.  The average man would love to add a couple inches to his biceps.  But one of the most common fears when women are told they should begin a strength training program is that they are going to get bigger.  Most women engaged in an exercise program are trying to get smaller, or drop some amount of body fat.  So when told that they need to start “lifting weights”, immediately images of Zena the Warrior Princess or Eastern European power lifters come to mind.  Let me set your mind at ease.  If you are the typical woman, there are two main reasons why you don’t need to worry about  “bulking up” from strength training.

The main hormone responsible for muscle mass gain is testosterone.  This hormone is produced in the testes of men, and in the ovaries and adrenal glands of women.  On the average, men are shown to produce 15-20 times more testosterone than women.  This relatively small amount of testosterone compared to men greatly reduces the anabolic (building up) effects of resistance training.  The result: men will tend to put on significant amounts of muscle mass when resistance training, women will tend to see smaller increases in muscle mass and will achieve the more “toned” look that most desire.

In order to “bulk up”, the calorie intake needs to be higher than what is being expended due to exercise.  The typical exercise program that calls for a decrease in body fat will involve a calorie intake below what is expended throughout the average day.  This kind of nutrition plan greatly reduces the body’s ability to put on large amounts of muscle mass.  Obviously some muscle mass is being created due to the stimulus that strength training provides.  But it is significantly limited by the food intake because it takes extra energy and supplies to bulk up, and the body is not getting either.

Are there differences between women?  Yes, it is true that some women put on muscle mass more easily than others.  Most women know where they fit on this spectrum.  Program your exercise according to your body type.  Significantly increased muscle mass is more readily achieved by engaging in a strength training program that involves large amounts of weight and low repetitions.  If you are more prone to putting on mass, engaging in a more circuit-style exercise program will still stimulate metabolism and muscle growth, but not in the “bulking up” fashion.   But no matter where you fit on the spectrum, you can rest assured that engaging in a strength training program will not leave you like the Incredible Hulk, ripping through your clothes when you flex.


Resting Metabolic Rate

Question of the Week:  How far have you traveled?

Nugget of the Day:  Resting metabolic rate is the largest contributor to total energy expenditure, accounting for approximately 60-75% of daily calorie usage.

When people talk about metabolism, and say things like “I have low metabolism” when they can’t seem to lose weight, or “He just has high metabolism” when they see someone who doesn’t have a problem losing weight, what they are really referring to is a measurement called “resting metabolic rate” (RMR).  The resting metabolic rate is the amount of energy required for your body to perform its normal body functions such as breathing, heart activity, and temperature regulation.  Your body requires a certain amount of energy to stay alive.  Even if you were to lie down on your bed for an entire day, as still as possible, your body would still require energy to continue the normal cellular processes that keep the internal organs functioning and the brain active.   This is separate from any activity that you do.

When wanting to burn extra calories, the first thing that people think about is exercise.  Yet you can see that nearly ¾ of your calorie-burn for the day has absolutely nothing to do with how much you exercise.  So if your desire is to increase the number of calories you are expending each day, the best place to start is by increasing your RMR.  How do you do this?  Come back and I will tell you in the next “Nugget” post.