Why anaerobic interval training is the best training method for fat loss

February 12, 2010

 

Have you ever wondered what the best , most time efficient wat to lose fat is?

Have you been told totally different things about what is the best training method for fat loss?

Read this article from Ultrafit Magazine and it will hopefully clear this issue up for you.

Commonly, interval training has only been used as a time efficient way to increase anaerobic fitness or sport-specific power endurance in the final weeks before competition. However, new research on interval training has shown it to be a very efficient method of fat burning.

Consider some of the following on steady state aerobic training and fat loss:

  • A 1996 study showed that the addition of 5 x 45 minute sessions of aerobic training sessions per week for 12 weeks had no effect on fat loss.
  • A 2007 study showed that 5 x 50 minute of aerobic training per week for 6 months had no effect on fat loss.
  • A 2008 study showed that 3 x 40 minutes of aerobic exercise per week for 15 weeks actually resulted in a fat increase!

 And now consider the following about interval/anaerobic training and fat loss:

  • A 1994 study actually showed that interval training reduced body fat by nine times more than traditional cardio training, despite using few calories during the session and taking less time.
  • A 1999 study showed that the addition of a resistance training program to fat loss increased its effectiveness by 35% over diet and purely aerobic training.
  • The same study showed that 3 x 50 minute sessions of aerobic training for 12 weeks (36 sessions) increased fat loss by only 450g over diet alone.
  • The rise in metabolism after anaerobic training (Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption – EPOC) results in further calories being burnt for up to 38 hours after the finish of the session.

 

The indicators are clear: this type of information should go a long way in helping fitness professionals design and implement effective fat loss programs. It’s not the workout – it’s the effect of that workout on EPOC.

EPOC is defined scientifically as the “recovery of metabolic rate back to pre-exercise levels”. It can require several minutes for light exercise and several hours for hard intervals.

In layman’s terms it means you keep burning calories at an increased rate after a workout.

If you can imagine a big forest fire, you understand that it doesn’t just burn for an hour and then burn out – it gradually burns out so that over time there is no fire anymore. The peak of the fire may have been a long time ago but there are still flames being produced for a long time afterwards.

We call this the afterburn – metabolic disturbance – elevating EPOC to maximise calorie burn for the 23+ hours per day. Is there much of a real world effect of burning 300 calories per workout (e.g. aerobic work) if we don’t elevate EPOC??

If we could elevate EPOC even an apparently insignificant ¼ of a calorie per minute for the 38 hours that the study showed, then that 31 minute resistance workout would burn maybe 300 calories during the session plus the extra 570 calories over the next 38 hours. That becomes very significant.

In the past, fitness professionals and researchers have looked at how much fat is burned during the exercise session itself. This is extremely short sighted.

As American conditioning guru Alan Aragon said “Caring how much fat is burned during training makes as much sense as caring how much muscle is built during training.”

Think about that. If we looked at a weight training session that started at 9am and finished at 10am – how much muscle would we see built if we stopped at 10am? None.

In fact we’d see muscle damage. We could make the conclusion that weight training does not increase muscle – in fact it decreases muscle, right? It’s only when we look at the big picture – and look at the recovery from the session – that we find the reverse is true – weight training builds muscle.

Fat loss is the same way. Someone talking about the benefits of the “fat burning zones” or “fasted cardio” is a sure sign that the individual has stopped looking at the end of the exercise session. They have come to the conclusion that, lower intensity steady state exercise burns the most fat and made the massive leap of faith to suggest it’s the best for fat loss.

Using that same logic, these same people would suggest avoiding weight training if you want to grow muscle.

Take home message – focus on the afterburn, not just what happens during the exercise session

There is another, more subtle reason why intervals are superior to steady state training.

The body does the opposite.

If you don’t drink enough water your body will retain it. If you drink too much water your body will excrete it.

Article from Ultrafit Magazine

Issue 123 Jan/Feb 2010