Here is a recent Q&A session that I had the pleasure of having with author, coach and runner, Jason Karp, PhD regarding his upcoming book, Run Your Fat Off. I have also read Jason’s previous work, The Inner Runner, which was excellent.
1) Why is running the best method to lose weight?
Because running burns more calories than any other exercise, it is weight-bearing, and it demands a great need for energy production. It is also a very sustainable strategy because running becomes a part of a person’s life. It is not a short-term fix, like so many other diet programs.
2) What inspired you to write the book?
A couple of things: 1) I know how powerful running is as a calorie burner and long-term weight loss strategy and 2) I got sick and tired of all of the diet/weight loss propaganda by people who have little understanding of what they’re talking about. Most weight loss books are short-term fixes to a long-term problem and don’t tell people the truth about sustained weight loss.
3) What’s the secret to weight loss?
You have to read the book to find out, but to give you a hint, it is about calories consumed vs. calories burned more than any other factor, and the directing of the calories consumed into energy storage for future workouts rather than fat storage. The trick is learning how to become the director of your own calorie movie, telling those calories where to go and what to do.
4) Which is better for weight loss – long, slow cardio or short fast interval workouts?
It depends. It’s all about the calories, so it’s really a matter of math. 2 hours of long, slow running may burn more calories than 20 minutes of high-intensity running. You would have to calculate the total number of calories burned during the workout, which you can do by knowing a few numbers. I go through all the calculations in the book to answer the question.
5) But don’t high-intensity workouts cause you to burn more calories after the workout is over?
This is a big misunderstanding in the fitness industry. Although it is true that the longer and/or harder the workout, the more calories we burn afterward while our body recovers (because recovery is an aerobic, energy-using process), the number of extra calories burned is highly over-exaggerated by people in the fitness industry. It is the number of calories burned during the workout that matter more. The book discusses this myth, as well as many others.
Won’t leave home without your fitness tracker? If so, you’re part of a rapidly growing segment of consumers using technology to collect daily health metrics. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has announced its annual fitness trend forecast and, unsurprisingly, exercise pros say wearable technology will again be the top fitness trend in the coming year. The results were released in the article “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2017” published recently in the November/December issue of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®.
“Technology is now a must-have in our daily lives. Everyone can easily count steps taken or calories burned using a wearable device or a smart phone,” said Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, the lead author of the survey and associate dean in the College of Education & Human Development at Georgia State University in Atlanta. “The health data collected by wearable technology can be used to inform the user about their current fitness level and help them make healthier lifestyle choices.”
Now in its eleventh year, the survey was completed by more than 1,800 health and fitness professionals worldwide, many certified by ACSM, and was designed to reveal trends in various fitness environments. Forty-two potential trends were given as choices, and the top 20 were ranked and published by ACSM.
“Body weight training, high-intensity interval raining (HIIT) and educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals also remained highly ranked on the survey,” said Thompson. “These trends reflect continued strong consumer interest in strength training and functional fitness.”
The top 10 fitness trends for 2017 are:
1. Wearable Technology: includes activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices.
2. Body Weight Training: Body weight training uses minimal equipment making it more affordable. Not limited to just push-ups and pull-ups, this trend allows people to get “back to the basics” with fitness.
3. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT, which involves short bursts of activity followed by a short period of rest or recovery, these exercise programs are usually performed in less than 30 minutes.
4. Educated and Experienced Fitness Professionals. Given the large number of organizations offering health and fitness certifications, it’s important that consumers choose professionals certified through programs that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), such as those offered by ACSM. ACSM is one of the largest and most prestigious fitness-certification organizations in the world.
5. Strength Training. Strength training remains a central emphasis for many health clubs. Incorporating strength training is an essential part of a complete exercise program for all physical activity levels and genders. (The other essential components are aerobic exercise and flexibility.)
6. Group Training: Group exercise instructors teach, lead and motivate individuals though intentionally designed group exercise classes. Group programs are designed to be motivational and effective for people at different fitness levels, with instructors using leadership techniques that help individuals in their classes achieve fitness goals.
7. Exercise is Medicine. Exercise is Medicine is a global health initiative that is focused on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for patients and referring their patients to exercise professionals.
8. Yoga. Based on ancient tradition, yoga utilizes a series of specific bodily postures practiced for health and relaxation. This includes Power Yoga, Yogalates, Bikram, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kripalu, Anurara, Kundalini, Sivananda and others.
9. Personal Training. More and more students are majoring in kinesiology, which indicates that they are preparing themselves for careers in allied health fields such as personal training. Education, training and proper credentialing for personal trainers have become increasingly important to the health and fitness facilities that employ them.
10. Exercise and Weight Loss. In addition to nutrition, exercise is a key component of a proper weight loss program. Health and fitness professionals who provide weight loss programs are increasingly incorporating regular exercise and caloric restriction for better weight control in their clients.
According to WHO statistics, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight in 2014 and of these, more than 600 million were categorized as obese. The number of children, in 2013, under the age of 5 that were overweight or obese was 42 million. The good news, however, is obesity is preventable. In terms of a percentage, 38 percent were men and 40 percent were women. The worldwide prevalence of obesity has more than doubled over the past 34 years. But again, the good news is that obesity is preventable.
The goal for many is weight loss or changing their body composition, which means building more lean muscle tissue and reducing body fat. A long-term goal for men might be 80 percent lean muscle and 20 percent body fat, this would eventually shift towards 85 percent lean muscle and 15 percent body fat. For women, a long-term goal, with exercise and nutritional modification of course, might be 70 percent lean and 30 percent body fat. Eventually those numbers would shift towards 77 percent lean muscle and 23 percent body fat.
To reach your goals, you must regulate your exercise and diet. Here are a few steps to follow to help you reach your goals.
1. Remove the “empty” calories from you diet. This means do not drink your calories. The average American consumes between 400-550 calories a day from soda, sports drinks etc. You could lose a pound a week just by cutting back on this and yes, it means alcohol too. A study in the journal Obesity found that people who drink diet soda were more likely to have a higher percentage of body fat around their mid-section. Subjects who reported not drinking diet soda gained an average of 0.8 inches in their waist circumference over the 9-year period compared to 1.83 inches for occasional diet soda drinkers and more than 3 inches for people who drank diet soda every day, according to a new study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. An easy way to decrease your calories and break your diet soda routine is to simply drink more water. Your goal is to drink water first thing in the morning to help speed up your metabolism and then again with your meals. Try a glass of water with lemon in the evening after dinner.
2.Add strength training to your exercise routine. This is critical for both lean muscle development and maintenance. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat (it takes 3x more calories per pound to maintain) and requires a third less space on your body. Strength train 2-3x a week.
3. Decrease your added sugar. Are you aware of how much added sugar you’re eating on a daily basis? If you’re drinking 1-2 medium size Cokes or other soft drinks – you’re probably already over your limit….and we have not even looked at your meals/snacks yet. If you cut your added-sugar to less than 150 calories a day (38 grams) for men and 100 calories a day (25 grams) for women, you will experience weight loss.
4. Increase your NEAT, EPOC and TEF. Let’s first define these terms and keep in mind they are important. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT according to researcher James Levine, MD, PhD, is “the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting.”
Excess post oxygen consumption or EPOC (some call it “after-burn”) is defined by Len Kravitz, PhD, as the period of time when the “body is restoring itself to its pre-exercise state, and thus is consuming oxygen at an elevated rate. This means that energy is also being expended at an elevated rate.” This occurs at a higher rate as the intensity of exercise increases and is seen following both a cardio and strength session. A very challenging strength session or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is ideal for elevated EPOC which means your body continues to burn calories long after the bout of exercise is completed.
The thermic effect of food or TEF is defined by Reed and Hill as an “increase in metabolic rate after ingestion of a meal.” One of the many benefits of eating more good sources of lean protein as part of your diet is because protein has a higher thermic effect compared to carbohydrate and fat. Eating smaller meals more often – compared to a few big meals throughout the day – may also make better sense to you now. Your body utilizes 10 percent of its daily energy, in the form of calories, towards TEF. For example, if you consume 2,500 calories over the course of the day, about 10 percent, or about 250 calories, will be expended on digesting, absorbing, metabolizing and eliminating that food.
Hopefully these tips will help you reach your goals and if not you can always remember that individuals who let “creeping obesity” set in, eventually, have other issues to worry about such as:
High Blood Pressure
Various forms of Cancer
Increased Stress levels
Poor Quality of Life
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“High-intensity interval training (HIT) describes physical exercise that is characterized by brief, intermittent bursts of vigorous activity, interspersed by periods of rest or low-intensity exercise.”
There are probably more research studies currently in progress, involving various forms of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), than any other exercise-related topic being looked at today. A great deal of the HIIT research (also known as SIT, HIT, and HIIE) that has been published over the past decade by researchers like Martin Gibala, PhD, from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, continue to show amazing results when compared to traditional exercise. Gibala and colleagues offer their definition of HIIT above.
In a study by Matsuo and colleagues (2014), a group of sedentary men performed 13 minutes of high intensity interval training five times a week for 8-weeks. The (HIIT) group burned more calories per minutes on average than men who performed 40 minutes of traditional steady state cardio. During the study the HIIT group saw a 12.5% gain in maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max) using 27 less minutes of exercise. Tomoaki Matsuo, Ph.D, co-author of the study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, suggest doing three-minute HIIT stages with two-minute active recovery stages repeated for three rounds.
Research presented in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise shows that when test subjects exercised using high-intensity intervals, the total amount of calories their body expended during one-hour post workout was elevated up to 107 percent more than with low-intensity, short duration exercise, and 143 percent more than with low intensity, long duration exercise! That’s because interval exercise peaking at levels above a 70 percent maximum-intensity effort, speeds up metabolism for up to three hours after exercise – a benefit not found with low-intensity exercise.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology (1990) by Makrides et al., showed that 12-weeks of high-intensity training produced greater increases in total work accomplished in 30 seconds in old (60-70 year old, 12.5%) than young (20-30 year old, 8%) test subjects.
One study in the journal Metabolism compared 20-weeks of aerobic training with only 15-weeks of high intensity interval training (HIIT) in which participants did 15 sprints for 30-seconds and lost nine times more body fat than the aerobic and control groups. They also lost 12 percent more visceral belly fat than the aerobic group.
A study in the International Journal of Obesity compared the effect of 15-weeks of HIIT with aerobic exercise. The HIIT group resulted in significant decreases in overall fat mass (3.3 pounds) while the aerobic exercise group had a fat gain of 1 pound on average. The HIIT group also had a significant 9.5 percent decrease in belly fat, while the aerobic group increased their belly fat by 10.5 percent by the end of the study. A 2012 study at Colorado State University found that test subjects who worked out on a stationary bike for less than 25 minutes, with just a few sprints mixed in, expended an additional 200 calories a day, due to excess-post oxygen consumption (EPOC) or commonly known as the after-burn effect.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research by Falcone and colleagues, compared the energy expenditure of single exercise sessions using resistance, aerobic, and combined exercise involving the same duration. The test subjects were young, active men. All sessions were 30-minutes. The resistance training session used 75 percent of their 1-RM, the aerobic session, on a treadmill, used 70 percent maximum heart rate while a high-intensity interval session (HIIT) session was done on a hydraulic resistance system (HRS). The HRS workout used intervals of 20-seconds of maximum effort followed by 40-seconds of rest. The HIIT session using the HRS had the highest caloric expenditure of the three workouts. The data suggest that individuals can burn more calories performing HIIT with HRS than spending the same amount of time performing steady-state exercise.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology looked at moderately active women who in their early twenties. The subjects were tested for power output on a stationary bike to determine what their VO2max was and then made to ride for 60-minutes at 60% of VO2max intensity. These tests were then repeated again at the end of the study to gauge the effectiveness of HIIT for this particular subject group. This particular training protocol showed some of the following results: a lower heart rate in the last 30 minutes of the 60-minute session, whole body fat oxidation increased significantly by 36 percent in only two-weeks using just 7 workout sessions.
A final study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism (2012), observed healthy but inactive people who exercised intensely. The research concluded even if the exercise was brief, it produced an immediate change in their DNA. “While the underlying genetic code in the muscle remains unchanged, exercise causes important structural and chemical changes to the DNA molecules within the muscles.”
As the HIIT research continues to demonstrate, it would be advantageous to supplement your current exercise routine with at least one HIIT session each week to maximize your training results. HIIT continues to show significant results when looking at total caloric expenditure, gains in VO2max, and elevated post oxygen consumption (EPOC).
Matsuo T, Saotome K, Seino S, Shimojo N, Matsushita A, Iemitsu M, Ohshima H, Tanaka K, Mukai C. (2014). Effects of a low-volume aerobic-type interval exercise on VO2max and cardiac mass. Sports Exerc. 46(1):42-50. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182a38da8
Falcone PH, Tai CY, Carson LR, Joy JM, Mosman MM, McCann TR, Crona KP, Kim MP, Moon JR (2015). Caloric expenditure of aerobic, resistance, or combined high-intensity interval training using a hydraulic resistance system in healthy men. Strength Cond Res. 29(3):779-85. doi: 10.1519/JSC.000000000000066
Makrides L. Heigenhauser GJ. Jones NL (1990). High-intensity endurance training in 20- to 30- and 60- to 70-yr-old healthy men. Journal of Applied Physiology. 69(5):1792-8.
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Previous research has shown that high intensity interval training (HIIT) improves aerobic and anaerobic capacity, lean muscle level, glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity in addition to other health/fitness markers.
Researchers from the Division of Sport and Exercise Science at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland and Leeds Trinity University in Leeds, UK demonstrated for the first time that HIIT needs to be “performed only twice a week to see major improvements in aerobic capacity, functional capacity and metabolic health in a middle-aged population.”
During middle age (defined as 35 to 58 years old), adults typically see an 8 percent drop in both VO2 max (aerobic capacity) and insulin sensitivity per decade. This study showed just 16 sessions of HIIT over an eight week period, with one or two days of rest between each sprint, offset these and other changes seen with aging. The participants in this study experienced a significant increase in VO2max of 8 percent (see Figure 1). Each training session consisted of 10 repeated 6-second all-out cycling efforts against 7.5% of body weight for males and 6.5% for females (on a Monark peak bike Model 894E).
Short duration HIIT continues to show impressive results in health and physical function compared to traditional, long duration, steady state exercise that most people continue to do. Adding in 1-2 days/week of HIIT would seem warranted as a result of this and other well-documented HIIT research.
Fitness fads come and go, but the resurgence of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) might be here to stay.
HIIT uses a combination of quick intervals of intense exercise and short recovery periods to increase your heart rate, burn fat and work muscles in a short amount of time. In fact, HIIT is becoming the go-to training method for many professional fitness instructors. The allure lies in the ability to complete an entire workout in less than 20 minutes and burn fat. In fact, this type of training burns more fat than a regular 45 minute cardio session since it keeps your heart rate up and gives your metabolic rate a boost.
Mike Volkin, creator of HIIT the Game, now on Kickstarter states “HIIT is just fun, it’s a fun way to mix up any routine and it can be done by just about anyone, and anywhere.”
A study performed at Laval University in Canada used two groups of participants. One group followed a 15-week program using HIIT while the other group performed only steady-state cardio for 20 weeks. The steady-state cardio group actually burned 15,000 calories more than the HIIT group. But, the HIIT group lost significantly more body fat. There are many scientific studies with similar results.
Aside from being quick and very effective at both burning fat and increasing metabolism, HIIT is appealing to many because no equipment is required. This training method uses bodyweight exercises so a workout can be done anywhere from a gym to a living room.
Another great aspect of high intensity interval training is variety. Everyone has complained that their workout routine gets boring and stale after a while, but with HIIT it doesn’t have to be that way. You can change things up and try something new every week if you want. Variety not only maintains enthusiasm during training but it will benefit the body immensely through a process called muscle confusion. Targeting a wide array of muscle groups and performing different exercises regularly is going produce results fast.
Lastly, even though HIIT workouts are short, usually 20 minutes, they actually improve endurance. HIIT works, if you’re skeptical, give it a try for a week and see how you feel, at the very least, it is a great plateau breaker of your current routine.
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A paper published by Gillen and Gibala tested the hypothesis that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be used as a time-efficient strategy to improve health and fitness. Their paper was basically a literature review of HIIT research studies that used 2, 6, 12-15 weeks of low-volume HIIT. They state that results of these types of studies show promising results but more research is still warranted.
“While the findings from these small pilot projects are intriguing, large-scale investigations with appropriate participant screening and monitoring are clearly warranted, including randomized clinical trials to directly compare low-volume HIIT versus traditional endurance training in a comprehensive manner, especially in those with, or at risk for, cardiometabolic disorders.”
Research has consistently demonstrated the positive use of HIIT to improve among other things, aerobic capacity, insulin sensitivity, muscle oxidative capacity, and exercise tolerance with as little as one to three sessions a week. Exercise sessions, typically, involve <10 minutes of hard “all-out” exercise followed by brief recovery periods coupled with a warm-up and cool-down that equates to, typically, <30 minute sessions.
Most governing bodies, like the CDC, WHO and Surgeon General, publish content stipulating 150-minutes of moderate-intensity (or 75-minutes of vigorous) exercise is needed to keep disease at bay. Is it time to alter some of these findings due to the abundance of HIIT research that has been published over the last four decades? There is now evidence that HIIT is as effective as traditional, longer duration, steady-state type exercise.
With the number one reported reason for not exercising typically being – “lack of time” – maybe <150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise guidelines should soon be cut in half?; possibly getting more individuals to start/continue with an exercise routine using, at times, HIIT.
By understanding your body type, you can customize a workout program to be more effective than an “out of the box” workout program. Customizing a workout program based on your body type is surprisingly easy. Before you start developing a workout program you have to identify your body type (also called somatotype). There are three basics somatotypes; mesomorph, ectomorph, and endomorph. A mesomorphic body is ideal. They are the individuals who are athletic with a strong frame that can easily gain muscle while remaining quite lean. Ectomorphs are those with thin delicate frames that have a hard time gaining weight, have a fast metabolism and very lean muscle definition. Lastly, endomorphs are the heavier individuals that have a round shape who find it difficult to burn fat but can gain muscle mass easily.
If you are a mesomorph, lucky you! Since you can gain muscle mass fast your program has to include cardiovascular exercise to keep your body lean. Twenty five to thirty minutes of cardio 3 times a week is recommended. As for training, stay within 8-12 reps for each set with a 1 minute rest in between. Make sure to include a variety of exercises to continue to challenge your body, maintain muscle and improve strength as well as endurance.
Ectomorphs have to customize their fitness program to work against their natural thinness. To do so select short and intense exercises that target major muscle groups like the biceps, triceps, abdominals and hamstrings. This type of workout will help with muscle development. When doing any sort of weight or resistance training, train heavier and keep your repetitions within the 5-10 range. As for cardio, keep it to a minimum since burning fat is not needed. As for rest periods, 2 minute rests between sets are suggested. Since you will be doing more intense exercise you need additional time to recover.
Endomorphs on the other hand have to embrace cardio in order to burn fat and maintain a good body fat percentage. Do cardio as much as you can and be sure to change it up. Try swimming, running, HIIT, cycling and any other form of cardiovascular exercise that interests you. Aside from that you do need weight and resistance training. It is highly recommended that you do compound lifts and stick with 8-15 repetitions per set with 30 second of rest. Challenging major muscle groups will speed up your metabolism to help keep the excess body fat off.
The buzzword in the fitness industry this past year was definitely high-intensity interval training, also referred to as HIIT. HIIT reached the number one spot in the 2014 survey for exercise trends published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). According to one source, HIIT will end up at the number two spot for 2015 on that same ACSM list, replaced by body weight exercise as the new exercise trend. HIIT however is not a new to the spotlight, it has been around for more than a century. Some of the greatest runners in the world have used various forms of HIIT as part of their training. As early as 1912, the Finnish Olympic long-distance runner Hannes Kolehmainen was using interval training in his workouts (Billat 2001). Research has demonstrated that HIIT:
• Improves the performance of competitive athletes.
• Improves health outcomes for recreational exercisers.
• Provides the same benefits of endurance training but with fewer workouts covering less time.
One thing you can bank on, HIIT gets results, when done correctly. HIIT is one of the most effective means of improving cardiorespiratory and metabolic function in both athletes and recreational exercisers. HIIT involves repeated short-to-long bouts of high-intensity exercise (90-100% VO2max) interspersed with recovery periods. The term HIIT can be used to
describe protocols in which the training stimulus is near maximal effort or the target intensity is between 80 and 100% of maximal heart rate. HIIT typically involves repeated short bouts of exercise (<45 seconds) to long bouts (2-4 minutes) of high-intensity exercise interspersed with recovery periods. Traditional high volume aerobic exercise training has been shown to reduce cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk but involves a significant investment of time. Extremely low volume HIIT has been shown to produce improvements to aerobic function.
Humpreys and Holman credit the famous German coach Woldemar Gerschler, as the person who formalized a structured system of interval training back in the 1930’s. Exercise Physiologists Fox and Matthews have identified the following five variables that need to be adjusted individually for each athlete during a HIIT session:
-Rate and distance of the work interval.
-Number of repetitions and sets during each training session.
-Duration of the rest, recovery or relief interval.
-Type of activity during the rest interval.
-Frequency of training per week.
The following list includes just a few of the many research studies that have been published looking at various health and fitness benefits of HIIT.
A 2011 study presented at the ACSM annual meeting showed 2 weeks of HIIT improved aerobic capacity as much as 6-8 weeks of traditional endurance training.
A 2006 study found after doing 8 weeks if HIIT subjects could bike twice as long when they started the study while maintaining the same pace.
Researchers from Canada’s McMaster University looked at the effects of interval exercise on VO2max. Training was performed on a stationary cycle ergometer for three days each week. The program began with four intervals lasting 30 seconds each, separated by a 4-minute rest period. By the seventh week the number of intervals had increased to ten, while the rest intervals were gradually reduced to 2.5 min. VO2max increased by 9%, demonstrating that significant gains in VO2max could be achieved from exercise of a relatively short duration.
A group of researchers from Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sport found a high-intensity intermittent training program achieved bigger gains in VO2max than a program of steady cycling. Active male subjects were assigned to one of two groups, each training 5 days per week for 6 weeks. One group followed a training program involving 60-minutes of moderate intensity exercise (@70% VO2max), totaling 5 hours per week. The average improvement in VO2max in this group was 9%. Training sessions involving the other group consisted of eight all-out work bouts, each lasting 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest (Tabata et al., 1997). This group cycled for a total of only 20 minutes per week, but their VO2max still improved significantly by 15%.
A study from the University of New South Wales in Australia, found women lost an average of 10.5% of their fat mass after just 15-weeks on a 3x/wk program using 20 minute workouts consisting of 8 second sprints (on a stationary bike) followed by 12 seconds of passive recovery = 60 total sprints. Subjects in a control group lost considerably less fat doing traditional endurance exercise despite spending roughly 400% more time pedaling.
Billat, L.V (2001). Interval training for performance: A scientific and empirical practice. Special recommendations for middle-and long-distance running. Part I: aerobic interval training. Sports Medicine, 31(1): 13-31.