Monday, July 23, 2007

Turn Your Fat Burning Mechanism into High Gear with Interval Training

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I’ve recently experimented with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and have received amazing results. HIIT is, undisputedly, the single most effective factor involved in breaking weight loss plateaus and burning fat. HIIT consists of short bursts of exercise at high intensity levels – near or around your maximum heart rate. This is also referred to as anaerobic exercise and includes exercises such as sprinting. Aerobic training, on the other hand, consists of endurance type exercises at lower intensity levels like jogging, power walking etc.

For the last couple of decades and longer, it was believed that fat burning was best achieved by endurance training - exercise at longer durations (cardio training). The argument was that (according to research) the body begins to burn fat beyond the 20 minute mark of continuous aerobic exercise. Although this still holds true, many recent studies have shown that training at very high intensities burns higher amounts of calories and fat.

HIIT may be responsible for burning up to 50% more body fat than lower intensity exercise. It has been documented that exercising at 65% of maximum heart rate (cardio-endurance) burns more calories from fat than from carbohydrates. HIIT, however will burn more total calories which will amount to more TOTAL fat burned even though it’s at a lower percentage.

When exercising at lower intensities for longer periods (duration), your body goes into a “steady state”. In this state, the body has adjusted to the speed and intensity and attempts to conserve energy (calories). This is one factor that may be responsible for reaching weight loss plateaus when performing cardio exercise. This could be avoided if you added HIIT to your workouts.

While doing steady – rate cardio for longer periods the body burns fat for fuel but also goes into a catabolic state. This means that the body begins to break down muscle to use as fuel. So, as it burns fat it also uses up muscle. And as we know, muscle increases the metabolic rate – and as muscle mass decreases so does the metabolism. Short bouts of training associated with interval training, however, have been shown to prevent the body from entering the catabolic phase.

In fact, interval training increases the body’s resting metabolic rate causing the body to burn more calories well after the exercise session – up to 48 hours after training.

Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training:

- Increases metabolism

- Increases calorie and fat burning capacity

- Helps to overcome weight loss plateaus

- Improves aerobic capacity – increasing the ability to train longer with higher intensity

- Keeps you from getting bored with exercise – By mixing in exercise at higher intensity for shorter durations you’re adding more variety to your workout.

- Special equipment is not required – all you need to do is modify your current training method.

- Improves your body composition.

- Improves eating and sleeping habits as the body adjusts to meet the new demands of exercise.

- The short power bursts of HIIT may often boost your energy level causing you to feel more upbeat and energetic.

- Increases athletic performance for athletes.

- Improves excess post - exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) – oxygen intake is increased for a certain period, following high intensity exercise, which has shown to increase fat burning by up to 9 times during periods of rest.

Are there any risks involved with HIIT?

HIIT is not for everyone. If you have a chronic health condition or not accustomed to regular exercise, you should consult your doctor before trying any type of high intensity exercise.

The other thing is you should start slow. Don’t rush into high intensity training before your body is ready. You may run the risk of hurting yourself, which may include bone, tendon-ligament and muscle damage.

Keep in mind that HIIT workouts need more recovery time than aerobic workouts. They should be performed no more than 3 times a week and should be on non weight-training days.

Here is an HIIT program for beginners:

Total Workout: 12 Minutes in Duration

Warm – Up -First 4 Minutes:

Jog at around 50% effort

1st Interval -5th Minute:

Sprint at maximum effort for 30 seconds – follow with jogging/walking for 30 seconds

2nd Interval – 6th Minute:

Sprint at maximum effort for 30 seconds – follow with jogging/walking for 30 seconds

3rd Interval - 7th Minute:

Sprint at maximum effort for 30 seconds – follow with jogging/walking for 30 seconds

4th Interval - 8th Minute:

Sprint at maximum effort for 30 seconds – follow with jogging/walking for 30 seconds

Cool Down – Minutes 9-12:

Jog at 50% effort


You can gradually increase the number of intervals in the workout as your body adapts to high intensity and frequency. A good pace would be to add an interval after every 2-3 workouts, until you reach 10 intervals per workout session.

HIIT workouts can also be performed on machines such as steppers, elliptical trainers and stationary cycles. Research suggests, however, that the closer one gets to their maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max) during training, the more efficiently they burn fat. And sprinting is the most efficient form of exercise for optimizing VO2 max.

I hope not too many of you, who are trying to lose weight (and not very excited about the exercise part), hate me too much for this article.


1. - University of Guelph, “Interval Training Burns More Fat, Increases Fitness, Study Finds”

2. Tremblay, A., Simoneau, J-A., Bouchard, C., “Impact of Exercise Intensity on Body Fatness and Skeletal Muscle Metabolism, Vol. 43 #7 (July), 1994: pp 814-818.






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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Weight Loss Motivation

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Weight Loss Motivation

Losing weight is not that difficult. I’m sure everyone at some point in there life has lost weight whether it was intentional or not. The problem, however, is keeping it off permanently or at least for a long period of time. One major reason for this is that people choose the wrong weight loss methods (fad dieting, diet pills, weight loss products, etc). Another reason is people lose the motivation required to maintain weight loss.

First of all, you have to want to lose weight badly enough. Secondly, you must participate in a good weight loss program that includes a well balanced diet and adequate physical activity. And finally, you need to have the right motivation that is required to take you to your goal. The other thing is you must want to lose weight for yourself - not for anyone else - in order to be more successful.

Most people that have trouble with motivation often forget why they are trying to lose weight in the first place. It may be a good idea to make a list of various personal benefits associated with weight loss, which will help you stay motivated and focused.

Here are some examples of weight loss benefits that may appeal to you:

- Look better in tight jeans
- Breath easier – instead of getting out of breath quickly
- Accomplish physical chores/activities with ease
- Feel more confident
- Enjoy shopping for clothes
- Look forward to holidays
- Have no fear of wearing a bathing suit in public
- Feel sexier and more attractive
- Feel better about yourself

Weight Loss Support

Getting involved with a good support network will help you stay motivated. You can do that within the Myspace community for example. In Myspace, you can search for like-minded individuals who want to lose weight and ask them to be your friends. You can get to know them better and share your needs, goals, difficulties and frustrations. The advantage here is that you’ll have no trouble finding someone who’s had difficult times with weight loss, has overcome the obstacles and found success. This factor alone may be all you need to help you stay motivated and remain focused on your own weight loss plan.

At the same time you can also request support from family and friends. You could encourage them to join you in choosing healthier foods. Finding a friend that you can exercise with would be very helpful as well. As exercise partners, you can feed of each other – help maintain inspiration and motivation, while improving your physical condition.

Once the extra pounds start coming off, you’ll start to get noticed and people will begin complimenting you on your new and improved
appearance. This will also help keep you motivated to stay on track and to maintain weight loss.

So as long as you have a burning desire to lose weight and you surround yourself with a good support system to help you stay motivated through trying times, you will have an excellent chance to achieve weight loss maintenance.

Scientific Research on Weight Loss Motivation

A recent study I found interesting suggested women with diabetes may lose more weight not only by diet and exercise but by discussing why they need to make changes.

The study published in Diabetes Care (journal) reviewed the effects of a technique called “motivational interviewing”. This involves a series of questions put forth by councilors intended to help subjects overcome obstacles that arise when making changes. In this case, the changes involved diet and exercise improvements.

There were 217 women in the study who also had type-2 diabetes. They were split in to 2 groups. After an 18 month period, the women who met with a councilor for motivation interviews lost twice as much weight as those who did not.

The researchers said that motivational interviewing encouraged subjects to come up with their own arguments and reasons for making changes. Councilors also helped clients identify the obstacles that were responsible for their inability to change. They did this by posing open-ended questions and by providing answers without being judgmental.

The findings of this study may also hold true for non diabetics as well. Researchers are planning to hold similar experiments in this area in the near future.

Diabetes Care. 2007;30:1081-1087.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Low Carb or Slow Carb?

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First I’d like to thank all of you that have participated with your wonderful and insightful blog comments. I would like to invite others who read this blog to participate as well. I’d love to know your thoughts and opinions – and many others would as well. So by all means let us know – Don’t be shy – spill your beans. Oh, by the way, I’d like to encourage those to subscribe to my blog – who haven’t yet. Thanks.

Okay, today I’d like to talk about foods that are nutritious and beneficial to health and weight loss - and foods that are not very good choices at all. In this post I’ll be focusing on carbohydrates. Let me just add that real, natural foods are much more nutritious than processed or prepared food products. I’m sure most of us agree with that.

Before I go any further I would just like to point out a couple of important principles with respect to diet: Variety and Moderation. Too much of any food is not very wise. Similarly, eating the same things day in and day out may exclude many essential nutrients the body needs.

A study at the University of Michigan compared the eating habits of American and French subjects (8,213 people in total). They studied their overall diets based on diversity (foods from 5 major food groups), variety (total number of foods consumed daily) and moderation (according to USDA dietary guidelines).

They found that the French ate more foods that were higher in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than their American counterparts. The study also showed that the French diet complied with very few of the USDA dietary recommendations for eating healthy. In addition, the findings showed that 99% of French women’s diets had saturated fat contents in excess of 10% of total daily calories. What’s shocking is that, on average, the French are thinner and have fewer occurrences of heart disease than Americans.

Research suggested that the possible harmful effects of the high fat content in the French diet were offset by diet diversity and variety. The scientist in charge of the study added, “The low fat approach is very good but not if it comes at the expense of dietary variety.”

In addition, the above study suggested that food diversity and variety may even outweigh the benefits of the moderation principle. Food diversity must consist of healthy carbohydrates as well as lean protein and healthy fat from unsaturated oils.

Let’s look at carbohydrates for now.

Carbohydrates have gotten a bad wrap over the years. But what many don’t realize is that only certain carbohydrates are bad – NOT all carbohydrates.

Good carbs are those that contain fiber like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Bad carbs are those that have very little or no fiber.

Many health organizations recommend from 2-3 and up to 4-6 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Simple Carbohydrates - Sugars

There are 2 different types of sugars. There are natural occurring sugars such as those in fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). And then there are refined sugars also known as simple carbohydrates such as white granular sugar.

Sugar hides under many different names: table sugar, brown sugar, molasses, beet sugar, cane sugar, powdered sugar, raw sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, sugar cane syrup and table sugar’s chemical name – sucrose. There are also many products on the market sweetened with these sugars.

Sugars are “fast” carbs - when consumed, they are absorbed very quickly by the body. As a result they cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels – a process, which may trigger feelings of hunger. They also have very low nutritional value and are stored as fat, in the body, very efficiently. These should be avoided or reduced.

Starchy Carbohydrates

Other carbohydrates that are also not as high on the nutrition scale are those with high starch contents (potatoes, other refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, white pasta, etc). Although these are digested a little slower than simple carbs they are still absorbed by the body fairly quickly. For similar reasons, these should also be avoided or reduced and should be substituted with whole grain equivalents.

High-Fiber Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates high in fiber are “slow” carbs. Their digestive process is longer than the above carbohydrates and they actually stabilize blood sugar levels, reducing hunger pangs. Choosing high-fiber carbs in place of simple or starchy carbs will:

- Stabilize your blood glucose (sugar) levels helping to reduce periods of hunger – and favorably improve insulin resistance
- Increase the nutritional value of your diet
- Strengthen your immune system to fight against chronic diseases (see below)

Research with diabetics has shown that the fiber contained in certain carbohydrates was responsible for decreasing symptoms of diabetes such as insulin resistance.

In other studies fiber has been shown to:

- Relieve constipation and hemorrhoids
- Prevent certain chronic diseases such as certain cancers and cardiovascular disease
- Keep weight under control

Carbohydrates high in fiber are bulkier, more filling than low-fiber carbs and contain almost no calories. As a result, fiber may be a useful aid in reducing calorie consumption. Keep in mind that fiber alone is not the answer to weight loss. The only effective and safe way to lose weight is with:

- A well rounded diet that includes proper caloric intake from all food groups.
- Participation in regular physical activity.

There really is no shortcut or magic bullet for weight loss yet.

Fiber can be categorized as soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber partially dissolves in water where insoluble does not. They are both, however equally important to health.

Sources of Fiber:

Soluble Fiber:

Oatmeal, oat bran, nuts and seeds, legumes, apples, pears, strawberries and blueberries.

Insoluble Fiber:

Whole grains, whole wheat breads, barley, brown rice, bulgur, whole – grain breakfast cereals, wheat bran, seeds, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, celery and tomatoes.


1., “Healthy diets need fat, according to new study”, retrieved 22 June 2005 from

2. Canadian Diabetes Association, “The Benefits of eating Fiber”, retrieved 4 July 2007 from

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Does Losing Weight Have To Be So Difficult?

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As I have often said in the past, weight loss and weight gain are directly affected by Input and Output. Many people would like to think that weight reduction occurs with the use of sophisticated theories like thermogenesis (calories burned by digestion), wonder supplements like hoodia or the miraculous properties of certain herbal products such as Wu long tea.

The fact remains, however, there are only 2 ways the human body can reduce weight: By reducing food intake or by increasing energy expenditure (by exercise) – I am excluding other factors such as medical conditions, etc.

One common reason behind the inability to attain weight loss for long time periods is that people are trying to do too much at the same time. Working on one factor at a time, is the key to long - term weight reduction.

The quantity of food intake directly influences weight loss and weight gain. It’s not what you eat but how many calories you consume. In other words, if you are exceeding your daily food requirement by 500 calories per day - it doesn’t matter whether the 500 calories come from bacon or raw celery sticks - you will gain the exact same amount of weight. Your body doesn’t register what type of food you consume, it just registers calories – regardless of the type of diet you are participating in. Whether your diet is low in carbs, high in protein or is based on food combining or whatever - doesn’t make any difference. The bottom line is calorie intake is the only thing that counts.

There is no doubt, however, that certain foods are higher on the nutrient scale than others. The point I’m trying to make is that you should concentrate on reducing your calorie consumption first and worry about food quality later. I’m not saying the latter is not important but should be tackled separately. Trying to do both at the same time is often too hard to handle, let alone worrying about increasing your level of exercise participation.

So, concentrate first on decreasing food quantity – the foods you are eating. Find out how many total daily calories you would be comfortable with and reduce to that level. It’s much easier (for long-term success) to set your target weight loss to 1-1.5 pound per week. One pound of fat roughly equals to 3500 calories. A reduction, therefore, of 500 calories a day equals 1 pound per week. That’s a good start.

Once you have adjusted your food intake, you can begin working on improving food quality in terms of nutrient value. After improving both factors, make an assessment and if you are not happy with your progress you can begin to work on energy expenditure (physical activity).
Taking it one step at a time, allows you to isolate each component with less stress, making it easier to succeed in the long run. Trying to adjust all components at the same time, however, is just too stressful and usually results in short term weight loss.

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