Back in June, USA Today released a story that confirmed what I have suspected for a few years: The more fit someone is, the more fat they will burn after a workout session. Fit people produce much more glycerol after a workout than someone who is not in as good of shape. Glycerol levels are an indicator of fat breakdown. Fit people burn much more fat after a brief workout than people who are not as fit (even when doing an identical workout).
[Perhaps all that it will take to break through your fat burning plateau is to reach a higher level of fitness. I will examine how that is done in this post. ]
What Is the Article Measuring as Being “Fit”
The definition of fit they are using is VO2 max. Here is the simplest description of VO2 max that I have found online: “The highest rate of oxygen consumption attainable during a maximal or exhaustive exercise.” The number is the maximum amount of oxygen in milliliters some can use in 1 minute, per kilogram of body weight. Simply put, it is how much oxygen can you use per minute. Fit people can use more oxygen per minute than people who are out of shape. Here is a visual representation of VO2 Max…
[The graph is from this VO2 Max article on "Sports Fitness Advisor". If you want to go into detail about VO2 max it is a great read.]
“The Rich Get Richer, the Fit Get Fitter”
(The word “fitter” sound like bad English, but I’m using it). It gets easier and easier to get lean the fitter you become. What I have noticed is that it takes most people a while before they begin to drop weight quickly…then they develop fat loss momentum…until they are about 5-10 pounds out from being really lean. I believe the VO2 Max and body fat connection is what causes “fat loss momentum”. Once people begin to increase their VO2 Max they are able to get more fat burning out of every aspect of their workout routine.
How to Increase Your VO2 Max
Okay, I have spent the past couple hours researching various ways to increase your VO2 Max. A lot of these articles come from running sites, marathon sites, etc. The problem is that marathon training also burns muscle. So what we want to do is walk the edge between increasing VO2 Max without burning muscle. I’ll put some of the tips I found online below with my comments…
How to Improve Your VO2 Max – by Ed Eyestone
“Consistent aerobic conditioning will increase your max, but only by so much. French exercise physiologist Veronique Billat found that the fastest way to reach your potential is to run intervals at a speed that elicits your VO2 max, a pace known in lab circles as velocity. This pace is equivalent to 3,000-meter pace or the fastest effort you can maintain for about eight minutes. To reap a training benefit, however, you only need to sustain that pace for two to five minutes, which is what I did every Tuesday for 20 years. It kept me competitive, and it’ll help you do the same.”
My Comments: So this is basically a long interval. Running at a decent pace for 2-5 minutes. This does work well. I have never attempted a 5 minute interval, but I have done 2 minute intervals with a 2 minute walk in between. He just did this once per week, which makes sense because these long intervals are draining. So perhaps once per week do you HIIT a little differently with longer intervals to increase VO2 Max.
How to Increase Your VO2 Max in 14 Days – by Jesper Bondo
“In the VO2 Max Booster program we decrease the duration of each ride which means your body needs less recovery time before the next hard training session. When we do frequent intervals (but not too many of them) it is possible to train high intensity intervals every single day. Actually you could train twice every day if you did some proper planning. It’s clear that the risk of over training gets bigger if you train that often, but this example is also just to show you that the classic 2 interval days and 1 race day per week is common but definitely not the only way to achieve great results.”
My Comments: This little snippet of text doesn’t do this article justice. The author has put together a detailed way for cyclists to improve their VO2 Max in just 14 days. He does so by making the intervals harder, but shorter, each consecutive day. One way to implement his principles into your routine is to possibly do the longer intervals earlier in the week and shorter more intense ones before the weekend.
Aerobic High-Intensity Intervals Improve VO2 Max More Than Moderate Training – Norwegian University of Science and Technology 2007
“High-aerobic intensity endurance interval training is significantly more effective than performing the same total work at either lactate threshold or at 70% HRmax, in improving VO2max.”
My Comments: I’ve referenced this study before. One interesting note about this study is the fact that 4 minute intervals alternated with 3 minutes of walking improved VO2 Max more than 15 seconds alternated with 15 seconds of walking (shorter intervals are better however for lactic acid training, which creates a good “afterburn effect”). So again…a mix of longer intervals to train VO2 Max along with shorter HIIT workouts looks like a good idea.
[Running Stairs is best for the shorter intervals...just be careful. I've come close to taking a fall more than once doing this at a football stadium.]
The Takeaway from all of this “VO2 Max” Talk
The thing you can take away from all of this technical jargon is to simply do some longer intervals mixed in with your shorter intense HIIT workouts. I would recommend possibly doing the longer intervals early in the week and shorten the duration but increase the intensity as you get closer to the weekend. This way you can get be sure to improve your VO2 Max with the longer intervals and get the HGH boosting effects of shorter more intense intervals. Both types of intervals will burn calories, so you really can’t lose using this strategy.
Here’s One Way of Setting that Up
Monday: 4 minutes of running alternated with 3 minutes of walking (do this 4-5 times…around 30 minutes)
Tuesday: 2 minutes of running followed by 2 minutes of walking (do this 7-8 times…around 30 minutes)
Thursday: 1 minute of running followed by 1 minute of walking (done for 15 minutes followed by 15 minutes of steady state cardio)
Friday: 30 seconds of running followed by 30 seconds of walking (done for 10 minutes followed by 20 minutes of steady state cardio)
Note: The term “running” is used loosely. You can do the equivalent on a bicycle, elliptical, stepmill, jump rope, body weight circuit, etc.