The New Year can be riddled with fitness marketing that encourages you to do two things: cut calories and tack on the cardio. Unfortunately, this messaging cannot only be damaging in the short term, but also for the entirety of the coming year.
In today’s post, we will review what NOT to do this year to make 2023 your most successful fitness year yet. This information can also be found in our “Improve results in one year” workshop. Start your 14-day free trial to not only learn what NOT to do, but what TO do as well.
We have noticed two different trends lately in the fitness world and on social media, especially for women. Women two fall into these two categories:
Let’s dive into the moderate-intensity camp first.
This tends to be the place women go at the start of a New Year or when they want a “quick fix”. This camp promises to “burn your fat with exercise” and typically features longer-form classes that greatly elevate your heart rate, but not to maximum capacity.
Here’s why that approach might lead to the downward spiral:
The Constrained Total Energy Expenditure Model dispels the “calories in vs. calories in” mindset that this approach relies on. Instead, this model illuminates that our bodies prefer to stay within a narrow window of energy expenditure each day.
This means that when we increase our energy output through long-form cardio activities, other functions within our bodies decrease in order to counter this output. This can come in the form of slowed digestion, decreased fidgeting, etc
This model is not meant to discourage movement. But to instead highlight that utilizing movement to “counteract” your food choices will not lead to the energy deficit you are hoping for.
Let’s read that again and add a very important qualifier: Metabolism actually stays the same between ages 20-60, when lean mass remains the same.
While fat loss can happen with this moderate-intensity group, muscle/lean mass tends to happen simultaneously. Enter the downward spiral.
Here’s how it works:
You focus on burning calories + eating less → You lose both fat AND muscle → Your metabolism drops because you have less lean mass → You have to continually cut calories to maintain → Final product: constant “dieting”, hormonal issues, joint pain, and burnout.
But what about the low-intensity camp?
This segment of fitness has gained immense popularity over the last few years, especially on social media. Many in this group may have experienced the significant burnout and joint pain spurred by the moderate-intensity classes of their past. It makes sense that they would seek out a system that’s more systemically friendly.
While formats like Yoga and Pilates can be less overwhelming for our systems as a whole, this low-intensity camp may end up seeing similar results to the moderate-intensity crew in the long run.
As mentioned in the previous section, muscle/lean mass are crucial when it comes to our longevity. With many of these low-intensity formats, overall muscle mass can also decline overtime.
This is because of the way exercises in many of these classes stimulate our muscle fibers. We have two major groups of muscle fibers: Type I and Type II.
Type I muscle fibers are our smaller, more endurance-type muscle fibers. Type II muscle fibers are our larger muscle fibers that make up the majority of a muscle’s mass.
As we age, we experience a natural loss of Type II fibers that must be actively worked against. On the other hand, we tend to keep a fairly good composition of our Type I muscle fibers.
Most of the exercises in these classes primarily stimulate our Type I muscle fibers without activating the very important Type II muscle fibers. This can contribute to the downward spiral.
Here’s out it works:
You focus on smaller endurance fibers → You lose muscle mass because of loss of Type II fibers → Your metabolism drops → You have to continually cut calories to maintain → Final product: constant “dieting”.
“Results” are made up of 50% anabolic processes (processes that build tissue up) and 50% catabolic processes (processes that break tissue down). Recovery is an anabolic process while exercise is a catabolic process- we break down muscle when we exercise and build it back up when we recover.
If we have an imbalance of these types of processes in the bottom, muscle growth cannot happen.
The low-intensity exercise group tends to have too much anabolic while the moderate-intensity group tends to have too much catabolic. And both make sustainable results difficult.
More muscle improves our insulin sensitivity. And insulin is a hormone that affects nearly every process within our bodies.
Better insulin sensitivity leads to better glucose regulation and an increased ability for our bodies to use fat as fuel.
Building muscle has nothing to do with how many calories you burn within your workout. In fact, that “calories burned” number might be very low in your strength training sessions. We recommend ditching your fitness watch for this reason and many more.
Here’s how it works:
You gain muscle (without sacrificing your joints) → You improve your metabolism and insulin sensitivity → You improve your glucose regulation → Final product: You experience more freedom with what you eat, leanness becomes easier to maintain, and you have less pain/burnout.
Want access to the exact tools to get on the upward spiral in 2023? Watch our “Improve results in one year” workshop on the membership here!
Listen to Dr. Shannon Ritchey, PT, DPT as she integrates the most current literature with her experience as a fitness trainer to give you tangible takeaways to improve your fitness.
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