Well here we are, the last day of March 2016. April 1st is really a marker for spring isn’t it? It’s like the official but non official first day of spring. I think it’s about all that rain that washes the dirty snow away and bring all those May flowers we love so much.
I love the distinct change in seasons we experience in Canada. They make me feel like a new goal has been set…mother nature’s goal I suppose.
My goals are still as they were 3 months ago, strengthen and increase my metabolism, build strength and more muscle mass especially in my upper body and continue to support and repair my digestive system and gut health and maximize overall health and fertility. This was January’s goal summary post.
I’ve been reverse dieting for 6 months now and have increased my carb and fat intake by more than double. My current nutrition is at a point where I feel satisfied. Not hungry and not overly full with room to include daily treats if I want them. I will work to increase my caloric intake even more though to really improve and maximize my metabolism. Plus I want to be eating more always! Being just under 5 feet tall has no impact on my appetite 😉
I wrote a bit about flexible and reverse dieting in this post and I’ll talk about it in more detail in another post but essentially the idea is to max out your caloric intake and get your metabolic rate fired up before dropping down a little and finding your personal perfect balance between your leanest (or best for you) physique and your highest metabolic rate while eating the most amount of calories (especially carbs and fat) while still maintaining that shape you want.
Everyone’s idea of the perfect physique is different and everyone’s physique is different. Most of us want symmetry and balance, to balance our top and bottom or maybe gain an hourglass shape, but not everyone. Some people prefer bigger shoulders or bigger booties or thick quads or slim arms or all of those or none of those. It’s ok, choose what you like and work for it. Part of that work should be spent on your metabolism. We can’t diet all the time and the times we are not dieting shouldn’t be spent bingeing. That just leads you to the dreaded yoyo diet and no one is happy in yoyo town 😉
To increase metabolism the focus should be on the following:
1. Reverse Diet. Slowly increase macro-nutrients specifically carbohydrate and fats
Our bodies are smart and when you diet (eat in a deficit) your metabolism slows down to compensate for the reduction in calories. This is why if you diet over and over it can become harder and harder to lose weight. Your body actually gets smarter and prevents you from “starving” it by making it harder for you to burn off calories and moves your natural body fat set point higher over time. (Good BioLayne vlog here on this)
By spending time outside of a deficit and by strategically working to increase your calories overtime you can effectively train your metabolism in the opposite direction. In the bodybuilding community this is often called off-season or bulking but the mistake frequently made is adding all the calories back in too quickly before allowing your body to adjust and you end up gaining an exponential amount of body fat. By really focusing on slow and controlled increments of carbohydrates and fat while maintaining a moderate to high protein intake (aim for 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of body-weight) a you can avoid this massive fat gain.
The idea is to gain the least amount of body fat as possible during this time and the most amount of muscle mass although everyone is different, you likely will gain some body fat. It’s par for the course and we’ll talk about it in another post.
This research is so fascinating and I’ll write more about it but in the meantime here is another really good (30 minute) in depth video from from Dr. Layne Norton, who the scientist behind this concept, about reverse dieting.
2. Lift Heavy Weight
Lifting challenging (heavy for you) is about progressive overload. Lean muscle mass increases our metabolic rate. For you to build muscle you need to build strength and to do that you need to overload the muscle. Remember the cues I mentioned in a previous few posts: Burn, Breathless, Heat and Heaviness, well those are what you are looking for. You want to experience those cues during your workouts coupled with evidence getting stronger over time. You should be able to see an increase in your strength gains overtime although remember that progress when it comes to our bodies is never linear (please don’t tell me you want to lose a pound a week…it doesn’t work that way)
Here are three great articles on progressive overload if you are interested:
3. Keep Workout Intensity High
Just like I mentioned above, you should be working hard in your training sessions. As you increase your calories and food intake this is really not the time to dial back on the intensity of your training. Lifting challenging weight for you should be intense. It should be work. Your HITT cardio should be intense, hence why it’s called High Intensity Interval Training. During your high intensity intervals you should be going all out, your maximum exertion. This will force you to need to rest and that’s how intervals work. I typically do 30 second on/90 second rest or I use a rest based method.
For example, sprint hard and then walk, use the stair mill at highest setting you can handle and then at the lowest needed to recover, push a weighted sled hard and rest, jump squats and rest, burpees and rest and so on.
4. Reduce Overall (HIIT) Cardio Time
HIIT is a very effective tool for fat loss. If efficient and effective and your body has a much harder time adapting to it which is what we want. In fact it’s been show to actually increase your metabolic rate and help you build lean mass overall.
Your sessions are intense and effective and a good use of your time so use them as needed. When focused on building your metabolic rate you want to work to dial back to just what’s needed to maintain your physique. When you are in a fat loss phase you may have increased your high intensity cardio (and all cardio) and that fine for a period of time but when you want to come out of that all-out type training that can be hard to maintain you want to do it slowly. You want to dial back gradually and find balance so you can get to a point where you are doing little to no cardio (HITT or other) while building your metabolic rate. That way when you are ready to dial in again and find that sweet spot you have some tools to use to get there. If you are going all out all the time you have no room to move. Too much cardio and exercise in general can also be a detriment. More is not better, better is better.
Remember that what you do to reach a goal is often what you have to keep doing to maintain it unless you have a strategic plan in place like reverse dieting. It’s not like once you reach your goal you are set and can simply just coast. You have to keep working to maintain your results.
I know from personal experience I have much better results from HITT than I do steady state cardio. If I do more than 40 minutes of LISS (low intensity steady state cardio) a week I quickly start to lose the lines of definition in my legs and the gains I’ve made in my booty and upper body, especially, disappear quickly. I have much better luck, as do most of my clients, combining both HIIT and LISS.
In general a good choice it to choose weight lifting > HIIT cardio > HIIT > steady state cardio.
5. Little-to-no steady state cardio
This is similar to point number 4 but where HITT does have some good impact on increasing your metabolic rate there is evidence that long-term steady state cardio may actually reduce it. I’m talking pretty typical long slower steady state cardio like elliptical, long distance jogging and some type or aerobics classes where your heart rate is up and fairly steady for an hour or more. Essentially if you are only focused on calories vs calories out you are missing out on the benefit of the after burn that high intensity training gives you. Let’s say you aim to burn 200 calories during your jog. You are only burning that 200 hundred calories in the moment but lose out on the hormonal effect of HIIT. The hormonal effect of your training is key which brings us back to point #3 – Intensity.
Side note: At one time concurrent cardio and weight training was thought to inhibit muscle growth (hypertrophy) but the latest research is showing otherwise which is interesting (and all the more reason to keep up to date!). Here is another article comparing HIIT and LISS.
Steady state cardio is valuable for cardiovascular health, for recovery, for use with people with injuries or of those unable to train at a high intensity. It’s also effective when combined strategically with HIIT during fat loss phases.
What ever types of cardio we are talking about are ultimately tools and you can use these tools if and when needed in fat loss phase to help you through sticking points. During a phase where metabolism and reverse dieting are priority increased steady state cardio is not recommended. If you are doing it reduce it slowly by tapering down give your body time to adjust or switch to HIIT style.
My training currently looks like this:
- Weight lifting 6x a week – focus on lifting as heavy as I can for most exercises typically no more than 45min
*Specific focus on hypertrophy in upper back, shoulders, arms and hamstrings. Also glutes, calves and lower abs (to continue to strengthen and repair my diastasis recti)
- Isometric and/or circuit style movements to burnout the muscle group and finish off most sessions
- HIIT- quick 15 min metabolic style (or 8 interval) sessions 4x a week
- Daily dynamic mobility work before training or where I can fit it in
- Daily walking (to get a coffee, walk the dogs etc)
I typically do my weight training first followed by HITT or separate them entirely and do one in the morning and one in the evening. Sometimes I’m training at Goodlife Fitness, sometimes at home and sometimes outside or sometimes in a class. Whatever works! My regular morning routine is a bit shaken up these days and I’m sorting out the best schedule for me but either way I get it done.
Working out for hours a day doesn’t fit into my busy life. I need my training to be succinct and I need to choose efficient and effective methods to ensure that. My goal over time is to train less and eat more while maintaining a shape I’m happy with. I value strength, overall health and wellness and the choices I make in my training and nutrition reflect that.
Finding alignment with your goals and actions is a huge part of your success in all areas of life including your fitness and nutrition. This means setting on your goal, getting your mind right and doing the work necessary. It isn’t always easy but reminding yourself often what those goals are help so much.
Cheers to maximizing your metabolism!