Okay, so last time I went into some detail about the changes I was making to my daily food intake. So far, I have lost 32 pounds(as of 5/10/09) following that nutrition program. However, eating has been only part of the equation. As I mentioned on the post “Things I have Learned”, nutrition is only half the battle. Exercise is a crucial part of an effective weight loss program. Not only does exercising burn calories, which really makes achieving a calorie deficit that much easier, but working out has immense health benefits and in some cases increases your body’s ability to burn calories by helping you build muscle mass(not body builder type muscle mass mind you but some).
Cardio vs. Strength
Cardiovascular training burns fat. All types of cardio are, by definition, aerobic which means they use oxygen. Without oxygen you can’t burn fat. Therefore the exercises you do that are aerobic, will maximize the amount of calories you burn during the workout. Jogging, Cycling, Rowing and the like are examples of cardio training. Strength(or resistance) training on the other hand, is anaerobic. It does not use oxygen. You increase your muscle strength and mass by breaking down muscle tissue when you lift. After you lift, when the muscle is at rest, it rebuilds bigger and stronger. Obviously you burn calories while doing this, but not as much as when doing cardio. Doing push-ups, pull ups, sit-ups, lifting weights, they are all examples of strength training.
So, that basically means that if you are looking to lose weight you should stick with cardio training and you’ll be set right? Well, not exactly. The process of burning fat(or any other fuel like sugar for example) is complex. The body needs the energy for breathing, circulation, digestion, tissue regeneration and brain function just to name a few. Some of these processes are more metabolically active than others. Meaning, they require more energy than others therefore they burn more fuel and hopefully fat. Building and retaining muscle mass is one of those things the body does that require lots of fuel. The more muscle you have, the more fuel it requires to remain there. Bodybuilders are an extreme example. When they train to build muscle, their diets can be as high as 4,000 and 5,000 calories a day yet their body fat stays below 8%. Believe me, at 5,000 calories, no matter how little fat you are consuming, if you are not exercising (and I mean REALLY exercising) your body will turn all that to fat. The reason why bodybuilders get away with it is because those huge muscles require so much energy to maintain that they burn fat just by standing there. They NEED the calories, otherwise they start to lose muscle tissue.
Although an extreme example, (however if you want to achieve that physique as a goal, by all means go for it) there is a lot we can learn from bodybuilders. They have taken fat burning to the most efficient form possible. Going back to the world of us mere overweight mortals, we can take some of that knowledge and apply it to our weight loss goals. The facts are right there: If you want your cardio workouts to give you the most efficient calorie burning possible, spend some time developing muscle. In other words, a combination of cardio and strength training is the most efficient exercise program to lose weight. Following this blueprint is a win-win situation. Not only will you burn more calories, but as you lose weight, you will begin to see a nice physique emerging from the fat.
What I’m doing
When I began losing weight, I started to take Tae Kwon Do lessons as my form of exercise. For those not familiar with this martial art, Tae Kwon Do means “The way of the hand and foot”. It has two very distinct parts: The self-defense aspect and the sport aspect. After being introduced as an exhibition sport in the Seoul Olympics in 1988, it has become extremely popular. It is full contact, meaning participants pull no punches and it can be pretty brutal. Think of a boxing match where instead of using the hands, you primarily use your feet. 3 rounds of TKD can be as grueling on the body as 12 rounds of boxing. The reason I take the time to explain this is to show that if the matches are that brutal, you can imagine what the workouts must be like. They are a combination of cardio, strength, and explosiveness training. It is an awsome workout that burns monster calories. Every time I finish a class, I end up drenched in sweat. It really gives your legs a great workout which is a plus since the biggest muscle group in your body is the thighs so, they are the muscles that burn the most fat.
The problem is that while TKD has been really effective, classes are only twice a week. This left me with 5 other days of doing nothing. For a time, I would go with my wife and daughter to a track near our home and walk for 30-45 minutes but we weren’t that motivated and soon we were skipping days and not going more times than we were going. We needed something we could stick with. Low and behold, out of all things, an infomercial gave us the answer. We were watching TV one morning and saw this infomercial about this workout DVD called Turbo Jam. Now, I’m the last guy to buy something off an infomercial but sometimes, you have to make a compromise. Turbo Jam is a set of videos that offer to give you a full body workout. It’s a combination of Kickboxing and dancing and other things. I wasn’t really thinking of “jazzercising” my way into fitness but the minute my wife saw it she was hooked. I was looking for a more straightforward(manly?) workout but in the end I caved because well, it was my wife after all and it was something we could do together. Watching the infomercial and looking up the information on the Internet, several things convinced me to buy it: First, it’s affordable. Compared to buying equipment or buying a gym membership for two, the videos were a steal. Second, convenience. You workout at home. You don’t have to go anywhere or worse, going to a gym full of people that look a thousand times better than you. Third, unlike other infomercials, this one made no promises of miracle cures or the like. You have to put in the work and do the workouts, which looked challenging, so I bought them.
Let me tell you, these videos are no walk in the park! The cardio routines are gonna make you sweat big time and the strength training video can be quite rigorous. Of course, no video, workout or exercise program is not gonna work unless you actually do it. We really took a close look at our schedule to see where we could fit the time to work out. We considered the evenings after I returned from work but thought that if the time caught us tired or unmotivated, we would look for excuses not to do it. Finally we struck a compromise: we would MAKE the time. We decided to wake up at 5:50am on weekdays to do the program. This was especially hard for me because of my sleep apnea so every second of rest counts. But in the end, we are doing this for better health so less sleep will result in better rest down the stretch. With these videos, I now work out every week day in the morning and do Tae Kwon Do every evening on Mondays and Wednesdays. Pretty grueling schedule but I like both workouts so I have been able to do both and stay very motivated. The secret of sticking to an exercise program is to like what you are doing and so far I certainly do.
Come back next time, when I give you a 30 day report and post new pictures to see if there is a difference so far.