Aerobic Versus Anaerobic Training

When I first started training and coaching regular individuals (as opposed to athletes) there was a well entrenched notion for weight loss.  Aerobic exercise (less intense, long and slow exercise) was believed to be the only way to burn excess fat.  You know you are performing aerobic exercise when you start breathing faster but you don’t get out of breath or reach a point of muscle failure.  You are able to get enough oxygen in to your working cells.

Women at the health club in the YMCA would line-up to claim a stationary bike and cycle for 1-2 hours at low intensity while reading magazines, watching television and basically being very distracted from what they were there to do…. exercise!  If you can concentrate on reading while ‘exercising’ you are not exercising!  You are passing some time, lubricating joints and mildly increasing circulation, however you are not burning excess fat.  If you are lucky you might burn off the banana you had for breakfast that morning.

Burning fat requires effort, sucking wind as I tell clients.  Get out of breath, ‘puff’ the effort. Sleeping people can walk!  Don’t just walk, pick up the pace and engage the muscles.  When you get out of breath you switch from aerobic to anaerobic exercise (you are not able to supply enough oxygen to working cells) and that’s good. Here’s why.

It is true that aerobic exercise uses stored glycogen (pasta and bread stored in the muscles) and stored body fat but most often not a significant amount.  Next time you use stationary exercise equipment input your weight and age and then do the workout.  Have a look at how many calories you have burned.  Though this will be off by some degree it gives you an idea that just moving is not going to do much of anything.  Like I said earlier, you may burn off a banana and maybe some yogurt too but you certainly won’t use up those pancakes with maple syrup. Those calories are now on your butt or gut.

Even more important, after that long, slow effort is over and you stop then the calorie burning stops.  You get no post exercise effect for your efforts. That’s it, the calorie burning is over!  But throw in some anaerobic exercise and not only will you burn more calories during your workout (because calorie burning increases as intensity increases) anaerobic exercise will also burn fat 1 – 2 hours after you finish exercising.  

Anaerobic exercise will also…

  • Stimulate your body to secrete growth hormone (think muscle building)
  • Improve Max Vo2 (how efficiently your body uses oxygen)
  • Increase lactic acid threshold (trains your body to tolerate more stress, makes you FITTER)
  • Decrease injury risk from high repetition, over use syndromes
  • Up-regulate enzymes for fat metabolism (+ post-exercise benefit of 1-2 hours of fat burning)
  • Improve glycogen dependence (trains your body to use glycogen more efficiently)
  • Once glycogen is tapped into fat is mobilized

What a bargain, anaerobic exercise is the most efficient way to burn fat. Image result for anaerobic exercise tabata

So in your next work out kick it up a notch.  Add intervals to your cardio workout and when you lift weights make sure the last two reps are a struggle.  Get puffy, get out of breath, suck wind. 

You will recover!  And you’ll be fast, fitter and leaner for your efforts.

P.S. If you are fit and have been exercising for some time you can try the most intense interval training, Tabata.  20 seconds all out followed by 10 seconds easy or rest (repeat 8x) for a total of 4 minutes .  A few Tabata sets in your workout will definitely kick things up a notch!