Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nak Kurus pls....

Q) What's the best way to lose fat and get an ideal physique?

A) The best way to accomplish this is through a proper nutrition and training plan. Nutrition won't be covered in this thread(maybe in another thread), but training would include the following:

- Weight lifting compound free weights with short rest intervals

- High intensity interval training(HIIT)

Both these methods will be elaborated on later.

Q) But what about jogging for cardio? Isn't that the best way of losing weight?

A) No. In fact, it can be counter productive. You see, jogging is a form of steady state cardio exercise. What this means is that you keep a rather low speed that you're able to sustain for long periods of time. The premise of this exercise for weight loss is that you are able to run longer, hence burning more calories. However, there are problems with this.

- The more you run, the more efficient you become at running. As you get more efficient, your body will burn less calories. Imagine a car driving on a highway at 60km/h. It will achieve its highest fuel efficiency, meaning it will burn less fuel. The body acts the same way. This is great if your mission is to run a marathon, but bad if your mission is to burn calories and fat!

- The more you run, the more you waste your muscles. Muscle mass cannot be built or even maintained by running. In fact, running for long durations will actually bring your body into a catabolic state, meaning your muscles will start burning away. If your goal is to reduce your body fat percentage, then it would be in your best interest to keep as much muscle mass as you can, or even increase it. Running, or any other steady state aerobic exercise doesn't achieve this.

Q) OK, so if I don't run, what do I do for cardio?

A) High intensity interval training(HIIT), mentioned above. HIIT is a method of cardio work where you work at full intensity for a short burst, followed by resting for a slightly longer period of time. An example would be sprinting full speed for 30s on the track, then resting for 60s. Typically HIIT sessions are completed within 10mins. In unconditioned beginners, 1-2min might be all they can sustain.

Q) 10 mins? But I heard that you only start burning fat after 20mins

A) That is a myth that has been spread for years, and one that needs to be eliminated. At best, it is a half truth. You see, your body initially uses your glycogen stores to fuel the activity, and gradually shifts towards using fat stores as fuel. The ratio shifts more towards fats as you run more than 20mins. It doesn't mean that you're burning no fat before 20mins and all fat after. In any case, this ratio is not as important as people would like you to believe, because the overall calories and fat loss due to HIIT is more than what you would get if you just jogged more than 20min. Do you know when your body is burning the highest percentage of fats? When you're sleeping! That's right, but you don't expect anyone to tell you to sleep to lose fat anytime soon

Also, steady state cardio burns calories mostly during the activity itself. However, HIIT burns calories during the activity itself, as well as hours after the activity. Simply put, after an intense HIIT bout, you'd be burning more calories even while you're sleeping!

Q) Huh? HIIT burns calories after the session? How is this possible?

A) It is possible due to 2 factors - EPOC and hormonal response

EPOC - stands for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, aka the oxygen debt, or afterburn. What this means is that because of the added stress and trauma you've put your body through in an intense HIIT session, your body needs fuel to repair cells, decrease your body temperature, etc. All this takes energy...a lot of energy if your training was intensive.

Hormonal response - An intensive training session, including HIIT, triggers the release of many anabolic(muscle building) hormones, as well as others involved in fat loss. The hormonal response is perhaps the biggest contributor to fat loss.

Q) So HIIT is better than jogging/swimming/other steady state aerobic exercise?

A) For fat loss and conditioning, yes. Contrary to popular belief, the human species was never made to run long distances. Our early ancestors didn't chase their prey over long distances to catch them for food...they sprinted short distances and killed them with tools. A recent study actually found excessive aerobic exercise to be detrimental to cardiovascular health, effects of which include the downsizing of the heart. This could be the reason why we've seen so many triathletes and runners pass away before their time recently. In addition to cardiovascular health concerns, jogging is also notorious for being bad for the joints. I'm sure you've read or heard that every step you take while jogging puts many times your weight on the joints of your legs. Besides this, joggers are also known to have severe muscular imbalances due to the repetitive and concentrated nature of the activity. What this means is that some of their muscles are much weaker, or much less flexible than others. This can lead to compensation in movement patterns, leading to injury. Another point more pertaining to women - women in general are less suitable for jogging than their male counterparts, because of something called the "Q-angle". Simply put, the Q-angle is the angle of the thigh bone from the hip. Because women have wider hips and narrow knees, they also have larger Q-angles, making you more prone to knee and other joint injuries. In fact if you look at the elite runners, they all pretty much look like men as far as their Q-angle is concerned - they have narrow hips and smaller breasts. They are better suited for running. Most women aren't.

Q) Wow! That sounds like scary stuff! I guess I shouldn't jog at all!

A) Not necessarily. There's no need to avoid jogging/swimming/steady state aerobic exercise if you truly enjoy it. However, don't make it the core of your exercise regime. As long as you also train your body with HIIT, you can counter the negative cardiovascular effects that steady state exercise brings.

Q) OK, so how exactly do I perform this "HIIT"?

A) There are several protocols. You can do it sprinting on a track, on a stationary bike, sprinting up stairs or up a slope, with bodyweight exercises such as burpees, squats, lunges, etc. However, stay away from the treadmill and elliptical because the former can cause joint problems and the latter's arc is unnatural and awkward. For beginners, you generally want to start with a 1:4 work:rest ratio. What this means is that if you sprint for 30s, you rest for 2min. Depending on the difficulty of the activity(sprinting up stairs is harder than sprinting on a track for example), you should be working for about 15-40s, and then resting for 4x that. Experiment with the timings to suit your own physical fitness levels. Generally you want to time it such that you are feeling ok for 1-2 sets, even when you are doing it the fastest and hardest you can. The numbers of sets you do this again depends on your physical fitness level. A general guide is to do as many sets as you can before puking If this idea makes you cringe, another idea would be to perform as many sets as you can before performance drops considerably. For example if you managed to do about 15 burpees for each workset, stop the exercise once your performance drops to considerably to 10 burpees. This is just a rough guide...you have to work these figures out by experimenting.

Q) How often should I do HIIT?

A) Depends on what else you are doing, your sleep, your nutrition, and a host of other factors. If HIIT is all you are doing for exercise, you can do it everyday assuming you have good nutrition and rest. You see, HIIT is metabolically and neurally intensive. You need to provide your body with the necessary rest and nutrition in order for it to repair itself in time for the next bout. If not, you will feel lethargic, depressed, tired and generally unmotivated. For a beginner I would keep it to about 3X max a week, and less if you're involved in other physical activity.

Q) How long do I have to do HIIT before I lose xxx kg?

A) I can't tell you that because I don't know how much you weight, what's your body fat percentage, and what your goals are. I can however say this much - if you keep working at it, coupled with proper nutrition and rest, the fat will come melting off, and this will keep you motivated. Ideally you should be doing this for the rest of your life! It is not something you do for a few weeks, lose the kilos, then stop...it is a lifestyle change.

Q) I must keep doing it? But I have no time...

A) HIIT takes just 10minutes of your time AT MOST. It can take as short as 4-5mins if you adjust the parameters right. If you have time to read through this post, you have time to do HIIT. No excuses.
Q) I've been doing HIIT for 2min each time for a couple of weeks and I've lose a few inches here and there, and now HIIT seems easy. Is this normal?

A) Yes, because you're getting fitter! You need some form of progression. For HIIT there are many parameters you can tweak to progress

- increase number of sets: if you're doing 2 sets, increase this to 3.

- increase work:rest ratio: 1:4 is for beginners. You can keep working your way up until one day you might be fit enough to do 2:1 for several sets! One of the HIIT methods using this ratio is called the "Tabata method" that calls for work sets of 20s with a 10s rest, done 8X over 4minutes. Japanese researchers who discovered this method found it to improve both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, which is a very rare occurence. You can be assured that it's great for fat loss too!

- change the difficulty of the exercise: if you were sprinting on a track, try sprinting up a slope. If you were doing a normal burpee, try doing a burpee with a pushup and then a jump at the end. There are many ways to make the exercise more difficult. Use your imagination.

As you can see, there are several ways to progress, but none of these ways involve increasing the amount of time HIITing more than 10min. This saves time while giving superior results!

Q) When should I perform HIIT?

A) If you're doing only HIIT, any time. However, if you're also doing weight lifting(described later on), preferably at the end of the lifting session, because of 2 reasons

- Doing HIIT at the beginning would decrease your strength training's performance

- Doing HIIT at the end brings about a stronger hormonal response.

If you're doing HIIT at the end, make sure to keep the entire session(lifting included) within about 50min though. This will be explained later in the strength training section.

Q) What if I experience pain when doing HIIT?

A) If it's a joint pain, STOP immediately and identify where the pain is coming from, and is it an old injury, etc. This FAQ assumes you are a healthy individual with no injuries, so if you have an existing condition, please seek medical advice.

If it's a muscular pain, then no problem. Stretching will help. Be careful not to get cramps though as they are painful

So to a certain Ms Michael, may i say or shout out loud, 'UR METHOD ROCKS!!!!!!'

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