Your heart is the greatest coach in the world! It never lies. It will inform you if you’re going to easy or hard. It will tell you well in advance that your coming down with a cold of flu. It is without a doubt the greatest organ in our body!
Throughout the ages the heart has been referred to in reverence. Such as an old proverb that says, “Follow your heart and your dreams will come true.” If you learn how it can also help you to lose weight and get into shape, you’ll be unlocking, as H. Jackson Brown, Jr. said, “…the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.”
Let’s explore some truths about exercise physiology.
First of all there are two main sources the body gets it’s fuel from and the level of exercise is related; aerobic and anaerobic. The word aerobic means, “with oxygen” and anaerobic means “without oxygen.” Thus, aerobic, from an exercise standpoint, means that the body is obtaining energy primarily from fat mixed with oxygen to provide fuel. Anaerobic means that the body is obtaining fuel to burn from energy stores in muscle and without the need for oxygen (this is why you can’t catch your breath when you go hard because you don’t have any oxygen left, it has all been used up and now the body is getting fed from muscle).
Truth #1: The best source of fuel for the body is from fat.
The body has at least 60,000 – 80,000 calories stored up in fat. Each pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories. On the other hand, the body only stores about 1,000 calories in muscle. After that is used up, the body, if not trained, will begin to almost cannibalize itself to get more energy. This will only last a few minutes at best. You’ve seen athletes just collapse at the finish line. They have gone so hard and used up all the last calories stored in muscle and like a car that runs out of gas; it stops. The body that runs out of this kind of fuel can also be injurious. So fat is almost in unlimited supply and if the body is trained properly to use it can go a real long time before pit stops.
Myth #1: Many believe that when they are doing an “aerobic” workout that they are burning fat.
Let’s explore this myth in detail. You may have gone to a spin class or some other form of exercise that was described as “aerobic”. As you started the routine it was fine but as you continued you were entirely out of breath and your heart rate maxed out. But undaunted, you were sure this was good for you to burn those unwanted pounds. You were entirely worn out but undeterred in your quest to lose weight you went back for more punishment. After about 3 or 4 of these kind of sessions you realized that you hadn’t lost very much weight and were now finding excuses for not going back. Am I right? Why am I right?
Did you know that if you were out of breath and your heart rate was maxed you were likely in a situation called “anaerobic?” Read the definition of this above again. Sorry to bust your bubble but you were not burning fat. You were burning muscle. Thus, no weight loss and you were tired. But you were told it was aerobic. It is my experience that many fitness instructors do not know that every person has their own level of fitness and thus each has their own aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. Perhaps the fitness instructor teaching the class was at their own aerobic capacity but the poor students were gasping for air.
Truth #2: After finishing a true aerobic routine you will feel like you could do it all over again.
“Hey wait a minute” you may be saying. You thought that after a workout you should be all worn out. If you are trying to burn fat and shed pounds you have to be in an aerobic zone. Aerobic exercise almost feels easy. Why is this so? Remember the source of fuel; either fat or muscle. To burn fat you have to go easy.
There are many other wonderful benefits of true aerobic exercise. One is that it builds endurance and stamina (in science terms you are building awesome mitochondria). Another reason is that it will help you to have more energy throughout the day. A third reason is you’re body will recover and you’ll be able to exercise again the next day and the day after that, thus burning more and more fat.
Truth #3: Each person has an individual heart rate that is a really good gauge of when you are in either an aerobic or anaerobic zone.
Dr. Phillip Maffetone discovered a real simple method from years of testing and research with athletes and non-athletes to determine a person’s correct heart rate at which they would be exercising aerobically. It’s the 180 formula.
The 180 Formula
To find your maximum aerobic heart rate:
1. Subtract your age from 180 (180 – age).
2. Modify this number by selecting one of the following categories:
a. If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation, any hospital stay) or on any regular medication, subtract 10.
b. If you have not exercised before, you have exercised but have been injured or are regressing in your running, or you often get colds or flu or have allergies, subtract 5.
c. If you have been exercising for up to two years with no real problems and have not had colds or flu more than once or twice a year, subtract 0.
d. If you have been exercising for more than two years without any problems, making progress in competition without injury, add 5.
For example, if you are 30 years old and fit into category b: 180 – 30 = 150, and 150 – 5 = 145. This is your maximum aerobic heart rate.
Truth #4: An inexpensive heart rate monitor can read your heart rate and help you achieve your weight loss goals.
If you follow the 180 formula and, for example, come up with a number of 125. Then when you exercise you wear your monitor and keep your heart rate between 115-125, you’ll be receiving about 80% of your fuel from fat. For some people that start this method they may be going “real” easy and can’t believe it is doing them any good. This is a normal reaction. Trust the formula and over time, in as little as 12 weeks, they’ll be going just as hard but at this lower heart rate (remember those little mitochondria I talked about).
If you want to lose weight and exercise is a part of your plan, you have to stay in an aerobic zone for at least 12 weeks. You’ll begin to see noticeable gains in the first few weeks and you’ll feel great.