Want to Lose Weight? Say Goodbye to Steady State Cardio & Hello to Intensity

Exercise intensity is often a misunderstood concept.  How hard should I be working out, or how hard do I need to work out to see benefits.  If you are unaccustomed to exercise, even a moderate amount of intensity will be of benefit.  But if you looking to make noticeable changes to your body, lose weight and increase muscle tone, then exercise intensity is important.  In fact, not only is it important, but along with necessary nutritional changes, it could be the deciding factor in the equation.  What I am talking about is referred to as the "afterburn" or EPOC.  EPOC stands for excess postexercise oxygen consumption.

Because the body continues to expend energy after exercise, EPOC can play a pivotal role in an exercise program.

There is study after study now that has shown that diet alone does very little to provide a significant change if body metabolism.  Diet combined with steady state cardio sessions also is showing very little improvement in body composition.


At a recent conference, Alywn Cosgrove presented many studies that show that intensity is the key, not time.  Diet alone and diet with exercise is not the ticket to successful weight loss.

A three month study (1) showed that "the addition of 45 minutes of aerobic exercise at 78% Max Heart Rate 5 days a week for 12 weeks had NO EFFECT over dieting alone"

(2) Overweight Subjects were assigned to three groups:  diet only, diet plus aerobics, diet plus aerobics plus weights.

  • diet group lost 14.6 lbs of fat in 12 weeks
  • aerobic group lost only one more pound (15.6 lb) than the diet group (training was 3 times a week starting at 30 min and progressing to 50 minutes over 12 weeks).
  • the weight training group lost 21.1 lbs of fat (44% and 35% more than diet and aerobic only group respectively).

Bottom Line:  There is ample research out now that proves diet alone and diet plus aerobics is not the answer to fat loss.

So what is the answer?  We know that resistance and/or interval training elevates EPOC for upwards of 24-48 hours after the workout.   The key is what do we have to do in our workout sessions to create EPOC and benefit from the "afterburn".

Increase the demand of each exercise.  Choose multi muscle, compound exercises.  Get off the damn machines!  Move!  Use squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, step ups, turkish get ups, push ups, sleds and ropes every workout.


Increase the demand of each workout.  How do we do this:


  • cut down on rest periods
  • group exercises into mini circuits
  • add active recovery exercises (stretches, core) in between strength exercises
  • add metabolic conditioning every workout (ropes, sleds, kettlebell swings)

Conditioning sessions need to be short and intense. 

No more 70% heart rate zone.  Once you have spent time to build a good aerobic base, your cardio sessions need to hurt!  They should not be comfortable. 

You shouldn't be able to talk or wish to talk to anyone.  The old "talk test" ?  Throw it away – it has no place in interval training.  Interval training can consist of:  sled sprints, treadmill hill sprints, bike sprints, outdoor running sprints, kettlebell swings to name just a few.

Take a look at your workouts?  Are you working out intensely enough to create EPOC?  Your training sessions should be work!  This is not social time; this is "I"m on a mission time!"  To make noticeable changes in your body composition your must think of your time in the gym as declaring war.  You are at war with fat!  Now is the time to take charge and make some changes that will have a positive and lasting effect.

So what are you waiting for?  Get busy!  Get tough and get to work!

Till next time,



(1) Utter et al
Int. Journal of Sport Nutrition 1998 Sep 8(3) 213-22.

(2) Kramer et al
Med. Sc. Sports Exerc. Vol. 31 No. 9 pp 1320-1329. 1999

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