"I Can't Believe I Ate The Whole Thing..."
It’s the Day (or two days) After Thanksgiving. What’s the Best Workout to Do?
Most of us, if you’re anything like me, overeat on Thanksgiving. Of course, one meal won’t make you fat; after all there are 3,500 calories in one pound of body fat. So you have some room to wiggle (unless you’re trying to fit into skinny jeans) if you typically don’t overeat. There is something about the feeling of waking up still full from the meal you had at 2:00 pm the day before. Thankfully, there are ways to return to homeostasis -- a feeling of normal, or equilibrium, again. One of the ways to get back to “normal” is to do the right kind of workout. It’s interesting because most people think the best workout to do is a long cardio workout that lasts forever. Get on the treadmill and watch an entire movie while we crank out mile after mile of boring, low-intensity cardio, right? Well, that’s definitely one option, but I have a better option for you, and I’m going to explain the science behind it.
Harvard Medical School conducted a small-scale study in which they took a group of recreational runners and tracked weight gain (and loss) during a marathon training program. The results were interesting. Eleven percent lost weight, but just as many gained weight, and the remaining 78% had no change in weight at all. This is not surprising, as a well known Danish Study showed the same results back in 1989. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2744924)
I’m not saying running a marathon is a bad idea. It can be great! In fact, many positive outcomes can result from endurance training. You can accomplish lifetime goals, you can meet new people in running groups, and you can use the long hours of running or biking to mentally escape from work or stress. However, if you are looking to lose weight, the science is clear that this type of endurance training is not the way to go. (http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/10/on-the-mysteries-of-marathon-weight-gain.html#)
I present to you: EPOC. Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. Here is the key to losing weight and seeing physiological adaptation. When we start to work out, we develop an “oxygen debt”. The harder we work, the greater the oxygen debt. Have you ever done an all-out sprint for 400 meters – as hard and fast as you can go? When you do, you will know what oxygen debt is. Your hands are on your knees, and you’re gasping for air, wondering if you’ll ever breathe normally again. Alternatively, have you ever finished a scenic, leisurely run around the lakes -- maybe three miles? You definitely don’t get the same effect. After about 30 seconds to a minute, your breathing returns to normal, and your body returns to a state of homeostasis.
You see the difference between the two types of exercise and intensity? Well, the 400-meter effort has a great EPOC measurement, and it takes much longer to return to a state of homeostasis. That means that even after you stop working out, your body is still working to bring you back to a state of equilibrium or normal breathing. As the studies show, if your intensity is high enough, it can have measurable effects that last up to 36 hoursafter exercise.
So, after Thanksgiving or any other holiday indulgence, skip the long boring cardio session. Pick something really high in intensity and get the benefits of weight loss (and extra time) even after you’re done working out.