Fat Burning and the Difference Between Boys and Girls

25 11 2013

Fat-burning aside, we all know that the primary difference between men and women is that…

With that bit of science covered, let’s discuss the difference between men and women when it comes to burning fat.  I came across a tidy little article the other day entitled Five Facts Women Must Know To Lose Fat, Build Muscle, and Increase Performance, another gem from the Poliquin Group.  I’ve already written a few pieces on women and weights, but this article really spelled out the major challenges that women face with losing fat. In summary, these 5 critical facts are:

1) At rest, women burn more glucose (carbs) than men and less fat

As we know, premenopausal women have greater fat-storing capability than men; gotta have some fat stores in the thighs and hips for baby-making time. This gluteofemoral fat typically has a high percentage of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, critical for the production of breast milk and for the development of a baby’s brain. The issue? The North American diet contains very high levels of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and very few omega-3 fatty acids. If dietary DHA needs are not met, this triggers the female brain to release hunger cues in an attempt to store more fat overall and raise DHA levels; this of course, leads to weight gain. The fix? As I’ve mentioned before, whether you are a man or woman, trying to have a baby or not, you should seriously consider supplementing with a high-quality fish oil supplement. Unless you are eating fatty fish several times a week, you are not getting adequate amounts of omega-3 in your diet. If your diet is high in omega-6 fatty acids (vegetable oils, margarine, meat, etc.) this will only compound the problem. Additionally, since women are better equipped to burn carbs than they are fats, you should make an attempt to alternate high-fat and high-carb days, forcing the body to selectively burn fat at certain times. High intensity training also encourages the body to burn of everything, so incorporating sprints and weight lifting is, as always, quite helpful. Try eating more carbs on workout days and less carbs on non-gym days; this kind of cycling can be very effective.

2) Women and men burn (and store) body fat differently

Carrying on from the last point: women rely on fat for fuel during exercise more than men. Additionally, women burn far less fat at rest than men. Women also typically lose weight in the upper body before the lower body follows suit- again, this is an evolutionary thing, with women having more receptors in their lower body fat equipped for hanging on for dear life. The fix? High intensity training. Sometimes I feel like a broken record, but the truth of the matter is that lifting heavy weights and performing high-intensity cardio is extremely beneficial and is almost always the best strategy for losing fat. Get after those squats and deadlifts and you’ll give yourself the best possible chance to fight those stubborn lower-body fat stores.


3) Stress affects women’s metabolism, inhibiting fat loss

Stress also affects men, but to a lesser degree. High stress leads to high cortisol secretion which increases blood sugar providing energy for the stressful situation. The stress response isn’t always negative, but when this process becomes chronic, the hormonal precursor for testosterone (important for muscle-building and fat loss) is used to alternatively create progesterone, which leads to storing more fat. Chronic stress in both men and women will halt the fat loss process, regardless of exercise and diet. The fix? Chill out! Find ways to decompress and relax: take up yoga, meditate, get more sleep. Stress makes life unpleasant and since we only get one go-around it’s important to find ways to limit your stress and to increase the moments that make you happy!

4) Intermittent fasting and calorie restriction tends to be detrimental for women but beneficial for men

I’ve already written about the detriments of caloric restriction and IF for women, but this is a good reminder. Intermittent Fasting and caloric restriction can work for men, but these strategies tend to lead to weight gain for women. Calorie restriction leads to hormonal dysregulation in women- when calories get low, the female body goes into emergency fat-storage mode to ensure survival and reproductive health for as long as possible. The fix? Eat! Many women feel guilty when eating and this is something that we need to change. The truth is that if you eat a balanced diet of fats, carbs and protein, your hormones will be happy, your stress will be low, and your body won’t be clinging to its fat stores. Don’t overthink things- eat real food, eat when you’re hungry, and the rest will fall into place.


5) Young women have the same ability to build muscle as men

Shocking right? Recent studies show that protein synthesis and gene signaling that leads to muscle gains are nearly equal between young men and women. Women are, however, smaller overall and have less total muscle mass, so gains are relatively smaller. The only time when a man has a greater ability to gain muscle is during puberty (hello testosterone!) with the exception of older women, who have a very hard time building muscle. The fix? Well, there isn’t really a fix here, but moreso it is good news for women- you DO have an equal ability to build muscle, and muscle is the fat-burning engine in the human body; the more muscle mass you have, the more fat you’ll burn at rest. Again, the key is to lift challenging weights at the gym and to mix up your workout routine every month or so, which will prevent your fat burning from reaching a plateau.

And there you have it- a bit of insight into the female challenge of losing fat. As always, there is no one-size fits all diet or workout plan that will work for everyone, so find what works for you and execute your plan for success. For any questions on fat burning and weight loss, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

Happy Monday!



Complexes: Painful, Efficient & Badass

5 06 2013


I recently created a fat loss training program for a friend of mine and suggested that he finish his workouts with some interval work of his choice: either cardio intervals or weight training intervals, otherwise known as complexes. Although he is already proficient with bike intervals, earlier today he brought to my attention that I had failed to thoroughly explain how to perform complexes, which prompted me to find an article to explain this for him. The article I found was so solid that I decided I needed to share it with my readers. The article was published back in 2009, so this really isn’t breakthrough stuff, but if your goal is fat loss, you should pay close attention and read Screw Cardio! Four Complexes for a Shredded Physique. And yes, I’m a big fan of the title.

Complexes in a nutshell?

A complex is where you pick up a barbell (or a set of dumbbells, or a plate, or any kind of weight at all really), perform several reps of an exercise with it, then move right into another exercise, then another, and another, and maybe one or two more. Then you see black spots, get all ripped ‘n shit, and bang swimsuit models.

What are the benefits of complexes?

  • Increase training volume
  • Boost strength endurance
  • Increase caloric expenditure and melt body fat
  • Take advantage of the EPOC effect (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption)
  • Increase work capacity and overall conditioning
  • Not risk losing any muscle
  • Not be bored out of you skull like the giggling guinea pigs over in the cardio area

When do you use complexes?

  • As a replacement for boring-ass cardio during fat loss phases
  • As a conditioning tool for sports
  • As an off-day “bonus” workout if you just feel like going to the gym when you’re not scheduled to (OCD, anyone?)

    Actually, you should finish your set after you puke.

    Actually, you should finish your set after you puke.

  • As part of an unloading/deloading week.

What exercises can be used in complexes?

The idea is to stick to compound movements (ie, avoid isolation movements). The list includes (but isn’t limited to): Squat, front squat, overhead squat, deadlift, straight-leg deadlift, bentover row, power clean, hang clean, good morning, lunge, reverse lunge, push press, military press, floor press. So pick 5 to 8 of these, rock out 6ish reps of each consecutively, take 60-90 seconds rest, and do it another 3 times.

How much weight should you use for a complex?

For beginners, doing these without weight could be a challenge. Start slow- you should use a weight that you can handle- but the idea is to use a weight that makes it VERY difficult to perform 4 straight, painfully-gruelling sets- by the last set, you probably shouldn’t be able to walk.  It’s a game of trial and error, but be ambitious.

These sound awful, why would anyone do these?

Because some people actually want results.

For more detailed information, and for a structured outline of 4 different complexes accompanied by video, check out the article.

That’s all for today! Do some complexes, curse my name, and then thank me later.


A Quick EPOC and Fat Loss Reminder

25 03 2013

Lift heavy things, and it won’t be so imaginary.

Hope everyone had a nice weekend!

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about how exercising with relatively heavy weights forces your body to continue burning calories at an elevated rate for up to 38 hours post-workout? Remember last week when I told you that weight training ultimately helps you burn more calories than cardio alone? Well, Muscle & Fitness just wrote a little piece to back me up. And remember, Muscle & Fitness is one of the good magazines out there (NOT to be confused with Men’s Health).

It’s honestly very refreshing to see good information come out to the general public, so any time I see something like this, I’m going to pass it your way!

Happy Monday!


Workout Tempo; Strength Gain vs. Fat Loss

1 03 2013


I came across this succinct little video over on the Muscle & Fitness website (which, in my opinion, is one of the better strength/fitness magazines on the market) and I wanted to share it for a few reasons. Take 3 minutes out of your day to give it a watch, and take note of the following:

1) Slow tempo = strength gains. Fast tempo = fat loss (notice how out of breath he becomes after the 4 fast reps; this is what I’m talking about!)

2) Notice his squat. This is what you want your squat to look like.

3) His lack of sleeves. Someone must have stolen them. Poor guy.

That’s all for now. Happy lifting!


Fat-loss: Finishers, discipline, success

22 01 2013

222868_10101025237268184_9362072_81186257_6512712_nAgain, I’ve found a great article with lots of insightful information. Jason Ferruggia details simplistically a few great ways to shed fat in his article, What’s the Best Fat Loss Workout?

It’s not a long read, so give it a look, but here are the major take-home points:

– The single most important factor for fat loss is diet. Period. This means avoiding sugar, liquid calories, fried food, processed food, etc.

– Even if your primary goal is to lose fat, you should still train like you’re trying to build muscle and gain strength. You still want to keep the big, compound exercises in your routine because they incorporate the most muscle mass and burn the most calories.

– In general, rest periods should always be pushed no matter what the goal. Shorter breaks between sets and a brisk pace throughout the workout will boost conditioning levels and help you stay leaner.

– When your main strength work is done, you should follow it up with a high-intensity finisher for 5-10 minutes. This could be sled pushes, kettlebell snatches, battling ropes, heavy bag work or sledgehammer swings. Note: if you don’t have this equipment at your gym, you can perform 3-4 circuits of 5-6 gym exercises using dumbbells or a barbell.

– Once you’ve successfully worked in finishers 2-3 times per week, you can then add hill sprints (or flat-ground sprints) to your training regimen.

– Pace yourself when adding finishers and/or sprints- they are taxing.

– Remember that no matter how much extra work you add in you can really only lose two pounds of fat per week without losing muscle.

–  If you follow a proper diet, train hard, do some finishers and sprints, you’re doing all you can. Be patient, be disciplined, and the results will come.

For more information on how to work-in finishers and sprints to your workouts, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.