Since the point of all this is enhancing your BMR, it’s important to look at how exercise can enhance it even further. There is as much misinformation about exercise as there is about health and nutrition. For example, common knowledge would tell you that an hour of cardio everyday is what is needed to lose weight. This is simply not true. As we mentioned earlier, your activity levels is only about 20% of your overall calorie burn. If you are to put focus somewhere, it’s easier to make headway on the 80% (diet) then the 20% (exercise). However, making that 20% effective is like putting kerosene on the fat-burning fire.
For example, if you ran for an hour on a treadmill, it may tell you that you burned around 300 calories. However, if you take into account how many calories you would have burned just sitting there, you most likely only burned 220 calories by running. Burning 200 extra calories once a day isn’t that significant. For example, what if you increase your BMR by 10 calories per hour. In a single day, this will allow you to burn 240 calories more per day, without working out.
Thus, the most effective way to boost BMR with exercise is to convince your body to build muscle.
There are a lot of benefits to high-intensity exercise. For one, it will activate hormones like adrenaline which will push out glycogen stores out of muscle cells. The glucose release produces energy. As this happens hormone-sensitive lipase releases fat for energy production. This also makes you insulin-sensative since your body has to replenish the lost glycogen stores in your muscles. This is a great time to have extra glucose in your system (which is why we have reloading days). If you had elevated levels of glucose in your blood, and your muscles are full of glycogen (ie, your muscles haven’t had to work hard enough yet) that glucose gets stored as fat. This should make sense why we want to be low-carb most days, but not necessarily the day before or after a workout.
With steady-state cardio, your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which contain the most amount of glycogen stores, never release a meaningful amount of glycogen. This means all the excess glucose has nowhere to go except fat storage. It makes sense then, that unless you are emptying your glycogen-stores in your fast-twich muscles, you’re leaving too much glucose in your system. Now, if you are able to keep the level of glucose relatively low through a low-carb diet, and you are able to activate your fast-twitch fibers through weight training, it’s like putting gas on the fire.
With high-intensity weight training, you will also be increasing the amount of glycogen stores in your muscles, meaning they’ll be able to take up more glucose to replenish after exercise. With steady-state activities, the amount of glycogen you can store decreases over time, leaving more and more glucose in your bloodstream to be turned into fat.
Also, during a high-intensity workout, it will burn a lot of calories but also continue to burn an elevated amount of calories after the workout is over. The body’s response to this form of exercise is to build muscle, allowing it to store glucose as glycogen rather than fat. Also building muscle takes a lot of calories, increasing your effective BMR.
If you view exercise as the only means to burn calories and fat by doing an activity for a long time and frequently, because that’s your time to burn the needed calories to lose weight, you may actually do the opposite. Doing this produces too many stressors for your body’s adaptive capabilities, making it overstressed. As a consequence, metabolism slows, cortisol spikes and your body no longer wants to let go of stored body fat.
If you’re scared of weights, you can also do HIT, or high-intensity training. Go sprint for 30 seconds straight, rest for 60 seconds and repeat 5 times. That 10 minutes will have more impact on your body then running straight for an hour. This is going to be more effective for younger people that don't have knee/ankle/hip problems.
My recommended method of strength training is Super-Slow. It was developed over 20 years ago by scientists trying to help osteoporosis patients. What emerged was a protocol allowing you to build muscle by working out for only 10 minutes a week with very low impact to your body. For the last year, this is the only form of weight training (or exercise for that matter) I do. It’s that effective.
Super-Slow focuses on exercises that will promote the most muscle growth. Also, the movements are done with a 10-second up / 10-second down rep cadence. Because it does not require swift movements, it is great for anyone with joint pain or weak muscles. In fact, where I workout, many of the clients are over 50.
For more information on the super-slow protocal, read the bible on the subject, Body By Science. Also, if you are in Southern California, feel free to join me on a workout so you can see what it's all about.
Remember that if you are trying to build muscle, or participating in high-intensity workouts, you will need to up your protein and calorie intake. It may not be possible to save all of those grams of protein or calories to dinner. Supplementing with a protein shake before dinner can help, or a protein shake before bed.
As I mentioned, you can lose weight and burn fat by dieting alone. However, adding high-intensity exercise or muscle building will help give you more energy, help boost your confidence and help accelerate things further.
I need to mention again that I am not anti-cardio. Walking, jogging, yoga, spin class can be a great way to destress, get outside, be active etc. Just don’t get caught up in the idea that they are necessary to lose weight, or again, that they are even that effective. 10 minutes of weights will do more for your body than an hour of cardio. If that still isn’t enough to deter you, spend a few hours a week doing cardio, while the rest of us are using that time to do things more fun :)
Also, I probably won’t be popular by saying this, but scientific literature is filled with data that strongly make the case that long-distance runners are much more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, atrial fibrillation, cancer, liver and gallbladder disorders, muscle damage, kidney dysfunction, brain damage, spinal degeneration and germ-cell cancers than those who do not run.
Drink cold water. Some researches have suggested that drinking tow liters of ice water a day may burn as many as 123 calories. Since a calorie is defined the amount of heat required to raise one liter of water one degree centigrade, if you drink really cold water frequently, your body will have to work harder to raise the temperature of that water to your body temperature.
Hydration is really important for expanding circulation in your blood. All of the hormones needed for fat loss need to interact with different tissues in the body. It is much easier to circulate all of the hormones required when there is a more water present. It also helps with the liver, which is where the fat you lose is processed. Giving the liver more water helps with detoxification so that it can focus more on what you want it to be doing.
Water is also important for biological reassurance. In nature, drought always proceeds famine. If you calorie intake decreases and you aren’t having adequate water, your body thinks a famine is coming, which will slow down your metabolism. Without enough water, while you are consuming less calories, your body will send signals to eat ravenously when food is available (because it’s scarce) as well as slow down your metabolism to conserve energy. Dehydration can also trick your body that you are hungry causing cravings when in reality you are thirsty.
Get plenty of sleep. Sleep obtained before midnight stimulates the release of growth hormone and testosterone to help with cell repair. It also sends the right signals to your body that conditions in the environment are such that you are able to rest. For example, you aren’t up late at night scavenging for food or being chased by wild animals.
Stop stressing. Stress is interpreted in biological terms. Your body doesn’t know the difference between stressing about work and stressing because you can’t find water. Your body will think something is wrong, slow your metabolism and preserve more bodyfat. Read some books on stress-management and take treating it seriously.
For those looking to take things a step farther, there is talk that a lot of the chemicals around us cause more estrogen in our bodies, which signals fat storage. From anything from BPA in canned food and plastic bottles to pesticides on non-organic fruit. I’m a bit neutral on this subject, as I haven’t done my own comparisons. I will say however, that most of the time I do buy organic. Mainly because I like the idea of avoiding putting pesticides in my body when possible. However, don’t get caught up in the “organic” or “gluten-free” marketing scam. Many companies are using terms like “all natural” and “gluten-free” to try and boost sales. Go ahead and read the label. You’ll see a ton of carbs, added sugar and harmful oils. There are some fruits and veggies you definitely want to buy organic, like strawberries. For those interested there are many books out there exhausting this subject.