Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Quality vs. Quantity: for fat loss

Sometime things just get to me a bit. Today I was reviewing an article on nutritional basics and the idea of the article was to stop trying to complicate things. This was written by a ridiculously smart guy and he did a great job, but one thing got me.

Just like the article states, in order to lose weight you need a negative energy balance. Too true, without doubt.  

The energy balance spectrum. Image from

More calories burnt/used than calories eaten. Pretty simple. 

After that he layed out some strategies to create a negative energy balance. 
  • The first one eat less. Okay.
  • The second one: exercise more. True. 
  • Third: do both. Well, Tell me something I don't know. 
All of these are fine, and living an active lifestyle with ample exercise (some types obviously better than others) are great. Also, burning extra calories through the day and during exercise are going to help you lose fat.

Where I disagree is later when he layed out a plan for fat loss. Here if his clients are simply maintaining, not losing weight or gaining weight, then he'll advise them to increase their exercise time from 5 hours a week to 7 hours a week. 

This is where I go the other way. I can completely and whole heartedly agree with increasing the number of hours you spend being active in your daily lifestyle. By this I mean recreational type activities, playing with kids, going on a nice enjoyable walk or bike ride, just getting off your butt and having old fashion fun. As far as actually increasing the time that you are exercising whether it be at the gym or wherever I do not agree with that. 

So what should you do. 
  1. Get a more active lifestyle: Rock climbing, biking, rowing, boxing, exploring nature, underwater basket weaving, who cares. But this is going to help you a ton, even if it seems small. 
  2. Time exercising should not be looked at in terms of quantity (as it is here using hours). It should be looked at in terms of QUALITY. What are you doing while you workout and in what ways? What exercises are you doing, what intensity, volumes, rest times, and things of that nature. 
This is something that can make or break your success. 
Let's make a made up person. She is 5'6", has been sitting on the couch for six years and ballooned up to 300 from a healthy weight of 140. She's having all kinds of joint pain from lugging around all the extra weight so she begins to try and lose some fat. 

She starts eating better and begins walking one hour every day. That's 7 hours a week. In the first 3 months she drops 24 pounds (completely doable). She sees success so continues the same thing. In the next 3 months she only drops 16 pounds, and then she plateau's. 

Why? because her initial success was just the fact that she started doing something. It could've been anything and worked. But as she continued to get into better shape her body not only became more efficient so she was just plain and simple better at walking, but it also only had the one stimulus. On top of that, the type of training that she was doing would only work for someone in that situation. Hardly anyone is going to see good results doing this type of cardiovascular type exercise, but that is not the point of this blog. 

The point is, increasing the amount of hours that she walks is not going to lead to more fat loss and what's she suppose to start doing, get to the point where she's walking 3 hours a night? NO, it doesn't work that way and who has that much time. 

This is where QUALITY comes in. The quality of the workout and not the quantity. You want to lose alot of fat fast, you need to be burning tons of calories in short amounts of time in a very specific way in terms of the energy systems you want to be utilizing. 

In other words exercising smart for a short time is going to do much more for you than exercising for a ton of time.  

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