The best way to lose weight is probably one of the most hotly debated topics in the fitness world, with many different training methods advised and new fad diets grabbing the headlines every other week (or so it seems)! With all the conflicting advice that’s out there, it begs the question of what is the most effective method?
Let’s start with some of the basics regarding differences in weight and body fat, as this is often massively confused. Weight is your TOTAL mass considering all of your tissues, organs and bones. When people say they want to ‘lose weight’
or become ‘toned’
, usually what they are trying to say is that they want to reduce body fat and increase some muscle mass.
Weight loss is not necessarily the be all and end all, as there will be members of the public who look skinny in appearance but carry high body fat percentages. Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? How does that work? Put simply, it’s to do with the excess energy storage combined with lack of muscular use.
As you do resistance training, your body requires glycogen (the stored form of carbohydrates). If you do not participate in any form of resistance training, your muscles essentially become saturated (full) of glycogen and can no longer store anymore. Ultimately, this means that there is excess energy that needs to be stored. But where could this be?? The answer is fat stores or adipocytes as we like to call them! This also often the reason some people develop Type 2 diabetes.
Calorie Balance Equation
As we’ve already touched upon, resistance training of some form is a vital element of a body transformation journey. The next important thing to highlight is one of the simplest formulas in the industry which is understanding the calorie balance equation. If your calories IN exceed your calories OUT, the result will be weight gain. But, if calories OUT exceed your calories IN, the result will be weight loss/fat loss. Sounds simple, right? Essentially, eat less and use more. But before we down tools on the subject, we’ll take a deeper look by focusing on the calories OUT aspect.
The first point to make is that you expend calories naturally. To keep your bodies internal processes functioning, it requires energy, which means it burns calories constantly. The more muscle mass your body has, the higher the calorie output becomes as more muscle leads to higher calories being required to maintain it.
On the other hand, the most common method of calorie expenditure is steady-state cardiovascular training. Steady-state cardio is commonly used by a lot of people in their pursuit of aesthetics and with good reason too. During this form of training, we typically use our aerobic energy system which utilises fats, oxygen and carbohydrates as a fuel source to produce energy. This is also the reason for one of the biggest misconceptions in training, as stated earlier, that weight loss/fat loss comes from being in a calorie deficit and not necessarily from what you are using as your main fuel source.
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, the daily intake of carbohydrate is 252g for men and 198g for women, representing 47.5% and 48.3% of food energy intake respectively, so why would your body start to use fat as fuel when the typical diet consists of such high carbohydrate content?
Why we need fats
Fats are one of the most precious nutrients for the body and they play a huge role in a lot of things such as hormone function, production, nervous system and many more. Your body is not going to get rid of one of its most precious jewels so easily. You must force this process to happen!
Cardiovascular training burns on average 500 kcal in one hour and your body needs to burn 3500kcal to lose 1lb in weight, which means seven hours of cardiovascular work would lead to 1lb being lost. Cardiovascular training also doesn’t do too much for hormone production, joints, ligaments and muscle mass, to name but a few. In fact, it can negatively affect some of these body parts and functions.
Let’s compare this to an ever-growing trend of HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training). Regardless of what the HIIT workout has been called, whether it be Insanity, Grit, P90X or Metcon Training, these all work on the fundamentals of something called EPOC.
EPOC stands for Excess Post Oxygen Consumption, and some people may know it as the ‘after burn’
effects of training. Without going into too much depth here, EPOC is all about creating a high-stress environment in a short time period so that your energy and oxygen requirement spikes drastically. Your body is then making physiological adaptations to bring the body back to more of a resting state. This, in turn, includes things like:
- Spiking Metabolism
- Hormone Production
- Energy Consumption,
- Enzyme Activity
- Body Thermogenic (Temperature Control System).
This all ultimately leads to more calories being burned at rest post workout. Roughly 20 minutes of HIIT training, working at 80% + intensity, can burn around 1500kcal over the 12-48-hour period.
So surely HIIT is better then?
I’m afraid it’s not that simple. It’s important to understand that your body needs to be in a calorie deficit first before it will start using some of that precious fat. HIIT Training can help you achieve the calorie deficit more efficiently but, by supplementing it with a lower carb diet and some resistance training for muscles, this ensures that your body will be struggling for energy and will ultimately need to resort to fats as a fuel.
Once you have reached this stage, your body then needs a form of exercise which is going to support and maximise the utilisation and oxidisation of the fat that is now being released by the body, and this is where your steady-state cardio comes in!
The biggest thing to take from this is not to try and distinguish which weight loss methods are better or worse. It is, in fact, wiser to understand the process and the order of processes that your body needs to undergo to achieve the desired results.
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