Do you need to train at a high-intensity to lose body fat and get results ?
With the popularity of group fitness training styles like Les Mills, Body Pump, Cycle, and other high-intensity interval training styles, general population gym-goers get confused about the intensity they need to be working on, to achieve the results they want. In the context of this article, fat loss.
Before moving on, we need to define what high-intensity training is? High-intensity training is usually associated with the workout being hard, sweating a lot, and a general feeling of being uncomfortable during exercise and after. That’s how I would define it. The funny thing is, most people who do this type of training, aren’t working at the intensity level necessary to elicit the real benefits that come with high-intensity training. An example of this is Tabata training- 20s high, 10s low. Most people have heard of Tabata, but not a lot has read the published scientific article. A quick summary of the article goes something like this: Tabata training is a method created by Japanese sports scientist to help their Olympic team train more effectively. Yep, you read that right. The Tabata protocol was designed for Olympic level athletes. The opinions I usually read about the Tabata protocol is that most general population gym-goers, can’t hit the same level of intensity Olympic athletes can. Thus, it makes the Tabata protocol less active or ineffective altogether. I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of using the Tabata protocol as a fat loss tool before. But as you read through this article, you’ll see that my training philosophy has changed over the years, and I don’t prescribe Tabata or High-intensity training as much as I use to.
So, do you need to be training at a high intensity every time you set foot at the gym? No, you don’t. Yet plenty of general population gym goers think that you should.
Their mindset is along the lines of, “If I’m not working hard, then the workout isn’t effective!” is a very bad mindset to have. You do need to be working at a high intensity, for a certain amount of time, but this is usually a lot less than what people think. The best workout for you, no matter what your goal is, is the one you can recover from. Recovery is often an overlooked aspect of training. I won’t discuss recovery in this article; I’ll save that for another article. Just remember that it’s essential.
The belief that you need to train at a high intensity every time, I believe, is rooted in thinking that training needs to be hard for you to get results. Like, if the training session is too easy, then you won’t be getting results?! That’s ridiculous. Walking is one of the most effective tools to help us shed body fat and stay healthy, yet for most people walking is easy to do. A lot of these beliefs come down to mindset. Let me tell you a better approach, so you don’t have to train balls to walls all the time- STOP EATING SHIT! That’s the simplest solution for everyone. If you can regulate how much you eat, you won’t need to exercise for as long or as intense. But eating is the hardest part for most people.
What you don’t want to happen, which is what I see happen with a lot of people, is to exercise more after a day, night, or a week of eating anything and everything. Yes, your body can probably use the extra physical activity; however, having a mentality of “I’ll just burn it off with exercise later”, is a dangerous mentality to have. People who have the mindset of “I’ll just burn it off with more exercise” usually develop an unhealthy relationship with food and training. They will use exercise more as a punishment. I don’t want to get into the psychology part, because that can easily be a whole an article or two. I’ve coached and talked to hundreds of general population people. The mentality of “exercising more to burn off extra calories eaten” and a negative relationship with exercise and food is a prevalent issue.
How should we train for optimal results?
Unless you are a professional athlete or training to be one, then the guidelines I’m about to go through will benefit you:
- Number 1: Stop overeating. I didn’t say “stop eating junk” because you can also overeat “healthy” foods. You can overeat chicken breast. It’s highly unlikely, but I’m sure some hardcore, obsessed individual has tried. The same holds through for junk food. If you can minimise how much you eat, then it won’t be too bad. That’s the first thing you need to do or at least start getting into the process of doing if you ever want to see any noticeable changes.
- Number 2: Don’t train at a high intensity every day. Now, the intensity level is different for everyone. A young person will have a different idea of high intensity than a Grandma. The intensity level is dependent on the individual. You know you have overdone it when you are always sore, and you might even start putting body fat on instead of shedding the body fat off.
- Number 3: Do more strength training/resistance training. I was listening to a podcast by a veteran in the fitness industry, Jay Farrugia, who has over 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, and he mentioned something that resonated with me. He said “Train for strength. Don’t train for fat loss. Fat loss is diet, exercise can help, but it’s mostly diet”. When I heard this, I was like “Yepp, 100% true!”. This is similar to something I heard Gary Vee’s trainer, Mike Vacanti and Jordan Syatt, say in their podcast. It went something along the lines of “strength training is a long-term investment that will pay off later on down the track. You won’t see results straight away, but if you are consistent, it will come”. So, if the best coaches in the world say do strength training, do strength training. Don’t listen to those “insta-gram trainers” who have never trained people in their life and are just capitalising on their good looks to sell their products. Don’t do it!!
- Number 4: Have a plan of attack. I won’t touch on this much. I wrote an entire article about how to create a program and what to look for if you’re researching. Link is here: https://bryanbacaoat23.wixsite.com/bmtfitness/post/how-to-create-a-kick-ass-workout-program-to-maximise-your-workouts?fbclid=IwAR2X6_trdK_ensrMAbc3LHz0847GPJDuiSGGbAixS0_02Jm_OXkdt6m3rnk
- Number 5: Prioritise rest and recovery. I mentioned this above already. I’m not going to talk about this too much because I’m going to be writing an article all by itself on rest and recovery. I’ll most likely write an entire article on rest and recovery.
At the end of the day, this is just my opinion base on what I saw when I was a full-time PT. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not against high-intensity training. I’m against the mindset that high-intensity training is the only way to train to lose body fat. I have things against dogmatic views like that- people with absolute, “my way is the only right way” mentality, they are doing worse than good. As I’ve mentioned, plenty of times, fitness and nutrition are highly individualised.
There is no one size fits all. You need to find the one that works the best for you, and that takes time. Don’t be disappointed when it takes you longer to get to your goals. Society has sold us on the idea of an “8-week body” and all this other bullshit. Good things take time. Let me tell you something about people who get shredded in 8-weeks- they can’t maintain it! Most of the time they’ll be back to their pre-shredded in a few weeks or months. The reason for this is they didn’t do the work. They stopped eating and doubled their training time. Don’t do this. Take the long route. It’s much more beneficial long term.
If you only care about the short term, then do short term tactics to get to your goals. I’m sure most people want longevity. If that’s the case, do the right things, take your time, build the habits you need to help you see long-lasting results.
Anyway, enough of the rant. If you want more info or if you want me to clarify things, feel free to leave a comment on this article or message me on Instagram- Bryan Bacaoat Fitness. Keep training hard; peace!