Achieve Your Desired Body
This article is going to examine why we actually want our bodies to be inefficient at the selected mode(s) of exercise we are performing to get our dream body. This article is to be applied to the fitness enthusiasts that are trying to change their body composition.
First, what is General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)? GAS, no not that kind, relates to how the body adapts to a stressor, in this case, training. Hans Selye, an Austrian born physician coined this term in 1936. Selye came up with three main stages of GAS.
Stage 1: Reaction
The first stage is the alarm reaction stage. This is the immediate response to a perceived stressor. In exercise, there is a neurohormonal response to anticipatory stress, which causes excitation of the hypothalamus. This begins a chain of events in both the neural pathways and hormonal pathways.
Stage 2: Resistance
The second stage of GAS is resistance. The end product of this stage is a true adaptation of the body. The physiological adaptations will bring your body back into a state of homeostasis. This will alleviate the impact of the stressor. Remember that the body always tries to maintain a state of homeostasis.
Stage 3: Exhaustion And Overtraining
The final stage, just for your information, is the exhaustion phase. Once you get into this phase, you are overtraining and under recovering. It is time to do everything in your power at this stage to cut back on training volume and utilize all of your recovery and restorative processes.
Getting The Dream Physique
Ok, now that we have a brief overview of GAS, you are probably thinking, "What does this have to do with getting my dream physique?" Well, if you understand the three stages of Selye's model, you will understand how to train to achieve your desired results.
Remember when I said to remember that the body always tries to maintain a state of homeostasis? Good, because we want our training to take us out of our homeostatic state. Whether our goal is to lose body fat or gain muscle, our body is going to fight it every step of the way. Muscle is a costly tissue while fat is a back up energy source, just in case we have a period of famine. The body is meant for survival, not a lean mean physique.
What Is Homeostasis?
Homeostasis is the property of a system, either open or closed, that regulates its internal environment and tends to maintain a stable, constant condition.
So how come I say that we want inefficiency to get where we need to be? If we are performing some of our training modalities efficiently, i.e. steady state cardio and resistance training, it is too easy! The body is in a state of homeostasis, which means you are standing still in your efforts! Think about it, if your house is more energy efficient, you are using less energy to produce things like electricity. This means that your energy cost will be low. Are you starting to see where I am going with this?
Cardio And Inefficiency!
Let's look at cardio first. Many people perform steady state aerobic exercise to get the fat off their body. This is better than just sitting around doing nothing. But is it the best thing for burning body fat and retaining muscle? Think about all the people you see at the gym day after day walking on the treadmill. Maybe when they first started fifteen years ago, this approach actually did drop their body fat, but how come they now look the same day after day despite being so committed to their daily forty-five minute walk on the treadmill? The answer is that the body has now become efficient at using its body fat as energy.
The body will rapidly adapt to any type of aerobic training- think about how people who have never previously run a half marathon can train for one within a few short months. Assume that we burn 350 calories in a half hour of jogging, which is being generous.
That is great, but low to moderate intensity cardio does not create a large excess of post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), simply because we adapt and become very efficient at this type of aerobic work within a very short period of time. Therefore, the calories burned during the cardio are all you are going to use. A lot of work for less than one meals worth of calories, wouldn't you say?
How can we perform an inefficient form of cardio, something that will create a large EPOC? What about high intensity interval training (HIIT)? This type of aerobic/anaerobic workout can prove to be very inefficient. In plain English, it is damn hard! HIIT is cardio that has intervals of high exercise intensity, roughly 85-95% of your max heart rate, mixed with easier periods of roughly 65% of your max heart rate. And, it will take no more than twenty-five minutes to perform.
What does this mean? It means that our excess post-exercise oxygen consumption is high and therefore it returns to baseline hours after the cardio is finished. This translates to calories being burned for hours after we have finished our shorter cardio session. Sound too good to be true?
Also, this type of cardio work burns a much higher amount of fat than low to moderate intensity exercise. I don't want to hear how all the gurus are saying, "But there is a much higher percentage of fat being burned in the 'fat burning zone'." Guess what, you are also burning a higher percentage of fat sitting here reading this. Yes, the percentage is higher, but the workload is low which means that you really are not burning that much fat, especially once we are efficient at performing this cardio.
Just check out any exercise physiology book or medical website and you can read for yourself. Look at sprinters and marathon runners. Which one is more efficient? If you said the sprinter, you are wrong. Which one has a lower body fat percentage? If you said the sprinter, you are right this time. Now we are getting somewhere.
Adaptation - Results And Plateaus
Ok, onto the second aspect of training...did you ever notice that when a novice lifter starts training, he or she usually makes the most noticeable lean mass gains at the beginning? Why is this? Again, it is a new stress and the body is inefficient at performing it.
Bench pressing 100 pounds for three sets of ten reps used to get the job done, maybe for the first month or so, but not anymore. Here is a quick tip. If the weight you are moving is easy, your body is adapted to it, and it is no longer providing the stress that we talked about earlier that is so crucial for your body to make progress.
There are many aspects of weight training that we can play with to continuously provide a new stress to our muscles. We can alter rep tempo, rep range, exercise order, exercise selection and rest time. Of course, there is a point we all reach when using heavier weight is no longer possible. Does this mean that we have reached our absolute limit? No, it simply means that you must change up the exercise and come back to this one at a later time.
I should also clarify that different rules apply to strength and power athletes. They are not as concerned with hypertrophy. Learn how to perform the movements correctly, but do not let your muscles get used to the workout. Everyone has a genetic limit as to how big your muscles can get, but that doesn't mean that once they reach that point you should stop working. If we continue to make the workouts hard and inefficient, we can get harder, fuller looking muscles with more separation.