Saturday, 25 May 2013

Exercise and weight loss!

Why can't I lose weight when I exercise so hard?

I was in Kensington gardens this morning personal training a client and it was a beautiful morning. With the nice weather there has been a return of the fair weather personal trainers, one of which caught my attention this morning.

I was drawn to the fact that the client was somewhat over weight. With a rough guess I'd say the client was slightly above 6 feet tall and about 105-110kgs. So it's safe to say his training goals are most likely weight loss.
They were training about 50m away from where I had set up my TRX suspension cable so I was in ear shot and I had full view of proceedings. All in all I observed about 30mins of their workout. Assuming most personal trainers charge an hourly rate again I'd say its safe to say I observed about half of their workout.

During the 30mins I observed the client was working really, really hard. He was instructed to do intervals of running with super sets of anaerobic jumps, squats, push ups and step ups onto the park bench. Between the intervals, the circuits and the minimal rest the guy was getting a great work out, his facial expressions proved he was both working to his limit and getting value for money. How proud his trainer must have been as he glanced over at my client performing aerobic circuits of 4 exercises each one coupled with a core strength exercise, while she maintained a much lower but very constant heart rate after she had completed her 20min warm up run around Kensington gardens.

So how much value is this guy really getting for his money?

I can't imagine very much, particularly if his goal is weight loss. How is he supposed to burn fats if he is training way above his fat burning zone. Fitness is a very tricky and temperamental phenomenon. As I explained in the post "running faster" we all have about 60-90mins of glycogen stored in our body. So if you have a personal trainer who "smashes you " (a very common term thrown around gyms and training studios) every session you will inevitably end up feeling smashed, tired, beaten up, hungry, moody and worst case scenario injured or sick.
If your goal is to lose weight and you have addressed your diet, you are committed to training a couple of times a week for 6 weeks but haven't seen any real change then I've got some news for you. You are either training too hard or you are using incorrect methods to achieve your desired goal.

A few years ago I used to teach spin classes. This population of fitness fanatics are the people who seem to use these incorrect training methods over and over and over. I estimate that the vast majority of these guys are training way too hard and as a result find it impossible to make any sustained change in body weight.
If you are a regular gym user you will be familiar with the spin warriors in their spandex tights. In my experience these guys come with limited time but want maximum results. They naively believe that this is achieved by getting the heart rate as high as possible. It seems to them that spinning is the best work out. Lots of sweat seems to equate to lots of calories burned. Maybe this is true! However this is where calorie counting will let you down. You see if you want to lose weight (fat) then you have to burn fat, which is not possible if you heart rate is very high. If the calories you are burning are derived from a carbohydrate source then it's obvious you aren't going to lose any weight. Particularly if you are drinking a sugar bursting sports drink which is replacing the carbs you are burning. Every calorie burned is replaced with a calorie going in, or worse it might be replaced with 2-3 calories going in, depending on how crap your sports drink is and it's sugar content.

If you are familiar with this scenario either while running, cycling, spinning or with your PT then wouldn't you be better off sitting at home watching TV. I'm not joking, think about it, read some of my earlier posts and you will realise you would actually be better off sitting on the sofa watching TV and drinking a glass of water. Rather than pummelling yourself on a bike while drinking (garbage) refined sugar  and subjecting your heart to unnecessary stress.

Tip; if you enjoy the high intensity bike sessions and don't see how this will inhibit weight loss, then at least do one thing "stop drinking refined sugar while you exercise, water is a far better choice."

The key to weight loss is low heart rate training in a controlled manner with weekly (not daily) intervals of high intensity interval efforts and a whole foods nutritious diet. Cardio, resistance training and nutrition are all essential components. Sustained weight loss is impossible without addressing all three. Training in a manner that produces excessive sweat and tiredness is most likely an indicator that you are way above and beyond your fat burning zone. If you continuously train your body this way you will end up craving carbohydrates (because that's the fuel you are using) and your weight will yo yo up and down without any real change.

Slow down, run sensible and think about what you are doing a little more. Remember every workout should have a purpose.