By Dr Justin Marchegiani
What is the best type of exercise to lose weight and increase muscle for you? This is all dependent upon what your goals are, but if you’re the average person that wants to perform better, feel better and look good naked, than this post is for you!
Why do you exercise???
Hint: It should have nothing to do with burning calories!
One of the primary benefits of exercise is to stimulate the synthesis of healthy aging hormones. In case you didn’t know, hormones are chemical messengers in your body, that tell your body to burn fat, burn sugar or even put on muscle. The more you push your hormones in a direction of health, the leaner you are become and the more energy you have. This usually a results of higher levels of growth hormone, testosterone (if your man), favorable progesterone to estrogen ratio (if your a woman), and good levels of thyroid hormone.
Hormones are everything! it’s important to note that most long-distance aerobic exercise stimulates hormones that accelerate aging like cortisol. When cortisol is out of balance, it will stimulate muscle breakdown, which causes you to get fatter and flabbier… Not a good combination!
How much does diet affect how you look?
I always tell my patients, six-packs aren’t made in the gym, but instead carved out by your spoon. The extra bit of toning and definition you’re looking to get usually comes from a spot on diet consisting of low toxin, anti-inflammatory and nutrient dense food. Just like with exercise, it has a major effect on your hormones, But so does nutrition as well.
The food you eat also stimulates certain hormones. If you find yourself cutting calories, your thyroid hormones will start to drop. What you are doing is telling your body you’re going into a famine, so the body responds by ramping down your energy. The more energy you conserve, the better chance you have of surviving the famine. Does this make sense? your bodies hardwired for survival, but in today’s world we not only need to survive, but thrive!
Eating high quality fat and protein along with adequate calories stimulate thyroid hormone, growth hormone, healthy levels of testosterone, progesterone and estrogen. So remember you don’t eat or exercise to burn calories, you do it for your hormones. Your hormones are one of your best indicators of how you’re going to look, feel and perform!
If I had you hooked up to an IV of insulin all day long you would feel hungry, be too tired to exercise and be craving all kinds of bad food. This hormonal scenario is present in almost all people who are overweight. Most people don’t lack willpower, instead they are lacking a favorable hormonal profile predisposing them for health. When your hormones are balanced, the calories you consume energize you, causing you to be more inclined to exercise and burn fat for fuel throughout the day.
Exercise helps your brain!
Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is stimulated through even simple types of exercise like walking. This is a different health paradigm, as the typical motivation for movement usually are surrounding burning calories
- Helps protects you brain neurons. This can help decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia and other neuro-degenerative diseases.
- Decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Helps brain neurons development properly and survive longer.
- Improve memory (The pictures below show the extra stimulation in the hippo-campus after exercise, this area is strongly associated with memory).
From the book “The First 20 minutes.”
“The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk – all of those things come in in the first 20 minutes of being active.”
What type of exercise is best?
I always recommend spending the least amount of time to get the greatest reward in regards to achieving your health goals. When it comes to choosing the best exercise to lose weight and increase muscle; it’s not about working harder it’s about working smarter.
You don’t have to work out 4 to 6 hours a day like the people on the TV show “The Biggest Loser.” If you can sacrifice 10 the 20 minutes out of your day 3-4 days a week you are golden. Consistency is the most important aspects to anyone’s exercise routine.
Interval or Burst Anaerobic Training: Peak 8 is a popular exercise routine that requires 30 second all out burst, followed by a 90 second walking or resting period. Performing between 4-8 reps is best. At the most, you are only doing the burst routine for only 20 minutes including a warm up and a cool down.
Tabata training, is another type of interval training based off of the work of Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata, who conducted a study initially involving Olympic speed-skaters. The first group in the study involved performing a 20 second burst followed by a 10 second rest period for 8 repetitions 5x per week. The second group did a steady state aerobic exercise session over a 60 minute period 5x per week. The results were as follows.
In conclusion, this study showed that moderate-intensity aerobic training that improves the maximal aerobic power does not change anaerobic capacity and that adequate high-intensity intermittent training may improve both anaerobic and aerobic energy supplying systems significantly, probably through imposing intensive stimuli on both systems (1).
The group that only exercised for 4 minutes, improved their metabolism better overall, as compared to the group that exercised for 60 minutes.
This research was repeated again just last year Canadian researchers at Queen’s University. The summary of the study is below.
22 college-aged women did 4 workouts per week for 4 weeks in one of three
Group A: did 30 minutes of treadmill running at 85% max heart rate
Group B: did 8 rounds of 20 seconds of a single exercise (burpees, jumping
jacks, mountain climbers, or squat thrusts) with 10 seconds of rest between
Group C: did nothing (they were the non-training control group).
Both training groups increased their aerobic fitness levels by the SAME
amount (about 7-8%).
That’s right, the short workout finishers (of ONLY 4 minutes) worked just as
well as 30 minutes of cardio!
Shocking? Yes, but that’s not all.
ONLY Group B, the workout finishers style training, also increased muscular endurance in common exercises like chest presses, leg extensions, sit-ups, and push-ups.
Most importantly, this intense but brief training method used by Group B also resulted in greater overall workout enjoyment.
Please read that last line one more time, group B also had the highest level of enjoyment. This is important, when you combine a short duration of exercise follow by a greater level of enjoyment help improve exercise compliance. If you aren’t able to do the exercise, you won’t get it’s benefits! Who doesn’t have 4 minutes seriously?
The Canadian Scientists concluded that “extremely low volume body-weight interval-style training” will boost cardiovascular fitness just as well as cardio while giving you BETTER improvements in muscle endurance (2).
These type of exercise can be done sprinting, on a bicycle, treadmill, or even done using circuit training or plyometric type of exercises usually done in a gym. The most important thing is this paradigm of training can be applied to almost any type of exercise, and doesn’t exclude anyone. Anytime you increase enjoyment and decrease the commitment of exercise time, compliance always increases.
I am not a huge fan of long distance or steady state aerobic exercise done hours on end. This type of exercise actually causes your body to expend less calories, in essence slowing your metabolism down. Once you’re off your aerobic exercise routine, the weight starts piling back on. Your metabolism is dependent upon the constant aerobic exercise to prevent the weight from coming back. You essentially feel like you’re imprisoned and it’s only a matter of time before your back to square one. This is not a good long-term solution and takes up a lot of time too.
The benefit from some of the burst movements above come from the fact that they actually increases your metabolism. Not only is your aerobic metabolism increased but so is your anaerobic metabolism. With the shorter exercise time, you’re also decreasing your surges of cortisol, while the same time increasing your surges of growth hormone. Hormonal your body’s primed to burn fat for fuel, while adding nice lean muscle in less time.
Who doesn’t have four minutes to start getting healthy now?
1. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 Oct;28(10):1327-30. Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, Hirai Y, Ogita F, Miyachi M, Yamamoto K.
2. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2012 Dec;37(6):1124-31. doi: 10.1139/h2012-093. Epub 2012 Sep 20. Extremely low volume, whole-body aerobic-resistance training improves aerobic fitness and muscular endurance in females. McRae G, Payne A, Zelt JG, Scribbans TD, Jung ME, Little JP, Gurd BJ.