Putting a Blow Torch to Fat

I mentioned yesterday that I’d be taking my skin fold test today.  I typically take this on Saturday to see if I’ve made any progress during the week on lowering the amount of fat in my body.  I’ve put the results from the last 3 weeks below:

Skin fold

6-Aug-11

13-Aug-11

20-Aug-11

Thigh

11

11

10

Abdomen

20

20

20

Suprailliac

10

10

10

Tricep

4

4

4

Weight (pounds)

212.97

212.31

212.97

Body Fat Percentage

13.22%

13.22%

12.97%

Pounds of Body Fat

28.15

28.06

27.62

Pounds of Lean Body Weight

184.82

184.25

185.38

Initially when I took these readings I must admit I was pretty depressed. At the two week point you’ll see that my weight has dropped a miniscule 1/2 a pound, with my skin-folds all the same.  The weight change could easily just be a difference in water weight and since it was so small anyway it didn’t excite me.  You’ll recall I then made more of an effort to get up to do some early morning cardio.  That was this week.  Well I haven’t felt 100% towards the end of this week so I missed two gym sessions, however since I was pretty strict on keeping to my calorie budget, and also managed some early morning fasted cardio, I was hopeful that there would be change.

Firstly, you can probably imagine my reaction when I got on the scales and saw that I was back to exactly the same weight as two weeks ago!  Bleh.  Then I took the skinfolds and they were also exactly the same except for the thigh which I put as 1mm lower.  To be honest though, it could easily be the same as last week anyway.  Taking a skin fold accurately is not an easy thing, and typically I will come up with a whole bunch of readings and take the average, or most commonly occurring number. So a drop of less than a half pound of fat over a week isn’t that encouraging – especially since it could very likely be no change!  It is depressing when one has been strict with diet and exercise, however at least my body fat isn’t increasing!  How would I deal with that?

So right after I took my skin folds I was wondering about what I need to do to get my fat loss moving again.  My calorie intake is already at around 10 calories per pound per day, for 6 days per week – which is pretty low.  Is it too low?  Have I put my body into starvation mode and it is holding on to every milligram of fat for life?  Well I opened my email and Mr. Will Brink came to the rescue again.  Good on you Will!

I subscribe to Will’s posts, and today he sent a link to a post that he did a couple of years ago on high intensity interval training (HIIT). And what do I read right in the middle of the post?  Here it is:

Tremblay et al (23) performed the most notable study which demonstrates that high-intensity exercise, specifically intermittent, supramaximal exercise, is the most optimal for fat loss. Subjects engaged in either an endurance training (ET) program for 20 weeks or a high-intensity intermittent-training (HIIT) program for 15 weeks. The mean estimated energy cost of the ET protocol was 120.4 MJ, while the mean estimated energy cost of the HIIT protocol was 57.9 MJ. The decrease in six subcutaneous skinfolds tended to be greater in the HIIT group than the ET group, despite the dramatically lower energy cost of training. When expressed on a per MJ basis, the HIIT group’s reduction in skinfolds was nine times greater than the ET group.

So in summary even though the guys doing HITT did not burn as much energy doing their exercises, and did it for 5 weeks less than the endurance training guys, they had a higher rate of fat loss!  In the article it states that they believe this is because the most important time for fat loss is not during the actual training, but in the many hours following it.  Basically HITT keeps the body “running hot” for longer following exercise, so more fat is burned.

Another key point I picked up from the article is the need to get one’s heart rate high during the training.  That 80-90% of maximum for a short time is a lot better than 60-70% at a longer time.  In fact, studies suggest it may be difficult to move fat at only 60-70% of max.

In the past I did do HITT once per week.  I would run on the treadmill for 1 min and then walk for 1 min, starting at 10 kph.  Each cycle I would increase the rate by 0.5, until a maximum of 17 kph, at which time I would be sprinting and could only do it for 45 seconds, and then cycle back down again.  It would take me about 40 minutes and I would be absolutely tired by the end of it.  I wouldn’t stop sweating for at least an hour afterwards.  I think I need to get back to that.

I was previously worried that doing a lot of cardio would cause me to lose lean muscle.  However I am now at the point where I have to try something new to shift this fat.  Reduced calories and resistance training just isn’t enough.  I’ll try the increased cardio for a week and see what happens.

By the way, my back was much better last night, so fingers crossed my arthritis isn’t back yet.  I’m still not feeling 100% though – although I can’t put my finger on what it may be.  My throat is a little sore, so perhaps my body is in the middle of a fight to keep some virus or bacteria at bay.  I’m listening to my body and just taking it easy.

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