There are often heated arguments between trainers about what the best type of exercise is for losing body fat. However, the simple fact is that results more often than not come down to how HARD you work, rather than WHAT you work or HOW long you work it for. Indeed, it is not uncommon to see internet articles where some form of exercise is being touted as the latest big thing for fat loss. Alternatively, many staples of the average exercise routine have been torn to shreds as a fat loss tool, where more often than not it is the intensity - a legacy from the days of the fat burning myths - that fails to get the mention it should. Why? Because most people would rather hear that they can do gentle exercise and lose weight without breaking a sweat! Sorry, but that only works in fantasy land folks. If you want to get real fat loss results then you need to get working hard and for the doubters, here is a little proof!
I want to share a study with you from the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise that is about to go to print.
Here is the abstract.....
To save you reading it here is the skinny on what happened. Two groups (well three if you include the control group) of middle-aged overweight women, one group exercised 5 days per week at an intensity below their lactate threshold (this is where lactate levels start to rise in the body and is normally associated with a bit of discomfort), the other group did two days at the same level , then 3 days at an intensity just above the lactate threshold. Both groups exercised until they used 400 calories per session and did this for 16 weeks straight.
The end result? Those who exercised at low intensity saw NO significant changes compared to the control group. Those who included higher intensity exercise had significant reductions in abdominal fat - both the fat under the skin (subcutaneous) and around the organs (visceral). The authors of the study concluded that "body composition changes are affected by the intensity of exercise training with HIET more effectively for reducing total abdominal fat, subcutaneous abdominal fat, and AVF in obese women with the metabolic syndrome."
Now, this is a pretty cool study. It matched caloric expenditure, which again goes to prove that there is more to fat loss than simply burning calories. Granted, this is working with a group of untrained, obese, middle-aged women, so we need to be realistic about the applications, but there are many, many women who fit this category who are failing in their fat loss efforts. Are they failing through a lack of time? Is it through the wrong type of exercise? Or is it more to do with the level of intensity they are working at? Well, chances are there are elements of all three, but this study goes to show the impact of simply not training hard enough. For too long now, women have been told that lower-intensity exercise in the 'fat burning zone' is the way to burn bodyfat. The sooner we can dispel this rubbish the better. Steady-state aerobic training has very limited value (although it does have some) as a tool for improving body composition and this study is a classic example of that.
The bottom line here is that if you want to see fat loss for all your fitness efforts then its time to quit with the long sessions of low intensity training. Now, for some this isn't exactly a newsflash, but for many out there it may mean a departure from their current training. The good news is that by training using shorter, more intense workouts (a format we use at Aegis Training for creating effective fat loss routines) you can get more results for less time invested.
In part 2 we will be suggesting some ways that you can alter your training to take this principle into account.