You'll never see a fat sprinter! Let me explain:
Here's the scenario - I meet with a new client who says she wants to lose weight. "Vanessa" does kick boxing, Zumba, and spinning classes 5-6 days a week. She's on a popular low carb, high proten diet and loves the 3-4 protein shakes she has each day. She also does 1 or 2 "sculpting" classes with 2 lb. weights each week because she wants to strength train but not "bulk up." She just wants to "tone." Oh yeah... she also does an occassional 60 min."ab" class to get rid of the fat on her "lower abs."
Sounds like a plan, right? With all she does, why is she talking to me? She should be a walking anatomy chart! Well, Vanessa is talking to me because she has only lost about 2 lbs. in 8 weeks of "cardio madness." She is frustrated and ready to give up. She's killing herself with all this work with measureable reward. Unfortunately, Vanessa is not the exception. She is the norm!
All day long I see women engaged in different forms of exercise and killing themselves to lose weight. Too much cardio, not enough or too many calories and not enough effective strength training are keeping many women from achieving their goals. Vanessa's situation actually addresses 4 of the most common myths pertaining to weight-loss. But for the sake of space and time, I'll just focus on two - too much cardio and not enough calories.
Let me clarify - you need to do cardiovascular exercise, especially for heart health and many other benefits. But a balanced approach needs to be taken. It's all about basic exercise physiology. Here's a quick lesson:
Exercise is considered a STRESS by the body. This creates an adaptive response. For instance, If you participate in numerous 60 minute cardio classes for 5-6 days each week you will theoretically burn approximately 1,200 calories, give or take a few hundred. And since physiologists tell us that to burn a pound of fat, you need to burn about 3500 calories, you should be losing about 1/2 lb. to 2 lb. each week, depending of your lifestyle outside of exercise.
The truth is that you would be sending your body the message that it needs to hold on to fat as a survival response to the stress being placed on it, especially if you are not getting enough calories each day. Since muscle is not necessarily required for the body to survive, guess what your body will shed? Yep... precious, calorie burning MUSCLE! Muscle mass that it perceives it does not need to fulfill the present demand. Granted, you may also lose a little fat, but not nearly as much as you will muscle mass. This in turn means that you will have less muscle mass, which happens to be the body’s fat-burning engine. In addition, because of the demands of excessive cardio exercise, you will also be elevating cortisol levels, which further enhances fat gain while catabolizing muscle mass.
Wait... there's more: Recent research shows that perimenopausal women (ages 30-40) lose about 1 lb. of muscle a year becuase of the gradual shift in hormone levels. During menopause this can jump to about 2 lbs. a year. Combine this with some of the nutrient deficient starvation stategies many women try, the process is accelerated.
Here's something to think about - if you do nothing and stay on this "cardio trip" for the next 15-20 years, you'll wake up at 55-60 years of age with half as much muscle and twice as much fat on your body!
If this is you, please pay attention: It doesn't have to be this way. A simple fix can help you get where you want to be. Depending on how much of a "cardio junkie" you are will depend on how easy or difficult this journey will be.
Next week I'll get into more detail on how to FINALLY reach your weight loss goals. Oh... by the way - The reason will will never see a fat sprinter compared to a not so defined distance runner has to do with EXERCISE INTENSITY. This is the #1 determing factor in the success your exercise program. "Short & sweet" is the way to go. More on this next week.
Eat right and train smart!