Are You Over Fat? Read This…

Spoiler Alert:

Resistance Training, Not Starving Yourself or “Cardio” is  The Key to Successful Fat Loss- i.e. Metabolic Stress Appears to Determine Improvements in Body Composition & Health.

James E. Clark, a researcher from Manchester Community College tried to figure out which approach to  altering body composition and metabolic issues  was the most efficacious.

Clark’s analysis yielded both obvious and less obvious results:

  1. The obvious- a hypocaloric diet  (dietary restriction) is necessary for changing body composition
  2. The less obvious- The size and effectiveness of the caloric deficit does not equate with the effectiveness for body compositional changes, or any biomarkers associated with metabolic issues, i.e. Aggressive dieting does not equate with the largest amounts of body fat loss

Since being overfat is also associated with being undermuscled, it is no surprize that strategies (e.g. resistance training and High Intensity Interval Training- HIIT) aimed at creating more muscle vs approaches that break down muscle (e.g. steady state aerobic exercise and extreme dieting), are the metabolic keys to  weight loss and managing metabolic markers of health, such as total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoproteins, blood sugar  as well as at reducing fasting insulin levels.

Muscle is highly metabolic. Resistance  training is the most potent stimulus to increase skeletal muscle GLUT4 expression, an effect that may partly contribute to improved insulin action and glucose disposal and enhanced muscle glycogen storage following exercise training in health and disease.

Does this mean you should avoid steady state cardio?

Despite the fact that focusing on diet, resistance training and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) are the most effective means for weight management and metabolic health, avoiding doing a moderate amount of cardio is not necessary if you enjoy it.

If you use steady state cardio in order to justify eating more (or eating “treats”) , it may  impair your results, however, if you go for a 20-minute jog at a moderate pace three times per week, this is unlikely to burn away muscle mass, or stall fat loss.

Key take home points for weight loss, optimizing metabolic markers of health (cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin levels) or getting a beach body:

  • Body composition is not a function of energy intakes vs. expenditure.
  • The effects of metabolic stress, which is greater for resistance and HIIT training compared to steady state aerobic training,  yield better results.


Additional Comments/Recommendations

  • Resistance training for increasing lean body mass, reducing fat mass and producing the aforementioned metabolic effects is dose dependent
  • The body will specifically adapt to demands placed upon it (the principle of specificity)
  • The acute variables applied during exercise program will dictate these demands and adaptations achieved. Collectively, acute variables are the foundation of exercise program design
  • Make sure to start with four weeks of core stabilization or strength endurance prior to beginning a  hypertrophy program (to minimize the risk of injury)

Acute variables for increasing lean body mass (Hypertrophy)

  • Sets: 3- 5 sets, 6 -12 reps, 75 to 85% 1RM ((*1 Rep Max) *
  • Moderate tempo, e.g. 2 second eccentric, 0 isometric, and 2 second concentric (2/0/2)
  • Rest: Short rest periods between 0 and 60 secs.
  • Frequency: New clients may begin training their entire body two times a week. Experienced bodybuilders with specific goal of hypertrophy may have training cycle in which they  train with a split routine of six sessions per week, training each body part two times per week with larger volume per session.
  • Training duration/Periodization: 45-60 minutes per session. Four-six week blocks, followed by a planned change in programming
  • Exercise selection: Focus on multi joint exercises, e.g. Squat, Deadlift, Lunge, Bench press, Shoulder press, Pull Down/Up, Rowing.  Include some full body and isolation exercises based on goals.

Clark, M., & Lucett, S. (Eds.). (2010). NASM essentials of corrective exercise training. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

HIIT Guidelines

Tabata Method- 20 seconds of all-out  effort, followed by a 10 seconds of rest. This intense cycle is repeated eight times. Warm-up 5 minutes and Warm down 5 minutes.

Peak Fitness method- 30 seconds of maximum effort followed by 90 seconds of recuperation, 6-8 times. Warm-up  5 minutes and Warm down 5 minutes.
Closing Thoughts
Despite  what many health professionals continue to preach RE: diet and exercise strategies for weight management and health, these outdated ideas and approaches are contrary to what the current evidence shows.

The greatest enemy of knowledge
is not ignorance;
it is the illusion of knowledge.
Stephen Hawking


About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin