The New Science of Fat Loss and New Rules of Cardio

This is what we do everyday at the MaxOut Class and we do it because it works! Enjoy:

The New Science of Fat Loss

May 11th, 2010

Excerpted from Mens Health
By Adam Campbell

The Great Aerobic Hoax

For decades, we’ve been told that the best activity for burning calories and fat is aerobic exercise. In fact, you can practically pinpoint the year this idea started to take hold: 1977. That’s when Jim Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running was published. This bestseller popularized the notion of running to improve health and lose weight, and it’s widely credited with kicking off the jogging boom of the 1980s. Hundreds of studies since then have reported that aerobic exercise offers many benefits, from improving markers of heart-disease risk to coping with mental stress to enhancing cognitive function. That’s all good. But if you’re looking to shed fat, the newest weight-loss research will tell you to look elsewhere for your exercise routine. “It’s sort of like a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D., an exercise and nutrition scientist at the University of Connecticut. “Any type of exercise burns calories. So if you’re told that running is ideal and you start dropping pounds once you take it up, then you have no reason to believe otherwise.”

But Volek’s research gives him good reason to doubt the conventional wisdom about the superiority of aerobic exercise for fat loss. In one study, Volek and his team put overweight people on a reduced-calorie diet and divided them into three groups. One group didn’t exercise, another performed aerobic exercise 3 days a week, and a third did both aerobic exercise and weight training 3 days a week.

The results: Each group lost nearly the same amount of weight—about 21 pounds per person in 12 weeks. But the lifters shed 5 more pounds of fat than those who didn’t pump iron. The weight they lost was almost pure fat, while the other two groups shed 15 pounds of lard, but also gave up 5-plus pounds of muscle. “Think about that,” says Volek. “For the same amount of exercise time, with diets being equal, the participants who lifted lost almost 40 percent more fat.”

This isn’t a one-time finding, either. Research on low-calorie dieters who don’t lift shows that, on average, 75 percent of their weight loss is from fat and 25 percent of it is muscle. That 25 percent may reduce your scale weight, but it doesn’t do a lot for your reflection in the mirror. (Can you say “skinny-fat”?) However, if you weight-train as you diet, you protect your hard-earned muscle and burn extra fat instead.

Picture it in terms of liposuction: The whole point is simply to remove unattractive flab, right? That’s exactly what you should demand from your workouts.

The New Science of Calorie Burning

There’s one argument for aerobic exercise that’s always been rock solid. It’s well documented that an activity like moderate jogging burns more calories than weight training, an activity that’s highly anaerobic. In fact, if you go by the numbers you find that even golfing beats out a light circuit workout. But recent research shows a new perspective.

When Christopher Scott, PhD., an exercise physiologist at the University of Southern Maine, began using an advanced method to estimate energy expenditure during exercise, his data indicated that weight training burns more calories than originally thought—up to 71 percent more. Based on these findings, it’s estimated that performing just one circuit of eight exercises—which takes about 8 minutes— can expend 159 to 231 calories. That’s about the same as running at a 6-minute-mile pace for the same duration.

“Exercise physiologists often use the techniques for estimating the energy expenditure of walking and jogging and apply them to weightlifting,” says Scott. “But clearly, aerobic and anaerobic activities differ, and so too should the way we estimate their energy expenditures.” Scott’s revelation is most certainly a relief to gym rats everywhere, who no doubt wondered why an intense, energy- sapping weight workout supposedly burned so few calories.

Real-world Results

The unfortunate reality is that science is slow. “If we waited around for studies to tell us what works best for fat loss, we’d go out of business,” says Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., who co- owns Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California, with her husband, Alwyn. Over the past 10 years, the Cosgroves have risen to the top of the fitness industry because of their clients’ successes. From the beginning, their programs were scientifically based. “Starting out, we knew that weight training was necessary to avoid muscle loss, and that it appears to boost your metabolism for hours after you work out,” Cosgrove says. “We also knew that according to studies, higher-intensity exercises such as interval training and weight training resulted in greater fat loss than lower-intensity exercise did.”

But from there, the Cosgroves started their own experiments. “As time went by, we began to drop aerobic exercise from our fat-loss programs altogether. And guess what? Our clients achieved even faster results,” says Cosgrove. Keep in mind that the Cosgroves’ clients aren’t like Biggest Loser contestants. In other words, they don’t have 4 to 6 hours a day to work out. “Our average client has to be in and out of the gym in 45 to 60 minutes and has only 2 to 4 days a week to exercise,” she says. “We design workouts to optimize that time.” That’s why the Cosgroves rely on what they call “metabolic circuits.” These are fast-paced weight-training routines in which you alternate between upper- and lower-body exercises. You might compare this type of activity to running repeated bouts of 30- to 60-second sprints. While sprinting has been shown to burn calories at a high rate, it can’t be sustained for long because the muscles in your lower body become fatigued—and that’s even if you’re resting between sprints. “But with metabolic circuits, you’re emphasizing different muscles in each exercise,” says Cosgrove. “So you can maintain a high- intensity effort for a much longer duration, and with almost no rest.” The result: the muscle-saving, calorie-burning benefits of intense resistance training and sprints, combined with the nonstop movement of long, steady-state aerobic exercise.

It could be the greatest fat-loss workout known to man.

Of course, if you try to find evidence of this workout’s effectiveness in the scientific journals, you’ll be disappointed: No one has studied it yet. But researchers like Volek and Scott are beginning to put the pieces together. Just as important, trainers like the Cosgroves are already using this kind of routine to help their real-world clients achieve faster results than ever.

(A full version of this article was previously published in Mens Health magazine and at

New Rules of Cardio?

May 4th, 2010

Cardiovascular programming is an ass backward concept.

I don’t know when I first thought this – but it was confirmed to me when viewing Lance Armstrong’s performance in the New York Marathon.

I’d been taught through my college education and countless training certifications and seminars that cardio vascular exercise was necessary to improve the cardio vascular system and subsequently aerobic performance.

But there seemed an inherent flaw in that argument….

Let’s say I tested your aerobic fitness through a treadmill test.

Then – for sixteen weeks – we developed a five-day per week aerobic training program that involved you running at various heart rates and for various lengths of times – progressively increasing in difficulty and duration – and this resulted in a very significant improvement in your aerobic fitness.

At the end of this sixteen week period, how much do you expect your swimming times to have improved? Marginally, if at all.

Seems dumb to ask right? However – if we have one cardiovascular system – why doesn’t your cardiovascular system improve across the board regardless of the activity?

Why didn’t Lance Armstrong – with perhaps the highest recorded VO2 max in history – win the New York Marathon? Or beat people with lesser aerobic levels than himself?

The greatest endurance cyclist (and possibly endurance athlete) of all time – the seven time Tour De France winner – finished 868th and described the event as the “hardest physical thing” he had ever done.

Runners World Magazine actually examined Lance’s physiology (and VO2 max which was tested at 83) and compared them to the numbers of Paul Tergat (the World Record holder and defending NYC Marathon Champion at the time).

They concluded:

” This figure wouldn’t mean much if it weren’t for the pioneering research of famed running coach Jack Daniels, Ph.D., who first published his Oxygen Power tables in 1979– According to Daniels, who’s rarely off by more than a smidgen or two, a max VO2 of 83 is roughly equivalent to a 2:06 marathon”

Based on his other physical qualities the magazine suggested that Lance was capable of running 2:01:11.

The world record at the time was 2:04:55

Lance ran 2:59:36 (and don’t misinterpet me – that’s still a great time). But it’s clear that the physiology didn’t transfer the way even the running community expected.

The flaw in this thinking was looking solely at aerobic capacity — VO2 max – the “engine” as it were. And it’s fair to say that Lance had a “Formula One” engine.

But he didn’t have the structural development for running. Lance was a cyclist – his body had adapted to the demands of cycling. But NOT to the specific demands of running (in fact Lance had only ran 16 miles at once EVER prior to running the marathon). Lance had developed strength, postural endurance and flexibility in the correct “cycling muscles” – but it didn’t transfer to running the way his VO2 max did.

The muscles don’t move because of cardiovascular demand. It’s the reverse. The cardio system is elevated because of muscular demand. We need to program the body based on the movements it’s going to perform – not based on the cardiovascular system.

Basically, if that muscular system cannot handle the stress of thousands of repetitions (which is what running, cycling etc is) then we have to condition that muscular system first. And by doing so, we automatically improve cardiovascular conditioning.

The only reason that there is any demand on the cardiovascular system is because the muscular system places that demand – the muscles require oxygen in order to continue to work. In fact cardiovascular exercise is impossible without moving the muscle first.

I’ve seen this across various sports. The cardio conditioning required to run a 10K won’t transfer to motocross or jiu-jitsu.

Conclusion – If cardio training doesn’t transfer well from one activity to another – and it only ‘kicks’ in because of muscular demand – why don’t we program muscular activity first – in order to create a cardiovascular response.



About MaxOut Performance Fitness
Sergio Maldonado is a Sports Performance and Fitness Coach in the San Francisco Bay Area. He strives to be the best at what he does through training, professional development courses, and practice. The purpose of this blog is to get out some of the knowledge that he obtains to better help others in their pursuits towards fitness and a better life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: