There’s a misconception with exercise that more is better.
This couldn’t be further from the truth!
To make our bodies change, we need to stress them. Putting on weight you stress it with excess calories. To lose weight and change shape, we stress it with exercise. It’s unavoidable, but it should also be smart.
Continually stressing ourselves, be it via exercise or lifestyle choices will lead to it breaking down, and illness setting in.
So what’s the smart?!
Working out intensely, but for a short period. After around 45mins of intense exercise (where the heart rate is elevated) Cortisol levels start to rise. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released in relation to adrenaline release.
Think “Fight or Flight” when faced with testing times, our adrenaline levels rise in response to the situation. A little adrenaline is good, it keeps us on edge, and reactions sharpen, but too much and too often will have a detrimental effect, and we’ll tire easily, become ill, lose muscle, and our bodies will shut down.
A prime example of this in training is endurance training. I’m not here to knock people who do this style (distance running etc) as it’s a great challenge and achievement, but done often, and without balancing other stressors in your life, it can have a reverse effect of what you’re trying to achieve. You could become more tired, more injury prone, and often more susceptible to illness.
Take 2 athletes below;
Usain Bolt – the fastest man on the planet. His training and events are short and extremely sharp – you can bet his training involves short, sharp bursts of maximum effort, probably not lasting anything more than 45secs at a time, before recovering enough to go again at that intensity level.
There is no point doing any longer as it doesn’t carry over to his chosen event.
The result? Growth hormone release, high levels of testosterone, muscle gain, sharpness and a look in his eye that tells everyone he’s on edge and ready to deliver!
On the flip side we have marathon runners. Pointless to be lifting heavy weights for short, explosive periods of time as it doesn’t carry over to their long periods of sustained efforts.
What it does mean however is that due to the continually raised heart rate and pulse, they are in continuous “Fight or Flight” mode, adrenaline is pumping, as is cortisol, which is lowering testosterone and lowering muscle capability.
I know which body I’d rather go for (in both cases!);
Now the above are top level athletes who pay particular attention daily to their food intake alongside their training.
If it were Joe Public – the results would be similar in regard to muscle definition or loss via the hormonal response, but often weightloss is not part of it.
I know plenty of people who have desk jobs by day who have trained for endurance races and actually put on weight during the training, despite hitting over 80+ miles a week in training. The reason being is that food choices are higher through carbohydrates, which raises insulin levels, which promotes more love handle storage. There’s also not adequate recovery (sleep and food choices again) from training runs before work again, so the body is in a constant state of shock.
So what’s the answer!?
Well if you’re training for a distance event good luck. Keep protein and fats high in your diet alongside the starchy carbs, but integrate some strength training as well. This is needed for glute and core strength (2 areas which when weak cause injuries around hip, back and knee) but also can help leg strength and speed.
But if you’re not training for endurance then stick with short runs 5k, quick hill sprints, bodyweight circuits and resistance work, where you push your body hard over a short period of time, recover and go again, limiting session times to 45mins.
This way you’ll obtain the stimulus and restrict the shock on the body and the hormonal system.