In my last post I shared my top 5 tips for ensuring that your Fitness Goals and Fitness Efforts are in-sync (not the boy band). These principles of exercise are foundational in helping you achieve the health and body you’re working hard to obtain. With this post I’d like to begin taking each of those 5 key points and explaining them in more detail (if you’ve met me you might be scared about how much detail:)
Work smarter, not harder!
To be able to work smarter you have to really break down what you want for your health. Are you looking to get bigger, faster, and stronger? OR Are you really just looking to feel good, be healthy and maybe even look good in your jeans. If your goal is the latter, working out harder isn’t likely going to be the best way for you to reach your goal. You have to make sure that the focus of your training matches your goal. If you want to be thinner, healthier and look better, then doesn’t it stand to reason that doing exercises which are intended to make you bigger, faster, and stronger aren’t what you’re looking for? Often the fitness industry has a hard time differentiating between the two goals.
Current fitness trends focus on a militarized version of fitness where you have to be in pain, sweating all over the place and taking your fitness to “insane” levels. The emphasis is on killing yourself to get “the body you always wanted.” The message is that the harder you work the more benefit you’ll get. The problem with the message is simply, the body you always wanted is likely not the body that that type of workout is going to help you build. For 20-somethings who are already in relatively good shape and committed to eating a very strict diet despite hunger levels, these programs might be successful. High reps of burpees and box jumps can truly help people get faster and stronger. For most of us though it often leads to depletion, hunger, injury and often – to unsustainable weight loss.
Sustained high intensity workouts break down proteins and use up the carbohydrate stores in the body. We cannot store proteins or carbs in large quantities in the body (other than in our muscles which we’d like to keep). When we burn carbs and break down proteins it causes us to become depleted of these macronutrients. Carbohydrates are stored in small amounts in our blood, our liver (to maintain blood sugar) and in our muscles (for exercise and the fight or flight response). When depleted, the body’s natural response is to cause hunger so that we eat to replenish the deficit and maintain our blood sugar and the homeostatic or baseline levels of carbohydrates in the liver and muscles.
Hunger is a major causative factor in fitness sabotage. When we get hungry it becomes increasingly difficult to make conscious food choices. Instead we tend to react to the hunger by eating whatever we can find. Prolonged hunger leads to burnout, frustration and often fitness goal failure. It also leads to a very scientific principle called "becoming hangry.” Many spouses understand this term when their partner hasn’t eaten in a while and suddenly find themselves in trouble for seemingly insignificant things. Bottom line, being hungry makes it very difficult to stick to any sort of lifestyle change. Being constantly miserable from craving carbs and protein to replenish what we’ve depleted makes us jump ship on our fitness goals. Instead of feeling rejuvenated and refreshed by our workouts we feel drained and depleted.
Depletion and hunger lead to fatigue and often to injury. High intensity workouts often take people to a point where they are lacking energy and are more prone to poor form and overuse injuries. Chronic depletion of carbohydrates and protein also leads to poor muscle repair and actually works to slow metabolism, especially fat metabolism. To counteract the depletion many people get caught up in expensive and often unnecessary supplementation. Learning to work smarter instead of harder can help people avoid the pitfalls of depletion, fatigue, hunger and injury.
You’re probably thinking, ‘So how do I work smarter then?’ Honestly, there are many ways in which someone can work smarter. Working smarter is the purpose behind metabolic testing with Body Smart and the reason I do this blog. The key is to find out what YOUR body needs based on YOUR metabolism. No matter what your fitness goals are, understanding how you burn calories at rest and during exercise is a critical component to achieving them.
Here is an example of a patient who was able to work smarter, and significantly less hard because of what she learned by having her metabolism tested. These are test results based on a 47 year old female who participated in regular endurance exercise. As you look at the results data it lists heart rates in beats per minute (bpm) at 10bpm intervals.
Using the respiratory exchange ratios calculated during the test I have calculated the % Fat burned at each corresponding point where this patient reached each heart rate range. Using the total calories per hour calculation generated during the testing and multiplying that by the % fat calories burned at each heart rate range, we can calculate how many fat calories per hour this patient burns at each heart rate range. This allows us to determine exactly where she is going to be most efficient at burning the highest number of fat calories per hour.
For this patient her optimal zone was around 100-120bpm. We can also see that as her heart rate climbs beyond this point her fat burn rapidly drops off. By 150bpm she essentially stops burning any meaningful amount of fat.
Knowing the optimal fat burn zone is the key to working smarter. This patient now knows exactly what intensity level to exercise at, based on HER heart rate, to burn fat most effectively for HER BODY and body chemistry! Hallelujah! No more guessing or using averages! We can build a custom interval program which allows her to work on both burning fat and increasing her cardiovascular fitness. This also allows her to know where she can exercise and how much she can push herself without getting depleted. By exercising where she burns the highest number of fat calories, not the highest percentage of fat calories, she can burn what she intends to burn with her workouts.
The other important factor is that she isn’t burning as much carbohydrate and getting hungry and depleted. Because this is a moderate exercise intensity she avoids repetitive use injuries and breakdown of protein. She will be less depleted, more energized and won’t be left hungry after her workout.
Customization of an interval program based on YOUR metabolism will allow you to see results without killing yourself. You no longer have to work really hard to burn off calories your body is going to force you to eat back. It isn’t a quick fix and you still have to put in the time and do the work. But you can rest assured that your fitness efforts are no longer sabotaging your fitness goals.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can learn to “Work Smarter, Not harder,” feel free to contact Cameron Garber, DPT at 801-479-4471 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to like my Facebook page to stay up to date with my latest posts.