Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lean On Me

Do you suppose it's a coincidence that I generally publish research that agrees with me? I'm sure every resource I draw on has some distance runner flapping reams of contrary data in opposition. They'll have a counter argument - a long, slow, muscle-wasting diatribe I'm sure. But again I say, there's nothing wrong with endurance athletics as long as it's done for the right reasons. I assume to atone for unspeakable sin.

In that vain, Alwyn Cosgrove recently wrote an article for Testosterone called The Hierarchy of Fat Loss which sounded as titillating to me as Cosmopolitan's Every-Issue tease that in this issue - THIS VERY ISSUE - the secret to getting your abundant backside into a size zero is revealed. I think I read that article every month while I was in high school and every month my 'abundance' remained to startle me whenever I saw my profile in shadow. It continues to sneak up on me from time to time when I'm not looking.

Alas, I figured, it was Alwyn Cosgrove - with whom I often agree - and I had nothing else to do since I already read my freakishly accurate Horoscope in the Seattle Weekly so I gave the article a quick once over. This stuff wasn't new but then few things I read that are spot-on are.

I've described my job before - at least from the angle of nutrition - as a responsibility to say the same thing every day, without fail and from new and fresh angles in the hopes that one day it lands in the ear like the voice of God with profound prophecy. Try saying, "Hey, why not try eating less . . ." with cheerleader enthusiasm for the umpteenth time (I wanted to say that because it puzzles me that there's an elusive number called 'ump' and all I know about it is that it's very large even before I 'teenth' it).

It would seem tedious that everyone is still talking about 'leaning out' and even slightly incongruent in a world where muffin-tops are almost a fashion accessory. They must be all the rage if designer labels cut jeans in a way that seems to spotlight them in all their bulbous glory. While one group pays obscene 3-digit price tags for clothes that puts body fat on center stage, another pays an equally obscene price on fat-burning supplements that, if their lucky, won't cause organ failure.

Cosgrove had me hooked from the opening line though. "There's pretty much nothing that can be done to out-train a crappy diet." My heart's aflutter.

Caloric Deficit - Now There's a New One

You quite simply have to create a caloric deficit while eating enough protein and essential fats. There's no way around this. Yep. It really is that important. Several trainers have espoused that the only difference between training for muscle gain and training for fat loss is your diet. I think that's a massive oversimplification, but it does reinforce how important and effective correct nutrition is toward your ultimate goal."

Simple, huh? Maybe to you this sounds like the 'new and fresh angle' I was talking about or it counts in the running tally of days-in-a-row I've said this. He then outlines three other key points. All of them might have been mentioned by me before though perhaps without resonating like the words of the Divine.

Resting Metabolic Rate

"I think it's fairly obvious that the bulk of calories burned are determined by our resting metabolic rate or RMR. The amount of calories burned outside of our resting metabolism (through exercise, thermic effect of feeding, etc.) is a smaller contributor to overall calories burned per day. We can also accept that RMR is largely a function of how much muscle you have on your body — and how hard it works. Therefore, adding activities that promote or maintain muscle mass will make that muscle mass work harder and elevate the metabolic rate. This will become our number one training priority when developing fat loss programs."

In other words, not long-duration cardio which doesn't promote lean mass, it depletes it thus putting the burden of caloric deficit on the duration of the workout itself. Which, if you have a couple of hours a day to invest, no worries, but if it turns out you have other things to do . . . . . .

Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption

"The next level of fat loss programming would be a similar activity. We're still looking at activities that eat up calories and increase EPOC. EPOC (Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption) is defined scientifically as the "recovery of metabolic rate back to pre-exercise levels" and "can require several minutes for light exercise and several hours for hard intervals."
Essentially, we're looking for activities that keep us burning more calories after the exercise session."

"Light Exercise" includes long duration cardio. Though the cumulative fatigue of long slow duration makes the work seem anything but 'light', the fact that percentage of VO2 Max during exertion is usually around 60% makes this kind of work 'light' by a more classic definition. Remember, anything you do for two hours straight appears excruciating - I find sitting that long just as trying. If you compare the 600 give-or-take calories burned in an hour of jogging and put it next to the 600 calories in 20 minutes of sprint intervals - the sprints are the gift that keep on giving while the jog is just a flat 600 calorie burn.

Expenditure During Exertion

"This is the "icing on the cake" — adding in activities that'll burn up additional calories but don't necessarily contribute to increasing metabolism. This is the least effective tool in your arsenal as it doesn't burn much outside of the primary exercise session.
Let's put this fat loss continuum together in terms of our progressive training hierarchy."

The Research

Basically we're using resistance training as the cornerstone of our fat loss programming. Our goal is to work every muscle group hard, frequently, and with an intensity that creates a massive "metabolic disturbance" or "afterburn" that leaves the metabolism elevated for several hours post-workout.

Wikipedia might have that definition for 'CrossFit.'

A couple of studies to support this:
Schuenke MD, Mikat RP, McBride JM.
Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management.Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002 Mar;86(5):411-7. Epub 2002 Jan 29.

This study used a circuit training protocol of 12 sets in 31 minutes. EPOC was elevated significantly for 38 hours post-workout.

Thirty-eight hours is a pretty significant timeframe for metabolism to be elevated. If you trained at 9AM until 10AM on Monday morning, you're still burning more calories (without training) at midnight on Tuesday.

Can we compound this with additional training within that 38 hours? No research has been done, but I have enough case studies to believe that you can.

If the numbers above were about money, this would be the fodder for a midnight infomercial.

Kramer, Volek et al.
Influence of exercise training on physiological and performance changes with weight loss in men.
Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 31, No. 9, pp. 1320-1329, 1999.

Overweight subjects were assigned to three groups: diet-only, diet plus aerobics, diet plus aerobics plus weights. The diet group lost 14.6 pounds of fat in 12 weeks. The aerobic group lost only one more pound (15.6 pounds) than the diet group (training was three times a week starting at 30 minutes and progressing to 50 minutes over the 12 weeks).

The weight training group lost 21.1 pounds of fat (44% and 35% more than diet and aerobic only groups respectively). Basically, the addition of aerobic training didn't result in any real world significant fat loss over dieting alone.

Thirty-six sessions of up to 50 minutes is a lot of work for one additional pound of fat loss. However, the addition of resistance training greatly accelerated fat loss results.
One more:

Bryner RW, Ullrich IH, Sauers J, Donley D, Hornsby G, Kolar M, Yeater R.

Effects of resistance vs. aerobic training combined with an 800 calorie liquid diet on lean body mass and resting metabolic rate.J Am Coll Nutr. 1999 Apr;18(2):115-21.

The aerobic group performed four hours of aerobics per week. The resistance training group performed 2-4 sets of 8-15 reps, 10 exercises, three times per week.

V02 max increased equally in both groups. Both groups lost weight. The resistance training group lost significantly more fat and didn't lose any LBM, even at only 800 calories per day. (The reason the calories were so low was to really take any dietary variables completely out of the equation and compare the effects of the exercise regime on LBM and metabolism.)
The resistance training group actually increased metabolism compared to the aerobic group, which decreased metabolism. It seems that resistance training is a more significant stress to the body than a starvation diet.