You Can’t Always Run Away The Fat

 

Sure, go from zero running to some running to lots of running and you will probably lose some weight. But then what?

I’ve seen it, in people I know, in people I read about, in people I see out in public…the weight loss stalls.

Now, I used to be that meathead that would say “cardio is dumb, you don’t need to do cardio, just lift and diet and you will be good”.

While I partially still agree with this – I also don’t think cardio is dumb. It is very important to make sure your heart is strong and functions well or, well, you die. If you ENJOY running – or more traditional cardio, and it doesn’t harm you – then more power to ya, run run run!

However, using cardio as a sole means of fat loss with complete ignorance of diet and some cross-training is a recipe for disaster.

The three common traps that cardio lovers seem to fall into are:

  1. Weight loss stopped? Time to run more.
  2. I run a lot/train for marathons – I can eat whatever I want.
  3. I want to be better at running – so I will run more!

When weight loss stops on a pure cardio routine, many people’s first instinct is “I need more cardio”. Here why that might not be the best idea.

When you live by the cardio – you die by the cardio. Meaning that the more cardio you add and add and add to your week, as soon as something happens in your life that doesn’t allow you to run 10 hours per week, your progress will backfire and your weight will rocket back.

Without paying any attention to creating a slight caloric restriction through food instead of just trying to run more, you set yourself up for trouble when trouble strikes in your life.

Your body also becomes very efficient at running at a slow and steady pace. Meaning you CONSERVE calories so you can last longer on your run, but at a slightly slower pace. When fat loss is the goal, efficiency sucks.

Crank up the intensity, hit some sprints (on a bike especially), and turn your body into a furnace in a shorter amount of time.

This is where problem 2 comes in – the “I run a lot therefore I can eat whatever I want”.

There is a generic statistic that says you burn about 100 calories per mile traveled while running so let’s just use that for an example.

Say you run 10 miles one day – so “burn” 1000 calories. Then you go to Olive Garden to celebrate with friends and get the biggest past dish you can find because you “earned” it.

Well, that dish is 2500 calories, plus the 4 breadsticks you ate – so there you go, you now canceled out your run plus jumped into a surplus.

The main point being – its very easy to supplant the caloric burn of a cardio workout if you blindly eat whatever.

You must still pay attention to diet, and eat enough for performance – but also if your goal is fat loss, you must be in a slight deficit.

And the last trap – more running = better at running, its not always the case.

Yes, you need to practice any skill to get better.

But for runners, don’t forget strength!

***CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ON STRENGTH FOR RUNNING***

You need to build up the muscles through strength training so they can endure long runs, and the pounding on the pavement.

Strength training not only builds muscle (which boosts your resting metabolic rate) but it also helps build BONE.

How many cardio lovers do you know who have gotten stress fractures? I know a few.

Heavier loading of the bones and especially the axial skeleton greatly improves bone density. This means squats, lunges, step-ups, deadlifts, all those good lower body exercises should be done 2-3 days per week. 

So if your goal is to lose some fat here’s what I would recommend:

  • Don’t rely solely on running- if you enjoy it, cool, but you don’t NEED to run. Biking, swimming, hiking, circuit training, are all great ways to get cardiovascular improvements as well.

 

  • Don’t ignore diet. Your goal should be to lose fat at a pace of 1-2 pounds per week with as little change to your normal routine as possible. So don’t just add in 10 hours of cardio per week because that won’t last. Start with bodyweight x 10 for your calorie goal.

 

  • Weight train – not only to help prevent running injuries, but also to improve your metabolism, your muscle tone, and to improve your mood and energy.

If you need help getting started, look no further than online coaching. Training and nutrition! Let me help you find the best plan for you – from anywhere in the world.

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The Best Smoothies I’ve Ever Had (#3 Is Too Good To Be “Healthy”)

 

In a perfect world, we would all get 100% of our protein from grass fed, free range, pure organic, GMO free, happy as a clam animals. Let’s be honest, this isn’t a perfect world.

Still, I always prefer that my clients get as close to 100% of their daily protein goal from real food products. However, if you are working on meeting the gold standard of .8-1gram of protein per pound (1 gram per pound of Lean Body Mass will suffice for heavier individuals looking to lose more fat), sometimes the only way to meet that goal is with a supplement.

This is fine, as long as it is still treated as such – a supplement to a otherwise balanced, whole food diet.

Example: I weigh 205 lbs, I am at 12% bodyfat according to THIS SCALE, therefore, my goal protein intake is 180-205 grams per day.

A 205 pound man that was 30% bodyfat, and looking to lose weight should be reaching closer to a goal of 145-165 grams per day, but getting more would not be a problem IF accounting for these calories through adjustments to carb and fat intake…thats for another article though.

So, what are my go to shakes for hitting my protein numbers?

1) The Old Standby – Muscle Pharm Combat Powder, Cookies and Cream + Water

This is the most basic, yet quick post workout shake that I will do. Simply throw 8 oz. of water in a blender bottle like this one, and a scoop of cookies and cream and you are set!

140 Calories, 25 grams protein, 1.5 grams fat, 5 grams carb

2) The Orange Creamsicle aka The Kashey Creamsicle – Dymatize Nutrition ISO-100 Dreamsicle + Orange Gatorade Powder

Stole this one from the guys down in Vero Beach at Relentless Performance. The very smart Dr. Trevor Kashey has worked with numerous Olympic Athletes, powerlifters, and very successful fat loss clients. The point of this shake is either for recovery purposes post workout, or you can also sip on it during your intense weight training sessions to better facilitate the recovery process. It tastes damn delicious…

1 scoop of the Iso Whey + 1 scoop of Orange Gatorade Powder + 24 oz. water. (This is what I do, not what everyone should do. You need to figure your nutrition goals before slamming a sugar filled drink during your workouts!)

190 calories, 25 grams protein, 0 grams fat, 22 grams carb

3) The Peanut Butter Cup Perfection – Muscle Pharm Combat Powder Advanced Time Release Protein, Chocolate Peanut Butter + PB2 + FairLife 2% Milk

This is my go to if I feel like a sweet and filling treat, but still need to hit higher protein numbers without adding a bunch of extra carbs and fat. The PB2 powder adds more peanut butter flavor, without the added fat and sugars, and the Fairlife Milk is higher protein, and contains the Lactase enzyme so I don’t explode from drinking it 😉

*Bonus – if you have some extra carbs to spare, throw a banana in the blender as well, you won’t regret it*

1 scoop protein + 1 Tbsp. PB2 + 8 oz. Fairlife 2%

272 calories, 40 grams protein, 7 grams fat, 14 grams carb (+~90 cals and 26 carb with banana)

4) Orange Banana Cream – Dymatize Nutrition ISO-100 Dreamsicle + 1 Banana + 8 oz. Fairlife 2% Milk + 3 ice cubes

Had this one the other day after a 15 mile bike ride. It was really good, and so simple to make. Obviously you could sub in any other fruit, just make sure you are always tracking, as it is easy to get carried away with the blender.

1 scoop protein + 1 banana (100g) + 8 oz. Fairlife 2%

317 calories, 39 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, 33 grams of carbs

5) The “I Don’t Have Time For A Real Meal” Shake – Dymatize Nutrition ISO-100 Birthday Cake + 1 huge handful of spinach + 1 TBSP of Peanut Butter + 1 fruit (1 banana or 1 cup of some type of berries) + 8 oz. Fairlife 2% Milk

This would be your last ditch effort at getting in a meal, when you have absolutely no time to actually make something. You won’t taste the spinach, so you might as well throw it in to get your veggies. You get your fats from peanut butter and the milk, carbs from the fruit, and obviously protein from the powder and milk.

1 scoop protein + 1 banana (100g) + 2 cups spinach (raw) + 1 TBSP Peanut Butter + 8 oz. Fairlife Milk

426 calories, 44 grams protein, 13 grams fat, 38 grams carbs.

These aren’t the only smoothie recipes out there, nor are they necessarily right for you. This is why it is still important to figure out your daily goals, meet them as close as possible on a regular basis, and track the results – then adjust from there.

Play around with them, and let me know if you come up with any other killer recipes.

 

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Stay healthy my friends,

“Cardio”…Is It Optimal? Part 1

 

When I say “cardio” I’m talking about your traditional forms of cardio. Jogging for 30 minutes to and hour, cycling, walking on an incline, etc. So what does this kind of cardio actually do?

In Part 1 of this blog post, I will look at traditional cardio, and what it does.

when-to-do-cardio

The Good: 

Traditional, or steady state cardio will increase your aerobic threshold and help your body adapt to running/cycling longer distances. As you progressively increase your time or distance spent jogging, you will be able to go longer, easier. I remember when I couldn’t run more than a mile without slowing down to catch my breath.

In one month of training leading up to my first “running event”, I started my first week by just running for 10 minutes straight everyday. My second week I upped it to 15, then 20 minutes. Then I started to go by distance. 3 miles 4 days a week the 3rd week, and 4 miles the fourth. In one month I went from barely being able to run a mile to running 5 in 42 minutes. Steady state cardio is great for this! The body is amazing and can adapt so quickly.

But that may be where the benefits end…

The Maybe:

I say maybe, because depending on your goals, it might be bad or it might not be. Steady state cardio can lead to weight loss. However, it might not be the kind of weight loss you want. Depending on your goals, you may end up losing more muscle mass than you want. Without changing my diet, I dropped down to under 200 pounds for the first time in 6 years. However, my arms were thinner, my face looked almost sickly thin.

Look at distance runners. They are very thin (typically) and have little fat and muscle mass. This is perfect for them though because as you run longer distances, you don’t want to be carrying around tons of extra mass.

EG-AB394_poller_DV_20090312115127

The Ugly:

Looking more at the recreational exerciser or weight loss adventurer, using steady state cardio may prove to be less effective over time. It has been shown that long-term (1 to 2 months) of steady state cardio sessions can actually cause a negative metabolic adaptation.

What does this mean?

If you continue to do your 30 to 60 minute steady state low intensity sessions 3 to 4 days a week, your metabolism may actually adjust to this, blunting weight loss. I have seen this first hand through working in the fitness industry for the last 6 years. While the adaptation to running long distance can be great for your cardio endurance, it may not be the best for fat loss. This is because the body becomes more efficient at conserving calories for longer durations, thus burning less calories – to conserve more energy (in the form of calories). This is why we see many recreational endurance athletes who still hold onto a decent amount of body fat, often times in the form of a little belly pouch. Burning more fat and calories overall is technically done better through inefficiency – by burning more calories per minute (more on this in part 2).

While working at a large campus gym while in college, I got to know many patrons of the gym. Many of them did the standard 30 minute, jogging sessions, and never really changed. I often got complaints about how they weren’t losing the weight they wanted to. (because they were doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results) Granted, at least they were doing something and getting many great benefits of cardiovascular exercise, but it wasn’t optimal for their goals.

They then get into the vicious cycle of lowering their calorie intake (to try and lose weight), and increasing their duration of steady state cardio, until they are essentially starving themselves (800-1000 calorie diets) and this leads to even more negative metabolic adaptations, to the point where their metabolism could slow down by 25-50% of what would be their estimated metabolism!

Woman Holding Hand to Head

But the treadmill said that I need to stay in the “fat burning zone” to burn the most fat!

We have all seen it, cardio machines with the little scale on it based off of heart rate that says “Fat Burning Zone” at about 60 – 70% of our max heart rate. The origin of this zone is not exactly known, but looking through research it seems to have come about from a few studies in the early 90’s.

0186f500be37f991_machine

Yes, performing cardio at about 65% of your “max heart rate” (which is actually based off of a simple, and highly inaccurate equation of 220-Age= MHR) burns the highest % of calories from fat, AT THE TIME OF EXERCISE*. Say you burn 200 calories during 30 minutes of cardio in the fat burn zone, and 90% of those calories are fat calories (180 calories). But what if you increase the difficulty to 75% of your MHR and burn 275 total calories, but only 75% of those calories are fat calories? You are still burning about 205 fat calories, just a lower % of total calories. (Hint: more calories burned is better)

*This is also an ACUTE response measurement, not a long term response. Why should it matter what you burn only during exercise, when it is more optimal and advantageous to burn more overall calories (especially from fat) throughout the day by revving up your metabolism?

So if I want to lose fat more efficiently, and not lose muscle, what should I do?

Remember, if your goal is to train for a distance event, whether its a 5k, half marathon, or Iron Man, keep doing steady state cardio. Your body will adapt and you will be able to run longer over time.

But, if your main goal is fat loss, increasing daily metabolism, then stay tuned for Part 2!