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Why Burst Training Is The Most Effective Exercise For Fat Loss

I’ve been writing and speaking on the benefits of burst training for some time now. If you’re over the age of 35, there is simply no better form of exercise to help you lose body fat and improve your body composition, period!

While I’m always on my soapbox preaching the benefits of burst training, I figured it would be good idea to fully explain the science behind it for those who really want to understand the “why.”

The key component we’ll be looking at is the hormonal changes that come with aging and how different types of exercise impacts those changes.

Not all exercise is created equal when it comes to the hormonal responses that occur during and post-workout. This is the most important concept to get your head around because fat loss is 100% controlled by the hormonal balances in your body.

It’s not a matter of simple caloric restriction and doing lots of cardio. This strategy may work reasonably well when you’re younger, but it will fail miserably as you get older.

As you age there is a natural tendency of the human body to decrease secretion of anabolic hormones like testosterone, growth hormone, and DHEA. Its long been widely accepted that resistance training is one of the best ways to improve testosterone levels at any age.

The more metabolically active lean muscle you have, the better your chances will be at maintaining sufficient testosterone levels. However, the secret to fat loss for anyone over the age of 35 isn’t as simple as eating healthy and doing some weight training. This would certainly be a good start, but it would only take you so far.

What this strategy fails to address is the adrenal system along with the decrease in growth hormone and DHEA.

Burst training helps to improve the balance of your entire endocrine system in ways that no amount of shots or supplements could ever do. While I’m certainly not against hormonal replacement therapies and supplements to assist with balancing out the endocrine system, there’s a much bigger issue here that few people are talking about.

The root problem behind low DHEA levels is adrenal weakness and fatigue.

Never before in our existence has adrenal fatigue been more prevalent, and most people aren’t even aware of the link between your adrenal system and weight loss. In all likelihood, it’s not a matter of “if” you have adrenal weakness, but rather how bad it is.

To fully grasp the role of our adrenal system let’s look at what happens in your body when you experience acute stress.

 

The primal “fight of flight” response to a stressor

I’m sure you’ve heard of the “fight or flight” response. The surge of adrenal hormones like adrenaline is what provides a frightened mother with seemingly super-human strength to pull a heavy object off her child. This is a real phenomenon.

Our bodies are programmed with this basic primal response mechanism to help ensure survival in times of extreme stress and danger. For our hunter-gatherer ancestors, this response helped them to escape an attack by a wild animal or some other threat.

The adrenal glands kick in as a response to stress and secrete powerful hormones like adrenaline, nor-adrenaline, and cortisol to provide immediate strength and energy.

The whole concept of stress is widely misunderstood though. We think stress is a bad thing, and in the context of prolonged or chronic stress it is. However, the human body is designed to thrive off of periodic short-term bouts of acute stress. As you’ll learn it’s actually a good thing.

Scientific study over the last decade has allowed us a greater understanding of the fight or flight phenomenon and how stress impacts exercise, fat release, and the curing of disease. There is a balancing act where periodic acute stress responses can help improve health, but when it’s overdone the adrenal glands in your body become weak and suffer tissue degeneration.

In essence, apply too much stress, too often, and not enough time for recovery and you’ve got an instant recipe for diminished health and hormonal imbalances that promote weight gain.

Enter the typical individual in modern day society that experiences stress at work, stress at home, environmental stress, metabolic stress from eating a poor diet, over-consumption of caffeine and energy drinks, etc.

Stress isn’t something that periodically happens; it can be a “round-the-clock” thing. We live in a time where there’s immense uncertainty and worry. In short, a lot of people have conditioned themselves to live with stress “24-7.”  Add in a lack of sleep, a lack of exercise, and a poor diet, and the body can only take so much before it starts breaking down.

I’m going to tell you right here and now, chronic stress and the resulting inflammation has become the single greatest risk to the health of our society. It’s the primary root cause behind our failing health.

While it serves no benefit to stress and worry over the things we have no control over, there are obviously things we can strategically do to improve our health and wellness.

The focus needs to be reducing prolonged stress (a.k.a. chronic stress) and replacing it with periodic short bursts of high intensity exercise (for an acute stress response) and a combination of adequate rest and a supportive nutrition diet.

Too see how giving your body short bursts of “fight or flight” stress can increase fat loss and improve health, let’s dig into the four different phases.

The four stages of “fight or flight” stress responses…

Here’s what new science has revealed about the “fight or flight” response. There are actually four distinctive states, with the first state being a “freeze.” Bear with me as I’m going to get a little technical here for a minute.

In the initial “freeze” state the hypothalamus in your brain picks up a potential threat or stressor through your sensory nervous system. It might be a touch, a sound, a vision, or an odor. With the first sign of threat or danger, much like the iconic “deer in headlights”, you become unnaturally still. The hypothalamus tells your sympathetic nervous system to notice and assess the potential threat.

If there is a perceived real danger, the hypothalamus triggers the sympathetic nervous system to begin activating the adrenal glands. The digestive and immune system basically shut down so metabolic energy can be focused on quickly creating distance between you and the perceived threat if necessary.

The “flight” stage of an adrenal response to a stress

If conditions persist you’ll progress to the second state which is “flight.” In the flight state, the sympathetic nervous system floods the body with adrenaline and nor-adrenaline from the adrenals, the heart rate speeds up, and respiration is increased.

The entire endocrine system responds by sending approximately 30 hormones into the bloodstream to create an ideal environment for accessing stored fuel.  You can “grab” fatty acids from stored body fat to meet the necessary energy demands. You also begin to access stored glycogen in the muscles and liver so as blood sugar gets used up your body can provide an ongoing supply.

At this point you’re in “full go” mode with the muscles tirelessly receiving sufficient fuel and oxygen, but if the circumstances prevent you from fleeing, your brain is ready to trigger the next state which is “fight.”

 

The “fight” stage of an adrenal response to stress…

With your sympathetic nervous system now in full gear, your hypothalamus begins to manufacture something called Corticotrophin Releasing Factor (CRF) which directs the pituitary to secrete the hormone ACTH.

The ACTH release further kicks the adrenals into high gear and catecholamines (nor-adrenaline and adrenaline) literally flood the bloodstream along with DHEA and cortisol.

Your muscles begin to hold more ATP and phosphocreatine and you are ready to shift into an enhanced state of gluconeogenesis, where your body can manufacture blood glucose from amino acids.  You’ve just set the conditions for prime “fat burning” when the “fight” or your workout is over.

 

The “recovery” stage of an adrenal response to stress

The final stage in the fight or flight process is “recovery” where the muscles begin to relax in preparation to heal and repair the damage. In this stage you trigger your adrenals to crank out more DHEA which becomes a source for anabolic hormones needed for cellular repair.

The adrenals also send out cortisol which has both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can speed up the healing process, perhaps up to five-fold.

The more often you move through acute fight or flight progression of all four stages, the better you get at recovering.

From an exercise standpoint this has huge implications. Reduction in recovery time has been documented to correlate with reduction in C-Reactive Protein (CRP) levels in the blood.  CRP is an indicator and facilitator of inflammation, and inflammation as I’ve discussed before is the root cause of virtually every disease.

So in essence, if you use “burst training” to create short-term bouts of the “fight or flight” stress response you can reduce inflammation, speed up recovery, improve fat burning, and regain your health.

If the adrenal responses are chronic or long-term, as it is for so many stressed-out people trying to balance life, work, finance, family life, etc, the prolonged stimulation can be extremely destructive eventually leading to disease.

Comparing our past to our present….

If you step back and think about how humans have evolved over the years it makes perfect sense. While technology and advancements in medicine and science have certainly helped prolonged life, they haven’t made us “healthier.”

Living your last twenty to thirty years without strength, vitality, energy, and mobility, isn’t on anyone’s wish list. But that’s exactly what medicine and technology has given us.

God in His infinite wisdom has given us everything we need to thrive, not just survive during the time we spend on this earth. Man’s attempt to out-do or improve on this plan haven’t been very effective.

As a society, we have better technological advancements, medicine, and ways to treat disease then ever before, but we’re also sicker, have higher rates of obesity and degenerative disease than ever before. Think about this for a second. Something is not working.

What’s not working is the way we live. How did our hunter-gatherer ancestors stay so resilient and strong? Look at how they lived. They ate whatever they could find from animal meats and fats, green plants, fruits, nuts, seeds, roots, etc.

There were no diet sodas, potato chips, or pasta. They moved frequently (exercise) and periodically lifted heavy objects or sprinted during hunting, battle with other tribes, and work.

They got short term acute stress from all these activities. This stimulated their adrenal system and promoted lean, muscular, resilient physiques.

 

Is this all starting to make sense?

They didn’t have treadmills, yoga, pilates, diets, fat-free foods, etc. They didn’t even think about exercise, it was part of life.

Now I’m not expecting us to go live like cavemen and women just to get lean and regain our health. I kind of like having the comforts of our modern day world. But the thing is we’ve gotten soft and have adapted to living with all these comforts.

You can’t live strung out and stressed, pound energy drinks and coffee, eat processed foods, sit most of the day, get little sleep, and expect NOT to get sick, weak, and fat.

If this isn’t what you want for your life and since we’re obviously not going back to our hunter-gatherer ancestor days, what do you do?

Mimic as much as you can the habits that allowed them to stay lean, muscular, and resilient.

Eat mostly natural whole foods (follow a Primal Blueprint diet), move frequently at a slow pace (perform regular aerobic exercise), periodically do “all-out” bursts of high intensity effort (burst training), and get adequate rest and recovery.

That’s it in a nutshell. We can try to make it more complicated than this, but it’s really not. The above strategy will do more to get your hormonal systems in balance and help you naturally let go of stored body fat than any diet, pills, or shots could ever do.

Go back to the basics…this is where the secrets to health and vitality can be found.

Spending hours on the treadmill, starving yourself on restrictive diets, relying on pills, shots, or some other so called “solution” for weight loss is only going to leave you chasing your tail in circles.

Will you have to work hard during your exercise sessions and have discipline with what you stick in your mouth? Yes, of course, but those are both simply decisions. You can make all the excuses you want but in the end it comes down to your decisions.

You can either live like no one else now in order to live like no one else in the later years of your life, or keep doing things the way you always have. The choice is yours.

A Primal Blueprint diet, burst training, and healthy lifestyle habits can truly change your life. I encourage you to give it a try.

Shane Doll is a certified personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts, a Mt. Pleasant based personal fitness training studio that specializes in Charleston weight loss programs for body transformation. Receive a FREE, no-obligations trial and experience the difference of a Primal Blueprint diet and burst training today.

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Category: Fat Loss.