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Weightloss – The SECRET!

It’s cardio right? Cardio and high reps of weights – low weight, high reps, that’s the mantra! In fact I was in Bangkok last month and a supposed “world-class” Trainer and Motivator told the audience just that. So that’s THE SECRET!

Er, No!

I am afraid to say that a lot of Personal Trainers here in Singapore are under the misconception that a cardio plan with a lifting regiment that focuses on low weight and high reps is a recipe for weight loss and tone. Sure some people may fluke it and get results from this kind of training. And if you’re one of the hundreds/thousands of PT clients currently grinding out this training program you’re thinking every day, “I’m on the right track, I’ll keep grinding, I’ll get there eventually, I’m sweating out so many calories I CAN’T FAIL!” Whoops, you can.

So what is the secret?

Well in a word, hormones. Yep, insulin, cortisol, testosterone, estrogen, growth hormone, these are the keys, sort these out and you will sort EVERYTHING out. And fortunately you do NOT need to be an endocrinologist to do it however your Personal Trainer should know the basics of hormone manipulation/balance. If he/she does not then either ask him/her to do some research or if this doesn’t work find a Trainer that does have the knowledge and skill-set.

So what do we need to know? First off food and exercise stimulate hormones, this is a fact and this is why what exercise and food program we follow works or doesn’t. For instance when it comes to weight management, first-base is focussing on reducing insulin spikes. What’s that? Well in response to eating carbohydrates the body releases insulin from the pancreas. Insulin is the bodies mechanism for transferring carbohydrates into usable energy stored in muscle, blood and the liver. Insulin is a massively important hormone due to the human requirement for energy for all sorts of activities. And insulin will slam the energy into the muscles, blood and liver quickly or trickle it in slowly depending on one thing, GI! 

A while ago a new concept was introduced to actually rate the speed in which insulin responded to carbohydrate and this is called glycaemic index (GI). A high GI means insulin spikes very rapidly and a low GI means insulin doesn’t spike at all, it kicks in slowly! But here’s the thing, if you eat high GI foods regularly the body spikes insulin and quickly looks to slam in the energy but if the 3 receptors, muscle, blood and liver are full, what happens? Well for all you people that remember your school science classes, energy can only ever be transferred to another state (it has to do something) and the ingenious organism called the human body stores the energy as fat. FACT!

Herein lies several HUGE issues (and I mean HUGE!). Doing slow long distance runs burn what fuel? (Hint, it’s an aerobic activity). Doing high reps and low weights recruits what muscle fbres (aerobic). Aerobic, on both counts. Does an aerobic state burn carbohydrate (glycogen)? NOPE! And on top of that science there is this. Long distance runs, high rep ranges in the gym are stress creaters. Stress means what? Cortisol! Double whammy! Cortisol is kind of like kryptonite (that stuff that can kill Superman!) to growth hormone. It suppresses it and is bad for us on other counts, for one it promotes fat storage.

Interestingly research confirms that a low rep-range and heavy weight stimulates growth hormone(GH) AND so does interval-style cardio training! Growth hormone does exactly what its name suggests it does, it helps grow the body. This is why professional athletes training for maximal growth use deadlifts, squats, bench presses and cleans as staples in their programs and do such exercises twice or 3 times per week (unfortunately body-part splits may turn you into a bodybuilder but will never grow you functionally).

So wait where are we at? Insulin spikes are bad as they promote fat storage. This means high GI foods are not good and this is usually the case. Long distance, continuous cardio and high rep-range weights are also no good because they increase cortisol and this is also bad. Correct.

Low GI foods are good because they don’t overly stimulate insulin and low rep, heavy-weight training/lifting is good because it stimulates growth hormone, very GOOD! Interval training at the track or fartleks are also really good because they also stimulate GH, brilliant!

I can hear all the women out there right now! Low reps, high weights? Noooooooo! I’ll bulk up! Another “wive’s tale”, perpetuated by uniformed individuals. So why won’t you bulk up? For a start to bulk up you need testosterone and women, sorry you don’t have nearly enough. You will if you “artificially” increase your levels and my guess you won’t be doing that! On top of that you need to eat a LOT of protein and if you don’t, well, you will NOT bulk up! If you follow the prescription above, you will lean up, get stronger, function better!

In summary a successful training program addresses food and training to manipulate hormones. A balanced hormonal profile will result in your body finding it’s true weight initially and afterwards, permit you to reach sports or other related goals, more quickly and in a more sustainable fashion!





5 responses

  1. Penny

    Hurrah for that Daz! Can’t believe the Bangkok trainer story, which decade was he/she dug up from? And if I hear the ‘ooo it’s too heavy, I don’t want to bulk up’ one more time I have some ideas as to where to swing that kettlebell.

    January 10, 2010 at 10:46 pm

  2. Hahaha thanks Pen. The Trainer is US-based and was speaking at the big fitness conference I attended recently. I asked him about high-reps/low weights and the cortisol response and he told the audience, “the question is blah blah will CORTISONE be increased….” I mean the guy didn’t have a clue. Having said that there were 2 guys that were outstanding (Peter McCall/Fabio Comana) so it was a good conference overall.

    The blog is a bit random. I wrote it late last night and this is such a massive story and difficult to summarise in a quick blog. The key objective in weight-loss is ensuring GH is high and cortisol is low. So the low rep heavier weight sets are the key. I mean it doesn’t have to be THAT heavy but the body responds better when the weight is heavier. Food is also so important and LOW GI consumption is ultra important to maximise the benefoit of th etraining regiment.

    January 11, 2010 at 1:10 am

  3. Mean Dean

    Here’s why I do not endorse long distance work for fitness and fat loss.
    If you are a marathon runner, triathlete or doing some sort of long distance work as a hobby then thats different. But I strongly believe that the general public should be doing higher intensity work and short burst work. This is another example why. The keyword here is INTENSITY. A good training session is 40 mins at most. If you can talk throughout your session with your PT, then its not worth your time, PERIOD.

    Harvard Study Confirms:
    Aerobics and Cardio Are DEAD

    Here’s why I tell my patients aerobics and cardio are not the way to exercise:

    * They won’t make you lean!
    * They won’t protect you from heart disease!
    * They won’t even boost your energy!

    Even worse, aerobic and cardio training – the kind most doctors and even the federal government promote as the path to good health – can actually wreck your body. Do enough, and it will make you sick, tired, and old before your time.

    This Harvard Health Professionals Study backs me up on this. Researchers followed over 7,000 people. They found that the key to protect your heart is exactly the opposite of “cardio.” It’s not endurance. It’s intensity. In fact, they proved that the more intense the exertion, the lower their risk of heart disease.1

    And that’s not all. Another Harvard study compared vigorous and light exercise.2

    Those who performed exercise that is more vigorous had a lower risk of death than those who performed less vigorous exercise.

    Aerobics and cardio are low-intensity, long-duration exercises. This Harvard study clearly shows that this kind of exercise increases your risk of heart disease and death.

    Enduring hours of drudgery only to increase your risk of disease doesn’t make sense. It isn’t natural, and it doesn’t work.

    Dr. Sears…

    Al Sears, M.D. is a board-certified medical doctor specializing in preventative medicine, anti-aging, and nutritional supplementation.

    Dr. Sears is the author of seven books, including The Doctor’s Heart Cure, and High-Speed Fat Loss in 7 Easy Steps. He currently writes and publishes the monthly newsletter, Health Confidential, and twice-weekly email, Doctor’s House Call, and contributes articles to a host of other publishers in the field. Dr. Sears has appeared on over 50 national radio programs, ABC News, CNN, and ESPN.

    His cutting-edge therapies and reputation for solving some of the most difficult-to-diagnose cases attract thousands of patients from around the world to his Health & Wellness Center in Royal Palm Beach, Florida.

    Professional Memberships

    American Medical Association (AMA)

    Southern Medical Association (SMA)

    American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M)

    American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

    American College for the Advancement in Medicine (ACAM)

    Herb Research Foundation (HRF)


    Board certified in anti-aging medicine

    Board certified in clinical nutrition

    ACE certified fitness trainer

    Heres another article:
    Burn Up to 9 Times MORE Fat
    by Exercising LESS

    To illustrate just how powerful the effects of this after burn are, take a look at this: Researchers in Quebec’s Laval University divided exercisers into two groups: long-duration and repeated short-duration.3

    They had the long-duration group cycle 45 minutes without interruption. The short-duration group cycled in multiple short bursts of 15 to 90 seconds, with rests in between.

    The long-duration group burned twice as many calories, so you would assume they would burn more fat. However, when the researchers recorded their body composition measurements, the short-burst group showed the most fat loss.

    In fact, the short-burst group lost 9 times more fat than the endurance group for every calorie burned!

    You may be thinking – doesn’t this defy the laws of physics? Not really, when you realize that exercise continues to affect your metabolism after you stop. The short bursts stimulated a greater after burn. In my practice, even I must admit to being surprised by the power of short bursts to burn fat and make people lean when cardio hadn’t.

    In addition, exertion in brief bursts followed by recovery will produce other benefits to your metabolic health that will surprise you.

    Here are just a few:

    * Raise Your Levels of Human Growth Hormone: This is your body’s “anti-aging” hormone. It’s been shown to build muscle, melt fat, improve bone density, raise your “good” cholesterol, and reverse the negative effects of aging. Blood levels of this hormone rise dramatically during and immediately after higher intensity-type exercise. (Traditional aerobic exercise has no effect.)

    * Burn More Calories: turbo-charge your metabolism. After intense bursts of exercise, your body needs to burn extra calories to repair muscles, replenish energy, and bring your body back to its “normal” state. This process takes anywhere from a few hours up to a whole day – meaning you’ll burn calories long after your workout is over.

    * Get More Strength and Greater Fitness in Less Time

    * Build a More Powerful Heart:

    MSNBC Warns about the Dangers of Long-Distance Running:

    Are You Running Yourself to Death?

    Participating in a Marathon Can Put Severe Stress on Your Body

    This is the headline that reminded the world of Dr. Arthur Siegel’s groundbreaking research into the dangers of long-distance running.

    His studies were published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation. Results were sobering. The “inflammatory storm” triggered by the stress of running a marathon creates all the symptoms of heart disease.

    As Dr. Siegel puts it, “Your body doesn’t know whether you’ve run a marathon. or been hit by a truck.”

    The impact of these studies is consistently glossed over by the media. But the message is clear: Your body was not designed for running marathons.

    – makes long, boring routines a thing of the past.-

    consists of short bouts of intensity followed by rest and recovery. Total exertion is never more than 20 minutes.

    – gives you bigger muscles, a leaner body and more energy than you know what to do with. and you bypass all the dangers of traditional exercise.

    Reference: McGrath T. “Are You Running Yourself to Death?”
    MSNBC.com. Nov 1, 2008.

    Keep the questions coming!


    January 17, 2010 at 3:00 pm

  4. Question – totally understand the principles of carbs and GI, but I wonder what your thoughts are the “addictiveness” of carbs. I was recently reading a book and the idea it put forward was that when the insulin spikes after eating carbs, it sets off a chain reaction – after blood sugar drops, a craving for more carbs sets in and thus it becomes a vicious cycle. In fact the writer went as far to describe as similar to other addictions like alcohol in that the “user” is plagued by constant cravings and that the only way to break the cycle was to strict limit and / or elimanate the trigger foods. In your opinion, is this view correct? Are carbs (like bread, pasta, rice) totally addictive for some people?

    March 29, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    • Joanna I totally agree with the books claims. The real problem lies with the fact that the carb type that triggers this cycle is high GI carbs. Usually (not always) a high GI carb is a refined food like white rice, white pasta or white bread. The ability for foods like this to breakdown very quickly into simple sugars gives us the sugar high we usually associate with a teaspoon of it in our coffee. Quite simply our digestive mechanism is an evolved process that has taken many thousands of years to develop. Food processing is a modern “miracle”. Yes processing allows us to transport food, store it and make it more tasty and convenient. However this comes at a price. The price is and will continue to be our health. Our digestive system has evolved dealing with and processing real foods, whole foods if you like. Consequently we are seeing a massive rise in food related health issues as the human body struggles to cope with the “foreign” food matter deposited in stomachs. The sugar cycle is one of the worst of the many kinds of issues now facing us all. Breaking the cycle is massively important but the problem is a lot of people don’t even know they have the addiction!! You only need to watch people ordering food in a Starbucks or Delifrance to see this in cold reality.

      March 30, 2010 at 1:03 am

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