By Brent Moore, CSCS
One of the most frustrating things for any person who spends a lot of time at the gym, is repeatedly stepping on the scale or looking in the mirror and not seeing any results. You are eating better, exercising more, and the numbers and view remains the same. It can be demoralizing, aggravating, and downright infuriating. You look at others around you and see them changing while your own routine does not seem to be creating any noticeable difference in your waistline. You are training with the same person as them and at times doing the same workout. What gives? Let us assume you are not just maintaining a skewed view of yourself. Let us also assume that your diet is not the problem, (though you should make sure you are being honest with yourself about your diet), and let us also assume that there are no underlying hormone or health issues in the way. You probably do not want to hear this, but you may need to work out harder.
Notice that I did not say that you may need to work out more. Now if you are only making it to the gym once or twice a week, then absolutely, you need to exercise more regularly. Studies have shown that increasing workout frequency from three times per week to four or five times per week can nearly triple the amount of fat loss over the course of six weeks (Willis, Smith, & Willis, 2009). So, if you need to adjust your training schedule, start there. If you are, however, getting four to five workouts in each week, eating well, and still not seeing the results you want, you may need to adjust your workout intensity.
It should not come to anybody as a surprise that increasing exercise intensity will increase total energy expenditure within a workout. In comparison of subjects training at either 80% of their ventilatory threshold (VT) or at the maximal rate of fat oxidation for an individual, the group working out at the 80% VT had a significantly higher energy consumption (Wood, Byrne, & Hills, 2010). The fat oxidation was similar between groups during exercise, but the higher energy consumption creates a more lasting effect at the 80% VT intensity. You may not know how to know if you are at 80% VT, but the simple formula is, workout harder= expend more energy.
At this point in America, almost everybody knows someone who does CrossFit and that person is probably fit looking. I will not dive into the arguments of whether CrossFit is a good exercise routine, but I will say that they get results because of consistency and intensity. There are likely better and safer exercise routines that can produce far better results, but if you are lacking consistency or intensity, you will not ever realize them. A good coach can light a fire under you and get you burning at a high intensity, but if you are coming into the gym as a wet log, by the time the fire is burning, your workout may be over and time wasted.
In many gyms across the country, people are using Fitbit, heart rate monitors, and other measurement tools to tell them how many calories they are burning, what intensity they are working at, or how many effort points they have earned. None of this matters if the results are the same. Getting credit for your 10,000 steps does not mean a thing if that is just living your life. Extra effort and higher intensity is required for adaptation. You need to be doing something more than you were before if you expect to change.
Nobody is going to give you a doctorate in your current field if you do not put in the extra work and study hard while being enrolled in a doctorate program. You will not get any new credit for doing nothing new. Your bachelor’s degree does not earn a master’s. The work you put in for your master’s degree earns the master’s. Your body is the same, if you expect to do the same thing you have been doing or to change very little and get big results, you are fooling yourself. Workout often, workout at a higher than usual intensity, eat well, sleep plenty, and you may just surprise yourself at the results you can achieve.
Want to up your training intensity? Contact us today to make an appointment.
Willis, F., Smith, F., & Willis, A. (2009). Frequency of Exercise for Body Fat Loss: A Controlled, Cohort Study. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(8), 2377-2380
Wood, R., Byrne, N., & Hills, A. (2010, October 20). Exercise: Which intensity for fat loss? Obesity Research & Clinical Practice, 4. doi:10.1016/j.orcp.2010.09.009