Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Alwyn Cosgrove on the Hierarchy of FAT LOSS

This following Q and A is taken from Strength Coach Alwyn Cosgrove's blog
This just makes sense and I must agree with Alwyn on these key principles in the fat loss puzzle!

Q: You mention the Hierarchy of Fat Loss a lot but haven't really explained it. What do you mean by the Hierarchy?
A: The highlighted text is a "link" to a full article where I describe exactly what it means. I am guessing you have never clicked through right?

Essentially the Hierarchy of Fat Loss (note the link) is based on the idea that in a time challenged society there are certain activities and behaviors that will result in better or faster results than other activities.

My hierarchy for fat loss is therefore:

1. Correct Nutrition

There's pretty much nothing that can be done to out-train a crappy diet. You quite simply have to create a caloric deficit while eating enough protein and essential fats. There's no way around this. The fact is - you can get lean without doing any exercise at all -- so diet remains the single biggest difference maker.

2. See #1

Yep. It really is that important. Not eating a Big Mac with a large fries and a large soda saves you about 1400 calories and takes zero seconds. Eating them and then trying to burn off the calories will require 2+ hours of pretty hard work....

Diet is #1 and #2....By comparison - training only begins at number 3 on the list....

3. Activities that burn calories, maintain/promote muscle mass, and elevate metabolism

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. The biggest chunk is your RMR.

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 over time- elevate the metabolic rate. This will become our number one training priority when developing fat loss programs. There are studies showing RMR to be elevated after 12 weeks of only 800 calories when resistance training is performed. Other studies show an acute effect of increased metabolism for 38 hours post workout.

So if you only have time to do one activity - make it resistance training.

4. Activities that burn calories and elevate metabolism

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.

In every single head to head study, interval training outperforms steady state in terms of fat loss - for two reasons -- 1) You burn more calories minute-for -minute performing the activity and 2) you burn more calories in the recovery period as a result of the activity.

If you have more time - a couple of interval training sessions per week will be the next thing I'd add.

5. Activities that burn calories but don't necessarily maintain muscle or elevate metabolism

This is the "icing on the cake" — adding in activities that'll burn up additional calories but don't necessarily contribute to building muscle or increasing metabolism. This is the least effective tool in your arsenal as it doesn't burn much outside of the primary exercise session, but it is very easy to recover from.

This category is slower or less intense aerobic work.

So the "hierarchy" is essentially a practical way of allocating your training time to the most effective activities.

What's interesting is that most people tend to start from the bottom of the hierarchy and try to work up. They do hours of low intensity cardio without adjusting diet - and eventually start doing some intervals. At some point they join a gym and "Do weights". I've lost count of the number of people who've told me they are going to start weight training when they "get in shape..."

I'm not saying exercise isn't important when trying to lose fat. But start with an effective diet. Add in resistance training. That's the cornerstone of a fat loss training program. (please note another link for you to click...) Then start adding in interval work, longer cardio etc.


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