Last week, I introduced readers to a list of 10 “back to basics” fitness and nutrition tips and strategies in an effort to de-mystify just what it takes to get into great shape. We live in a world of so much information overload that I have found people become overwhelmed with too many options when it comes to exercise, nutrition, performance, recovery etc… When this happens, they become like the proverbial “deer in the headlights” and freeze. In other words, when they have too much to consider and no idea where to start, they do nothing. After enough time has passed and they realize that they’re in a worse place from the time that they “froze”, they’ll usually seek out more information in an effort to get going; adding to the overwhelm, more freezing and a continuation of the cycle.
So, starting this week, my job is to reduce your overwhelm and help you get started or help you get to the next level of your physical and mental development.
The first item on my list last week concerned the importance of the sequence, or order, of your exercise routine. If you are attempting to burn fat and get leaner with exercise, than it is important to do your strength training first and your aerobic exercise second.
The reason that the order of exercise is important is because your body uses different types of fuel to power through different physical demands. In an effort to keep things as simple as possible; imagine that you have two main fuel tanks in your body. These hypothetical tanks are filled with either sugar or fat. As long as both tanks are full, the body’s preferred energy source comes from sugar, therefore, to start emptying the fat tank you first need to empty the sugar tank.
As mentioned above, the body’s preferred source of fuel comes from sugar (otherwise known as glucose). This is especially true when doing strength training which is typically performed in brief, intense spurts; think of the time and effort that it takes to do a set of pushups or dumbbell squats. If you perform 10 to 15 repetitions of either exercise, the set will take 30 seconds at the very most. The sugar that is stored within your muscles, or in your blood from the foods that you’ve eaten, is the most easily accessible form of energy for your body to use when presented with the strength training activities described above. Conversely, stored fat is very rarely (if ever) used as a fuel source when performing strength training. It is used to a much greater degree in activities of longer duration and lower intensity. Activities like walking, jogging, cycling, swimming etc…
Whenever you do engage in aerobic exercise at a moderate level of intensity, your body draws from it’s preferred source of fuel. If sugar is available, it will be the primary source until it runs out. In the absence of sugar, stored fat (body fat) will then be made more readily available to be “burnt” and the exerciser will burn fat a higher rate than before.
As I’ve mentioned before, I frequently view my role as being that of a “simplifier”. People work better and more successfully with simple, clear direction. Having said that, I realize that the energy systems in the body are much more complex than I’ve lain out and that the description I’ve given here may be overly simple; that’s the point. If someone is looking for something small that can potentially reap great rewards, this is one of those things.
In conclusion; if you changed nothing in your workout other than the order that you performed strength and aerobic training, you have a much greater chance of burning fat and getting leaner.