So, lately I've been throwing down a lot of new concepts that are ... let's just say "not mainstream."  I don't want to leave anyone with the impression that I am bucking the system or going rogue, so I wrote this blog post to give you an idea of how these newer concepts fit into my philosophy

Let’s momentarily leave the world of weight loss, a subject where I am considered by many to be an expert...  Instead, let’s discuss a subject that I’m nowhere near qualified to talk about – Money!

I think everybody’s heard the idea of diversifying an investment portfolio.  Instead of putting all your money in one stock and hoping that it pays off and makes you rich, the intelligent advisors recommend putting your money in several different places. 

For example, you may put some of your money in mutual funds … you might put some of it in individual stocks or bonds … some money might go into real estate … some may even be buried in your back yard!  The reason for doing this is to minimize the risk associated with some investment options, while still earning profit.

Think of your metabolism, exercise and other calorie burns as your metabolic portfolio. Just like a financial portfolio, you want to diversify!

Okay, before you think I’ve completely flipped my lid…

You may be wondering why I’m spewing financial advice, when I have no background in money management or investing.  My reason is because this advice also works very well with fitness and weight loss.  Instead of an investment portfolio, however, we have a “metabolic portfolio.”

Here is a list of the events that burn calories:

  • Metabolism – the metabolic process that keep us alive, such as breathing, brain functions, heartbeats, etc.
  • Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) – You burn calories by breaking down and assimilating nutrients.
  • Activities of Daily Living (ADL) – Vacuuming, driving the kids to school, doing taxes, etc.
  • Exercise – You get the idea.

When we want to lose weight, we tend to put all of our proverbial eggs in the “exercise” basket.  This is what we are told to do.  We accept the fact that we have sluggish metabolisms and do our cardio.  Now, in a way, we put some investment into our diet, but we do so by cutting calories, rather than burning them.

What if I told you there were exercise and nutrition “tricks” that could pay you in dividends where all the other calorie burn sources are concerned?  Would you be interested in learning about that?

When we want to lose weight, we tend to put all of our proverbial eggs in the exercise basket.  This is what we are told to do.  We accept the fact that we have sluggish metabolisms and do our cardio.  Now, in a way, we put some investment into our diet, but we do so by cutting calories, rather than burning them. Therein lies the mistake...

Going back to my financial analogy, let’s assume that most people rely solely on the income generated by their job.  This is known as “active” income, but there is another category known as “passive” income (money you don’t have to work for) and a sub category of that known as “residual” income (money that comes in multiple times for work that you did once).

I hope any financial gurus reading this will forgive me for treading on their territory and further forgive me for over-simplifying the terms, but they work well in my analogy!

Many times we think of cardiovascular exercise as a way to burn calories, but let’s apply our financial analogy and call cardio “active” calorie burn.

To further illustrate the analogy, we can add “passive” calorie burning (increasing metabolism) and “residual” calorie burn (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC).

Let’s look at passive calorie burning, or metabolism. 

Earlier in this post, I described the different events that burn calories.  The first on the list was metabolism.  When we exercise for an hour or two, we purge a lot of calories, but it’s only for a short time.  There are 22 or 23 more hours in the day.  Your metabolism, on the other hand, is burning calories 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  It never stops until the day you die.

What about residual calorie burn?

Well, this happens after you exercise, no matter what kind of exercise you do.  The way to maximize this tool is (obviously) to make that residual burn as high as possible and last as long as possible.  The million dollar question is how to make this happen.  In classical exercise physiology, we talk about the inverse relationship between exercise intensity and exercise duration.  In other words, as you exercise harder, you diminish your ability to last longer.  Conversely, if you ease up the pace, you can continue indefinitely.  Somebody, somewhere set a proverbial “sweet spot” of 60%-85% of your maximal heart rate.  For many people, this pace can be kept up for 30-90 minutes.  This is okay, but the excess post-exercise calorie burn doesn’t last very long afterward.  Plus, we don’t train our hearts to respond to any other type of demand.  We need to exercise at higher intensities from time to time.  One way to do that is strength training, but we can also accomplish this by doing higher intensity cardio sessions.  

Another relationship discussed by exercise physiologists ad nauseum is the relationship between exercise intensity and fuel utilization. 

Simply stated, at lower intensities, we tend to use a higher percentage of fat, whereas at higher intensities, we tend to rely more heavily on glucose (blood sugar).  This little anecdote further supports that aerobic “sweet spot” I mentioned earlier and has led fat-loss seekers to “take it easy” for years.  Looking at the active calorie burn, aerobic exercise makes the most sense.  We can last longer (therefore burning more calories) with a lower duration,  more of those calories come from fat, and we don't feel as exhausted by the end of our session.  It's a win-win, right?  Well, yes and no.  

As I said, if we look at it from the perspective of active calorie burn, it makes great sense.  Remember, though, that we have to look at passive and residual burn as well.  From a passive burn perspective, strength training makes the most sense because lean muscle mass dictates metabolic rate.  From a residual burn perspective, high intensity cardio makes the most sense because we will be burning the most calories over the next few hours (some claim as many as 36 hours!). 

From a passive burn perspective, strength training makes the most sense because lean muscle mass dictates metabolic rate.  From a residual burn perspective, high intensity cardio makes the most sense because we will be burning the most calories over the next few hours (some claim as many as 36 hours!) You need to mix up what you do.  Some higher intensity, some lower intensity, some strength, and even some mixed type training.

So which should you do?

My answer is all of them. You need to mix up what you do.  Some higher intensity, some lower intensity, some strength, and even some "mixed" type training. 

Remember... If you incorporate this principle into your workout routine, you will have a high return on your investment!

(sorry... I had to... one more time!)