There you go again—walking in a straight line for hours on that treadmill, dancing on and off that step in your “power” aerobics class. How about the person riding that bike while talking on the cell phone? I can’t leave out those people pumping away with endless amounts of repetitions with those ever so popular pink dumbbells.

Why is it that you see the same people with the same bodies year after year? It’s because people have been doing the same old thing for far too long and nothing works forever! How many more crunches and aerobic classes do you have to do to finally get some results?

Let me ask you a question—do you remember your first cup of coffee? Remember how it got you all wired? Over time that first cup just didn’t give you the same type of effect that the first one did, so what did you have to do? You needed to drink two cups, right? In order for you to get the same effect that you used to get, one of two things had to occur—either you had to increase the total amount of coffee you consumed or you had to increase the strength of the coffee. What about the first alcoholic beverage you had back in college? Remember how it didn’t take much to get you the “buzz” you may have been seeking? Fast forward to your senior year or even right now and you’ll see that your tolerance for alcohol has somewhat improved. In order to get the same effect, one of two things must occur—either you have to increase the total amount of alcohol you drink or you have to pick a stronger drink.

The SAID principle exposed
You might be asking yourself how the above examples have anything to do with your fitness program or fat loss endeavors? Allow me to explain. The SAID principle defined is specific adaptations to imposed demands. In a nutshell, this means that your body will always get better at exactly whatever it does no matter what it is. Let’s use the SAID principle with an example toward fat loss.

If you run one mile three days a week, I can guarantee that by the next week that one mile will feel easier. Well, according to the SAID principle, it should. Within the next week or two, you should be able to increase your mileage. You’re now progressing nicely because those two miles are feeling like your old one mile. Why not go for four miles the next week or how about five miles? You will eventually get to the point where ten miles or even 15 miles won’t be a difficult accomplishment.

If you remember the two examples I used in the beginning—coffee and alcohol—you’ll remember that your body will become desensitized to any stimulus it’s exposed to too often. This even includes long distance running. This means in order for you to burn the same amount of calories you used to get at five miles, you’ll now need to run ten miles! You’ve effectively adapted to the implied demand of running at the same intensity. From a caloric expenditure standpoint, this is catastrophic. So what is the solution?

If we look at the above scenarios using coffee and alcohol, there are only two choices—run further or increase the intensity of the run and shorten the distance. This actually proves that long distance/low intensity, steady state cardio isn’t a smart modality for fat loss. Why? Because you must do more work to get the same effect!

Do you want a Cadillac or a Honda? Chunky aerobic teacher syndrome revealed
If I told you that my Honda got good gas mileage, this would mean that my car was fuel efficient. It would be able to go long distances on very little gas. This is actually a good thing—for a car. What if I told you that running long distances or performing low intensity, long duration cardio made your body efficient at using fat for energy? This type of exercise not only wrecks your joints, creating pain and dysfunction, but it also makes your body extremely fuel efficient or fat efficient! This is great for your car but extremely frustrating for someone engaging in a fat loss program.

You want your body to mimic a Cadillac when engaging in a fat loss program. You want a car (body) with a big engine (a lot of muscle)! The goal should be to use as much fuel as possible, but that fuel should be coming from glycogen, not fat. Too much long distance, long duration types of activities will make your engine (muscle) smaller, thus creating less of a calorie burning machine at rest. By increasing the intensity and shortening the duration, you’ll use glycogen as your primary fuel source, and you’ll use fat for energy while recovering from your training session. By increasing the intensity, you’ll also be able to maintain lean muscle (engine), which will increase your resting metabolic rate or the amount of calories you can use while doing nothing. Could this be the reason we see fat, long distance runners? What about fat spinning/aerobics instructors? Could this be the reason so many people hit plateaus and quit their exercise programs come February or March?

Don't get me wrong—are there people not of Kenyan descent who receive great benefits from long duration, low intensity, steady state aerobics? Of course! What about that one guy who lost 50 pounds and the only thing he did was spinning three days a week? Oh and there is that woman in step class who looks awesome! She swears by it. It must work.

You’re exactly right. It did work—for them! This is exactly my point. Just because it works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. The same goes for the Adkins diet, the South Beach diet, the fat flush diet, the peanut butter diet, the cookie diet, vegetarian diets, vegan diets, Jenny Craig, or Weight Watchers. These diets all work for some and more often than not fail for others. We’re all unique and each person’s diet, cardio regimen, and weight training protocols are truly unique to each individual. It’s a mistake to blindly follow in the footsteps of whatever is popular on television, in the magazines in your grocery checkout line, or what the bodybuilder at your local gym told you. You’ll most likely just be setting yourself up for failure.

Let me remind you of the definition of insanity—to continue to do the same things and expect different results. A great quote by Poliquin puts it all in perspective: “The best training routine you can be on is the one you’re not on.”

Stay tuned for part two of the Fat Loss for Dummies series where I’ll talk in-depth about the lost art of intensity.

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