You tend to hear about burning calories as if it was a currency.
How many calories did you burn? How many more calories do I need to burn? How many did you burn this week? What about next time? Will it be enough to burn fat?
These questions seem to be on everyone who wants to be leaner’s mind. What about you?
Have you trotted on the treadmill, burned your butt off on the bike, or expended energy on the elliptical with no real result?
Maybe it’s not so much your effort that is in question, but your approach and perspective when it comes to fat-loss.
Metabolic conditioning & the truth about fat loss
Many believe that the fat you burn is done during cardiovascular exercise. True, you will burn a percentage of body fat during exercise, but a chunk of the calories burned will derive from the glycogen stores in your muscle tissue, liver, and bloodstream. So, you burn a mix of fats, carbs, and even a bit of protein.
Here is where you need to shift your perspective about cardio. The key is to perform cardio training in order to increase EPOC. What the heck is EPOC? Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. It is the amount of energy burned or expended after training. This happens during the drive home, eating dinner, sleeping, studying, etc.
Fortunately, your body likes to shift to fat stores to use at rest. Your goal, therefore, should be to increase your EPOC with focused training. This has more recently been referred to as metabolic conditioning. Think of it as retraining your metabolism to burn body fat for the rest of the day.
Traditional cardio training does just this, but only to a small extent. Intensity must be increased to get a better effect, especially as you adapt to training and increase conditioning levels. Furthermore, resistance training will enhance the EPOC effect more than performing cardio alone.
There are many forms of metabolic conditioning available without resorting to the tired treadmill. The list of options can get a bit detailed, but I’ve split them up into five main categories that any average Jane or Joe can perform at the local gym, track, or field.
Modes of exercise
1. LISS- LISS stands for Low Intensity Steady State cardiovascular exercise. This is traditionally your good-ole fashioned straight up cardio. This entails long distant, long duration, steady-paced exercise such as jogging, biking, swimming, fast-paced walking, and the use of cardio machines.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this type of cardio training. For those who have long-distance aspirations regarding racing, general fitness goals, and who are new to training, this will serve them well. However, veteran physique freaks and more highly trained individuals will benefit little if shredding up is the goal.
For those interested, start with a routine of 3 days per week of 20 to 30 minutes of LISS training.
2. HIIT- HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. This type of training has gained popularity in recent years touting its time saving and energy expending benefits well over the practice of LISS. With a society bent on getting things done faster and wanting better results, HIIT delivers.
Not only is it efficient and effective, it also taps into the advantages of EPOC and then some.
I must clarify that HIIT is more of a general term on this list than a specific mode of training. The term HIIT can be applied to any piece of cardio gym equipment and is adaptable, flexible, and malleable in many training situations.
But for this list’s sake I will keep it simple and detail out a basic HIIT plan regarding your cardio that will jack up your metabolic conditioning.
Choose a mode of exercise. Try not to make it too complicated; sprinting/running/jogging, biking, or elliptical will do fine. For the beginner, use a ratio of 1:3, one minute of a high intensity and three minutes of a lower intensity. Shoot for five total rounds. Be sure to warm-up and cool down properly.
As you advance and start to adapt to more intensity go for a 1:2 and then eventually a 1:1 ratio.
3. Circuit Intervals- This is another generic term used to describe the how instead of the what. However, I am breaking these down into simple categories of exercise. A circuit is a series of exercises done in a back-to-back fashion with little to no rest.
These can be structured in many ways from using bodyweight movements to kettlebells, machines, other free weights, or a combination of all.
Here, I’ll describe the way to put this technique into use using minimal amounts of equipment and sequencing it in a way that will maximize the benefits. The first thing to consider is your availability of equipment.
Next, you will want to structure the sequence in such a way that you will train a mainly upper body movement followed by a lower body movement. Keep alternating as you move through the circuit. This will force your heart to pump blood from the upper body to the lower body and vice versa making for one intense session.
An example would be three to five rounds of 10 to 15 reps of push-ups, bodyweight squats, dips, hanging leg lifts, kettlebell swings, walking lunges, one-arm kettlebell clean and presses, box jumps, inverted rows, and jumping jacks.
4. Field Conditioning- For those who would like to exit the indoor gym environment and get outside, field conditioning work is the perfect anecdote. Free from treadmills that set the pace for you and the constraints of shifting gears (pushing the buttons on the control panel while sprinting is a true skill), running free has a world of advantages.
If you have access to a track facility, it’s even better. With a field or a track at your disposal, you’ll be able to set markers for sprints, shuttle runs, and other conditioning routines without having to worry about falling off of a machine.
As noted, sprints, shuttle runs, suicides, agility drills, mobility drills, stadium runs, sprint/jog intervals, relays, and other forms of field work not only give you freedom, but they also spur competition, enjoyment, and a change of pace.
5. Intraworkout Conditioning- Lastly, intraworkout conditioning is a unique way to inject some interval training into your existing workout. Instead of resting between sets of resistance training, you have an opportunity to do more work without sacrificing any strength or energy for your current workout.
Why not perform a set of crunches in between sets of bench presses or burpees in between sets of biceps exercises? As long as you are using other forms of systems between your regular sets of training you should be okay when it comes to strength and size gains.
Just be sure to use exercises such as crunches, leg lifts, burpees, jumping jacks, box jumps, bodyweight lunges, pushups, kettlebell swings, mountain climbers, and planks.