Spring is in the air. And, with it, the perennial dash to lose weight, firm up and get in shape for summer, beach season … you know the drill.
But how quickly can you honestly expect to see your dieting and exercising pay off? And, more importantly, how quickly is actually healthy?
The Downside of Fast Results
In a perfect world, weight loss or, more specifically, fat loss, would be instantaneous. But that’s not how the human body works. Instead, everything from your hormones to neurologic system and signals adapt to every little change in your diet and exercise routine.
And, when you change things too drastically, like when you cut your daily food intake from 2,500 to 1,200 calories per day or try to tackle an hourlong boot camp class on day No. 1 of your gym membership, your body’s adaptations do more harm than good, says Grant Weeditz, a certified strength and conditioning specialist at Anatomy 1220 in Miami.
Your body perceives that food is in short supply, you’re starving and, in an effort to spare calories, it starts burning protein (aka muscles) for energy. “This will shut down the fat-burning metabolic processes of the body and start the downward spiral of metabolic damage,” Weeditz says. “The more you cut calories, the more you have to continually cut to see results. Avoid this situation like the plague.”
What’s more, this reduction in resting metabolic rate (the number of calories you burn just to live) means that fast weight loss generally doesn’t stick around for long and instead leads to rebound weight gain, explains Atlanta-based board-certified sports dietitian and registered dietitian Marie Spano. For example, in one University of California–Los Angeles review, about two-thirds of dieters who successfully lost weight ended up gaining back everything they lost – and then some – within four to five years. The psychological effect of depriving yourself or over-exercising in the name of weight loss doesn’t help you keep weight off over the long term either.
On the fitness and muscle side of things, diets that are too low in calories decrease your body’s ability synthesize new, metabolically active muscle, largely nullifying your workout efforts, Spano says. They also reduce your overall energy levels to make your workouts feel harder.
MINNEAPOLIS – Exercise in older people is associated with a slower rate of decline in thinking skills that occurs with aging. People who reported light to no exercise experienced a decline equal to 10 more years of aging as compared to people who reported moderate to intense exercise, according to a population-based observational study published in the March 23, 2016, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
“The number of people over the age of 65 in the United States is on the rise, meaning the public health burden of thinking and memory problems will likely grow,” said study author Clinton B. Wright, MD, MS, of the University of Miami in Miami, Fla., and member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Our study showed that for older people, getting regular exercise may be protective, helping them keep their cognitive abilities longer.”
For the study, researchers looked at data on 876 people enrolled in the Northern Manhattan Study who were asked how long and how often they exercised during the two weeks prior to that date. An average of seven years later, each person was given tests of memory and thinking skills and a brain MRI, and five years after that they took the memory and thinking tests again.
Of the group, 90 percent reported light exercise or no exercise. Light exercise could include activities such as walking and yoga. They were placed in the low activity group. The remaining 10 percent reported moderate to high intensity exercise, which could include activities such as running, aerobics, or calisthenics. They were placed in the high activity group.
When looking at people who had no signs of memory and thinking problems at the start of the study, researchers found that those reporting low activity levels showed a greater decline over five years compared to those with high activity levels on tests of how fast they could perform simple tasks and how many words they could remember from a list. The difference was equal to that of 10 years of aging. The difference also remained after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect brain health, such as smoking, alcohol use, high blood pressure and body mass index.
When Dr. Michelle Johnson scribbles out prescriptions, the next stop for many of her patients is the gym, not the pharmacy.
Doctors treating chronic health problems increasingly are prescribing exercise for their patients — and encouraging them to think of physical activity as their new medication.
In one such program run by a health center in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, primary care physicians, internists and psychologists prescribe access to a gym for $10 a month, including free child care, classes and kids programs. Providing affordable gym access for patients ensures compliance, said Gibbs Saunders of Healthworks Community Fitness, a nonprofit gym in Dorchester that has partnered with several health care providers to help low-income residents fill their exercise prescriptions.
Executives at the Whittier Street Health Center say low-cost access to a gym is important, since many residents’ income is low and 70 percent of those they treat suffer from chronic problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and depression.
Life expectancy in Roxbury is 59 years — well below the national average of 78.8 years.
“Exercise is not a new medicine. It’s really an old medicine,” said Johnson, who prescribes exercise to patients at the Roxbury-based health center. “But you know, I think we’re now coming to the point of understanding how important it is.”
Monisha Long, who is morbidly obese and suffers from hypertension, got a doctor’s prescription for exercise and says she’s gotten visible and dramatic results after more than two years of regular workouts.
“I lost well over 150 pounds, and I’ve been keeping it off for the past couple of years,” she said after working out on an elliptical machine at Healthworks.
And Long cites other, less-visible benefits.
“I’m more energized,” she said. “As far as my energy, I feel like I’m stronger. I feel like I’m less tired. I feel like I can do almost anything now.”
Why is it that cardio is always the hot topic of fitness discussion and seems to be the fix all solution to burning fat?
As we have all learned and I have written about in the past that cardio is not the fix all solution when it comes to body compositional changes anymore. New times have rolled in and we have tons of research studies proving that weight lifting is far more superior for fat loss and body compositional changes. But, even though we have these new findings, people still don’t get it and people still want to sit on the bikes reading magazines about Kim Kardashian’s divorce for hours and hours. Do as you please, but I know I’m one of those types of people that want to get the most bang for their buck when it comes to training. This leads me to write about what is the right type of cardio for you?
I will be doing a comparison on HIIT cardio vs LISS cardio, since these two forms of cardio are used the most. By the end of this article you will have a really good idea of what kind of cardio is right for you and how to effectively use it.
What in the world do these crazy acronyms HIIT and LISS mean?
HIIT stands for High intensity interval training, which consists of short sprint intervals coupled with low-moderate intensity work. An example of this would be a 30 second sprint followed by a 4 minute steady pace walk to cool down and bring your heart rate back to normal and then repeating it. LISS stands for Low intensity steady state cardio, which consists of purely low-moderate intensity work. An example of this would be walking on the treadmill or riding the bike and being able to hold a conversation (we tend to see a lot of this at gyms).
Now that you have a basic understanding of the two forms, let’s dive into some more detailed stuff.
LT & AD
Why testing the lactate threshold (LT) and anaerobic threshold (AT) is a good idea? The AT and LT are extremely powerful predictors of performance in aerobic exercise (cardio). There are 2 ways that muscle can burn glucose (blood sugars) and that is through aerobic work (with air) and anaerobic work (without air). For example, long bouts of LISS cardio is considered aerobic work and weight training or HIIT cardio can be classified as anaerobic work. The AT and LT are a great test for HIIT and LIIS cardio because it gives a great predictor of which type of work produces ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). ATP is a quick burst of energy that we get in our muscles when we contract them (Ex: every time you do a bicep curl, you are getting a quick burst of ATP). HIIT produces better changes in exercise capacity as opposed to LISS cardio. High intensity training will hit the AT and LT, that’s what causes the body to make metabolic changes. When you are doing LISS, you are considered below the AT and LT.
A simple test is being able to hold a conversation while doing cardio. When doing HIIT you are above the AT and LT and when you are above the AT and LT you push for greater improvement in metabolism which thus leads to better fat loss over time.
Everyone knows that weight training makes you stronger; however, certain types of weight training can produce dramatically different results. Some types of weight training will increase your maximal strength, whereas others will improve endurance. There are even methods of weightlifting that will do little for you in the way of strength and endurance even though they produce significant superficial results. By know some of the different types of weight training, you can pick the one that best suits your needs.
Bodybuilders train in a specific manner to achieve a specific goal — making their muscles bigger. They tend to lift in the eight- to 12-rep range and only train one muscle group per day, per week. This type of training is the best for making your muscles larger but not necessarily stronger. That’s not to say bodybuilders aren’t strong, but they just aren’t as strong as some other athletes because their goal is aesthetics, not athleticism.
Power lifting is the best type of training for maximal strength — what many people would consider “brute” strength. A power lifter’s goal isn’t appearance, it’s strength. Power lifters focus on lifting an extremely heavy amount of weight for only a few repetitions.
Circuit training is when you do a number of exercises in quick succession, usually lifting a light amount of weight for a high number of repetitions. For example, doing 20 bench presses, 20 squats and shoulder presses with little or no rest in between. This type of training is ideal for burning fat, increasing endurance and making some gains in strength. Circuit training is popular among fighters because it simulates what your body goes through in a wrestling, boxing or mixed-martial arts match.