Monday, August 6, 2012

Some HIIT For Life & Less LISS For More! How to Burn 27,300 Kcal Extra W/out Losing a Single Extra Pound of Fat!

Image 1: Yep, you are right, the SuppVersity is the place to be to make sure you don't embarrass yourself during one of those potentially fatefully flirticious one-on-ones in the gym - Remember: Strong and Smart is the Newest Sexy ;-)
In view of the fact that you all seem to be enjoy the high intensity interval news aka "On Short Notice" items at the SuppVersity, I decided to do another double-feature today, somewhat similar to the "Weight Loss Threesome" three weeks ago. This time however not on sleep, TV and supplements, but on cardiovascular exercise for fat loss. For that purpose I have lined up a unique study about the longterm (!) beneficial effects of HIIT workouts on body composition, cardiometabolic risk factors, and conditioning of abdominally obese subjects (Gremeaux . 2012) and a study the results of which foster the surprising insight that 50% less can be 80% more when it comes to light intensity steady state (LISS) training for fat loss (Rosenkilde. 2012). So, let's get "without further delay" right to this sexually conservative, but contentwise highly experimentally one-on-one ;-)

Biggest Winners Combine Lifestyle Change With Optimized HIIT Workouts

In what the authors claim (and my personal readings in this area confirm) was the first study to analyze "the effects of a combined lifestyle intervention and optimized HIIT [regimen] on body composition, cardiometabolic risk, and exercise capacity in subjects with abdominal obesity", Vincent Gremeaux from the Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Centre (EiPIC) at the Montreal Heart Institute found that their 9-months program which comprised of five individualized nutritional counseling by a trained dietician and 54-min (total) of supervised optimized high-intensity interval exercise and resistance training 2-3x times a week (+optional 2x continuous moderate-intensity sessions per week, such as walking and/or cycling) had profound effects on body composition, cardiometabolic risk, and exercise tolerance in the 62 of the 69 obese subjects (44 men, 22 women; BMI 35.8 +/- 5; age 53.3 +/- 9.7) from the babyboomer generation (Gremeaux. 2012).
Figure 1: Dietary and workout regimen, graphical overview (based on information from Gremeaux. 2012)
As my graphical summary in figure 1 goes to show, the workouts were a breeze compared to last week's Iranian HIIT Solution. And in view of the "guideline compliant" macronutrient composition it is actually quite astonishing, how pronounced the average and individual results of the subjects eventually were.
If anything than the loss of lean mass (figure 2, left) would be a thing to be slightly concerned about. On the other hand, this leaves much room for improvements, which would be easily achieved by
  • really working out with weights you can only lift for 8-10 times and performing 3 circuits of free weight exercises with a focus on compound movements (if this is physically possible),
  • using "all-out" sprints preferably also on the treadmill instead of the cycle ergometer for the HIIT workouts (as long as your conditioning allows for that)
  • eating more protein and cutting back on carbs so that the total energy intake would keep about the same if you ate 1.5g protein/kg body weight per day and 20g+ of quality protein with every meal 
As long as you are still overweight that should suffice to get leaner, when you are already lean, though, you won't be able to make progress without a minor degree of temporary (2-6 weeks) caloric restriction in the ~20% range.
Tipp: Don't count calories, just eat some rice less, just one instead of two bananas, etc.; try to get used to the notion of eating food, not calories!
You see, the general rules apply to everyone, their practical realization, i.e. the number of workouts, the intensity and the duration will however be different and has, when all is said and done, to obey to one simple rule: You cannot expect your body to change, if the circumstances don't require change! This evolutionary-esque principle applies to anyone from the morbidly obese baby boomer to the ripped physique athlete in the prime of his twenties - regardless of who are and who you want to be, the only way to get there is to challenge yourself appropriately!
[for implications see end of today's post]

Burning 300kcal/day W/ LISS Produces Greater Fat Loss Than Burning 600kcal/day!

Image 2: If this looks like you on one of your twice daily 2h cardio workouts in the "fat burning zone", this must be your first time, here at the SuppVersity. If not, you already know that 5min here at the SuppVersity everyday will do more for your physique and overall health than with all the "cardio" you can possibly pack into your already overcrowded schedule!
Especially if you are a total beginner or someone who is already strength training intensely almost daily, you can run the risk of outtraining your regenerative capacities by adding in more than one longer HIIT workout. Moreover, my personal experience tells me that "mixing things up" and doing some "regular" light intensity steady state cardio, especially rowing or outdoor activities can really give you an unexpected edge, in terms of fat loss without really taxing your system. Interestingly enough, the results of a soon-to-be-published study be Mads Rosenkilde and his colleagues from the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark do actually support my experience, as the 64 moderately overweight (BMI: 25-30 kg/m², fat percentage ≥25%), sedentary yet healthy men without a past history of useless dieting (and over-exercising) who participated in the 13 week trial (compare that to the above 9-months trial!) lost an astonishing amount of 4kg of pure body fat with nothing else than "classic" steady state cardio (Rosenkilde. 2012)!

"Energy in - energy out = fat loss" - fail!

Over the course of 13 weeks, the participants took part in three supervised exercise sessions per week, which had to be performed at an average heart rate of >70% of their predetermined maximal heart rate. On the other four days they were free to engage in whatever physical activity they wanted, but had to wear a heart rate monitor that would allow them to decide, when they had fulfilled their daily 300kcal/day (MEDIUM) or 600kcal/day (HIGH) exercise dept. The log-files of the heart rate monitors were deliberately analyzed by the scientists every on a weekly basis, missed sessions had to be made good for and repeated non-compliance was penalized with immediate exclusion from the trial. Effectively, the guys in the HIGH dose arm of the study simply exercised longer at the same ~66-67% of their VO2Max on the mean 6.2 "workout days" both groups had in common.

Contrary to what the scientists, who totally relied on their (stupid) calories in vs. calories out calculations, had expected these longer workouts and the associated increase in exercise induced energy expenditure did not result in either greater weight or fat loss in the highly compliant participants of the HIGH dose exercise group (compliance: 96% vs. 99% in the HIGH and MODERATE arms, respectively; statistically this difference was not significant).
Figure 3: Changes in body weight and fat mass (left) and "real" (=calculated based on weight loss) energy deficit the subjects accumulated over the 13-week study period (data based on Rosenkilde. 2012)
If you take a closer look at the data in figure 3 you will even realize that the 30 subjects who had initially been randomized to the MODERATE dose arm of the study and should thus expended ~27,300kcal less than their peers in the HIGH dose arm when the final measurements were taken, had lost slightly more total and fat weight than their harder training counterparts.

"Hey! Where are the weights, dude?"

Yet despite the fact that Rosenkilde et al. triumphantly report that the "energy balance was 83% more negative than expected in MOD, while it was 20% less negative than expected in HIGH" a closer look at the data in figure 3 will also reveal that the ratio of total to fat mass loss, i.e.
  • 1.1 g of fat per 1g of total mass in the MODERATE dose group
  • 1.4 g of fat per 1g of total mass in the HIGH dose group
does still speak in favor of doing a little bit more, than what is necessary to lose weight (I almost forgot: During the study period, the energy intakes did not differ between the groups and there were no significant differences between the subjects on low carb and the subjects on high carb diets wrt to the study outcome). This is all the more true, because the +1kg increase in lean mass (compared to a third sedentary control group this was even statistically significant) in the HIGH dose group went hand in hand with a significant increase in resting energy expenditure (+205kcal/day in HIGH vs. +192kcal in MODERATE).

However, I guess I don't really need to tell you the reason why I highly recommend that you still stick to short(er) and/or less frequent LISS (=light intensity steady state) workouts, do I? Yeah, right! Used more as a regenerative means, to play basketball or soccer with friends to take the dog for a walk or jog with your beautiful significant other through the park short(er) LISS workouts constitute an excellent counterpart to your obligatory weight lifting sessions and won't force you into the dreaded vicious circle of over-training (and under-eating), due to which the fat loss of so many trainees stalls, when the first couple of pounds have literally fallen off their hips.
Implications: Collectively these two studies would support the notion that all physical activity has its merit. They also emphasize the under-appreciated simple truth that both, the combination of a high intensity strength and moderate intensity LISS regimen (+ the occasional short HIIT workout) and a moderate intensity strength and high intensity interval training program (+optional moderate intensity LISS training) constitute effective ways to reduce your body fat percentage! With the former being more geared to the advanced trainee who is also looking to build some quality muscle mass and the latter being the workout of choice for the beginner who "just wants to look good naked", there are more than a billion permutations you will have to experiment with in order to identify not the best routine, but your best routine at a given timepoint in your career as a beginning, advanced, or elite physical culturist(highly suggested read: The "Step By Step Guide to Your Own Workout Routine").

  • Gremeaux V, Drigny J, Nigam A, Juneau M, Guilbeault V, Latour E, Gayda M. Long-term Lifestyle Intervention with Optimized High-Intensity Interval Training  Improves Body Composition, Cardiometabolic Risk, and Exercise Parameters in Patients with Abdominal Obesity. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Jul 30.
  • Rosenkilde M, Auerbach PL, Reichkendler MH, Ploug T, Stallknecht BM, Sj√∂din A. Body fat loss and compensatory mechanisms in response to different doses of aerobic exercise - a randomized controlled trial in overweight sedentary males. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2012 Aug 1.