Are you getting the most out of your cardio program?
Friday, October 21, 2011
LifeTime WeightLoss in Exercise, Fat Loss, Paul Kriegler, Performance Enhancement, assessments, cardio

Written by Paul Kriegler, RD, CPT, CISSN, Life Time Fitness

Perhaps you’ve been in your local Life Time Fitness and seen a fellow member wearing a goofy mask as they walk or jog on the treadmill.  Maybe you’ve overheard someone in the locker room talk about their heart rate ‘zones’ and how they actually have to work out slower!  Maybe you’ve had the assessment done and are wondering how to get the most of it.

The goofy mask and heart rate ‘zone’ language relate to Life Time’s CardioPoint assessment, which is one of the best ways to begin shaping your fitness program whether your goal is performance enhancement or fat loss.  The assessment itself is one of the best known methods of assessing your body’s response to a variety of workout intensities. 

Although the CardioPoint is an exercising metabolic assessment, it also helps determine a great deal about one’s nutrition needs as well.  One of the points of data discovered in the assessment is referred to as Aerobic Base, which is also referred to as Metabolic Efficiency Point (MEP) by sport dietitian Bob Seebohar.  This number refers to the highest heart rate where efficient use of fat for fuel was observed. 

Outlined in the first graph below is a beginning CardioPoint assessment of a female in her late 40s performed in February of this year.  The gray shaded area represents the percentage of total calories being burned coming from fat.  The remaining calories, which you can see from the chart, become the main energy source at higher heart rates are from primarily carbohydrates. 

Upon initial assessment, her body was burning fat efficiently (at least half of calories needed to do the activity) up to a heart rate of 149. At intensities beyond a heart rate of 150 (we used higher speed and more incline in this case) the activity became too hard to fuel with fat as the main fuel source.  Instead she began using stored carbohydrates to complete the work.  We needed to change that.

Seebohar’s concept of Nutrition Periodization outlined in his book Metabolic Efficiency Training: Teaching the Body to Burn More Fat[i] proposes that CardioPoint profiles and fat metabolism can be manipulated through day to day nutrition changes - even without significant increases in workout time or intensity!  Interestingly, this concept is centered on working out at times when blood sugar levels are not elevated (lower carbohydrate pre-workout meals or snacks) and working out at moderate intensities to condition the body’s ability to prefer a certain type of fuel, regardless of the total number of calories burned in the workout.

This member’s main goal was fat loss in order to get ready for her secondary goal of completing a trail running event later in the spring.  Traditionally, trainers address this with one option; cut calories for weight loss, and train harder and train more to be able to withstand the event.   Her training time each was limited to about 4-5 hours per week and she hadn’t. We chose the alternative option; eat enough of the right things to feel good and train smart – at an intensity where the body already knows how to use the desired energy source. 

Burning fat was the sole purpose of each of the 4-5 workouts performed each week, and just check out the results!  In just 7 ½ weeks she lost 13 pounds and reported feeling more energy and more satisfied from her food than she could remember!  Not to mention, the re-assessment in March (displayed below) required her to run 2mph faster to reach her new limits!  You may notice the larger gray (fat burn) bubble on the second assessment.  You also may notice that her Metabolic Efficiency Point (Aerobic Base) moved UP to nearly the heart rate where previously less than 10% of her energy was coming from fat!  That means she is running faster and burning more fat than ever!

The methods to get these results seem almost too simple:

If you have been struggling to find balance in your performance or fat loss program, you will benefit greatly from discovering your Metabolic Efficiency Point and discussing your nutrition strategy with a qualified Metabolic Technician or Registered Dietitian.

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

[i] Metabolic Efficiency Training: Teaching the Body to Burn More Fat. Seebohar, Bob, ©2009 Bob Seebohar, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., C.S.C.S. ISBN Number 978-0-984-2759-0-8

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