In this article I mostly included points that I quite obviously disagree with. There were several points Rachel made that I wholeheartedly agree with. For the most part, if I don’t bring it up here I agreed with it.
I respect what the Cosgroves are doing. I don’t respect it when the bully pulpit afforded because of their success is used for misinformation and evidence-lacking opinion.
Rachel says : Ironically, spending 20 hours a week in the “fat burning zone” leads to very little fat loss and a lot of muscle loss. The result? Looking like a flabby runner.
David says : The “fat burning zone” matters very little. But spending 20 hours a week doing cardio will “work” if you pay attention to your nutrition and you strength train for the purpose of injury-free progression of strength. This theme holds true throughout this article just as it does in life.
Rachel says : Steady state cardio should be reserved for endurance athletes, not for those seeking fat loss and awesome body composition. Physique competitors don’t even need traditional long-duration cardio.
David says : That’s her opinion. Like buttholes, we’ve all got em. Maybe physique competitors don’t NEED steady state cardio but maybe some prefer it.
Rachel says : Despite twenty hours per week of endurance training, time spent mostly in the so-called “fat burning zone”, I barely lost any fat and definitely lost muscle, even with a controlled diet plan and a couple of weight training sessions per week. This solidified my belief that steady-state aerobics is absolutely, completely, utterly ineffective for fat loss. Long, steady-state endurance is not the answer for a defined, lean physique, and it’s a waste of time if your goal is long term fat loss. Endurance work is only the answer if your goal is to compete in an endurance event, not if you want to actually look your best.
David says : The fat burning zone is NOT what is most important for fat loss – energy balance is with caloric intake per day being king and then, importantly, yet still secondarily, the quality of the foods consumed, macronutrient ratios, meal frequency etc. She’s got a belief that long-duration cardio is ineffective for fat loss. Who cares? Again, like opinions and buttholes, we all have beliefs. There’s no evidence and there never will be when proper context is given.
Rachel says : If you want to lose fat but not look like a soft endurance athlete, metabolic interval training is the way to go.
David says : Or, as has been done for decades by thousands of fitness, figure and bodybuilding competitors, athletes and body-transformation rockstars — perform cardio (take your pick), strength train with the purpose of INJURY-FREE PROGRESSION OF STRENGTH, and meticulously monitor your nutrition. If you do? You’ll get ripped to shreds and you’ll have quality muscle.
Rachel says : What I started to notice year after year is that my body composition would fluctuate throughout the year, but interestingly I’d reach my “peak” body fat level right as I was training for my half marathon. Without changing my diet (and in fact staying very conscious of what I was eating), only shifting my training from mostly lifting to include more steady state aerobics, my body would shift to my “endurance body” with less muscle and more fat as a percentage.
David says : Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (SAID principle). No surprise here. She reaffirmed a known principle. The body becomes how you train it – or don’t train it. She cut back on her strength training in time or intensity or focus or all of the aforementioned. While she claims her diet didn’t change, the evidence, if monitored in a whole-room indirect calorimeter, would VERY likely beg to differ. There is absolutely NO surprise here – she’s just wrong about her assessment of why things happened.
Rachel says : Interestingly, my weight didn’t change much. I wasn’t yo-yoing – my body composition was just responding to the activity I was doing.
David says : Yep, she was losing muscle and adding fat. Welcome to less strength training and just a few more calories (from probably carbs) per day.
Rachel says : Unfortunately, looking back, my body composition around race time has once again confirmed my original statement: the more steady state aerobic exercise I do, the softer my appearance seems to be.
David says : No arguing with that – it SEEMS to be softer. Lots of things in life SEEM to be a certain way but once we move beyond anecdotes and apply science to the situation we find we’re simply dead wrong.
In this section Rachel gives some possible reasons she added more fat and lost muscle when preparing for her half-marathon.
Rachel says : 1. By doing more steady state cardio, I end up doing less strength training. Is it necessarily the cardio that’s the problem, or just not strength training/metabolic interval training as much?
David says : It’s both.
Rachel says : 2. The strength training I’m doing could be suffering in quality and recovery since I usually head out for a run either the morning of, directly following, or on the opposite day when I could be recovering from my lifting session.
David says : Yes, it likely is.
Rachel says : 3. Increased appetite from doing more steady state cardio. I’m pretty careful about tracking my intake, but we won’t rule this out as maybe I do end up hungrier and make up for the extra calories burned in my food intake.
David says : Agreed, probably a bit hungrier and as I said a few more calories from probably a higher percentage of carbs.
Rachel shows a pic of herself a bit leaner and says – Just two months after the above pic, I filmed a DVD in December of 2012. After 8 weeks of no steady state aerobics and re-prioritizing lifting, I was once again photo shoot ready.
David says : Two keys here, one mentioned, one not. Strength training became the focus again. What she doesn’t mention is she probably tweaked her nutrition a bit, reducing calories a smidge and changing the quality and/or composition of the intake.
Rachel says : Over the past five years I’ve also had the opportunity to train clients for both endurance events and Bikini/Figure competitions. While training for the half marathon, many of our clients notice they have a hard time maintaining their muscle and their body fat percentage starts to creep up, looking “softer” come race time. By the time they do the race they can’t wait to get back to heavy lifting and take a break from steady state running.
David says : The Cosgrove training model is VERY heavily tilted toward metabolic training and not strict bodybuilding or powerlifting or endurance training. The most successful trainers today realized 10 or so years ago that if you want to make money you don’t train your clients in ways they can easily do themselves. It’s not going to be a surprise that Cosgrove Inc., who make their living with metabolic training models, will train more clients using THAT modality than any other. This proves nothing with respect to the effectiveness of long-duration cardio coupled with proper strength training and meticulous nutrition regimens. TO EACH HIS OR HER OWN. They can both work.
Rachel says : We’ve also had teams of Bikini/Figure competitors train for and compete without using any steady state cardio over their 12-16 week prep. They lift weights four days a week and do a metabolic workout one to two days a week. These women decrease their body fat consistently by half a percent a week on average while maintaining or gaining muscle.
David says : No argument here. Makes sense. If they like training that way great! I see no reason it wouldn’t work well.
Rachel says : Think about this for a minute: the endurance athletes do what many experts say you have to do to lose body fat – steady state cardio – and their body composition gets worse as the event nears.
David says : Some do. Many don’t. We only have a few more bacteria in our gut than the number of people worldwide over decades of weight loss who have successfully lost a TON of body fat doing long-duration cardio with or without strength training. Ideally everyone who wants to lose weight will perform proper strength training with a focus on injury-free progression of strength. But to say the people who do long-duration cardio routinely get fatter is preposterous.
In this section Rachel quotes some published research – hence the quotes.
Rachel says : “Most exercise protocols designed to induce fat loss have focused on regular steady state exercise such as walking and jogging at a moderate intensity. Disappointingly, these kinds of protocols have led to negligible weight loss… the effect of regular aerobic exercise on body fat is negligible.”
David says : Here Rachel is quoting research that abounds which says that if you don’t pay attention to your nutrition don’t expect moderate exercise/cardio to make up for a bad diet. It’s a poor way to make the point that long-duration cardio is worse for stripping fat than metabolic training. Anyone in fitness with a pulse and a functioning brain knows you can’t outrun what you can eat.
Rachel says : “Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise programs of 6-12 months induce a modest reduction in weight and waist circumference in overweight and obese populations. Our results show that isolated aerobic exercise is not an effective weight loss therapy in these patients.”
David says : Standard results as stated above. If you don’t watch your nutrition? No exercise program will save your ass.
Rachel says : At Results Fitness, we’ve always focused on metabolism-boosting, interval training workouts for fat loss.
David says : Exactly, and that’s the bias tilt. Nothing wrong with that training modality. Just don’t shit on the other forms of exercise without the evidence. Long-duration (whatever that means) cardio + strength training has a long, successful history by (hundreds of thousands? millions?) of figure, fitness, bodybuilding, athelete and non-competitive body transformationists who combine these training modalities with meticulous, properly balanced and stellar nutritional regimens with OUTSTANDING results. Every training modality, when fat loss and optimal proportions of muscle vs. fat are the goal, requires meticulous attention to nutrition for optimal results.
I’ve got no problem with metabolic training for fat loss. I’ve got no problem in saying metabolic training, when done with trainers like the Cosgroves, will get more accomplished in less time than most people would otherwise do on their own. But you know what? Not everyone wants the absolute, most ass-kicking intense workout resulting in MAXIMUM calories burned in the shortest time, as their primary training modality. Millions of health and fitness amateurs simply enjoy their form of cardio and strength training. They don’t get fatter for doing it IF their nutrition is dialed in. Millions lose fat doing basic, low-intensity cardio (even walking) and they add muscle by doing any of dozens of strength-training protocols that focus on injury-free progression of strength (even using exclusively machines – gasp!). The biggest problem I have is with respected leaders in the industry using their megaphone-reach of communication to misinform and confuse the readers who simply don’t know any better.