Written by: Nick and Billy Palladino
Putting on a winter coat is one of the easiest things to do, and no I’m not talking about the jacket hanging in your closet. I’m talking about the pounds and extra fat that seem to find their way to our bodies during the winter season and holidays. So, in order to stay relevant and important in our writing, we’ve decided to share five tips on how to stay lean throughout the holiday season while still indulging in all the goodies it has to offer.
Tip 1: Cut back on cardio
Wait what? Many people prefer cardio over hi-intensity interval training (HIIT) or weight training for several reasons: One, cardio is easier to do and is almost impossible to mess up. Just grab some shoes, and start running. It’s mindless really! A treadmill doesn’t require a trainer or extensive knowledge to understand how it works. The same goes for most cardio machines or the track at your local high school. Weights can be intimidating for many people, so they avoid them. Although cardio is great for the cardiovascular system (the heart), it is not the best for burning calories. Doing cardio will only burn the calories you are using as fuel during the workout. Once the workout is complete, so is your calorie burning. Excessive cardio can also lead to muscle depletion, stripping you of your muscular gains. Loosing muscle is an issue in terms of burning fat because the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn as a result (muscle is an active tissue, fat is not). In all honesty, cardio is extremely inefficient. Next time you are at the gym, just notice the body types of people who do extensive amounts of cardio- they usually have the least preferred body type and shape.
Tip 2: Increase weight training
Weight training has been proven to burn calories like crazy and develop toned muscles throughout the body. Excess post-exercise oxygen (EPOC) is the 38 hours immediately following a strenuous activity in which your body continues to burn calories and feed the muscles that need repair and growth. In essence, cardio may burn more calories during the workout, but the calorie burning benefits from weight lifting (especially super-setting) are post-workout, when your body continues burning calories for a day and half more. You’ll find that your metabolism speeds up in order to give the muscles what they need so they can repair themselves. Another tip here is to start doing bigger lifts (heavy squats, dead-lifts, bench press, barbell rows ect..) if you want to burn more calories, release more testosterone, and become leaner and stronger. Exercises with reps in the range of 8-12 develop toned muscles while exercises requiring 5 reps build strength and mass.
Rule 3: Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym
During the holiday season you can expect several days of family pig outs. So make sure to stick to a clean diet on the other days. Think of your body as a car- you can’t put just any old gasoline into it and expect it to run at its best. Your muscles are the same and need to be filled up correctly just as a car needs the best kind of gas and oil. Stick to lean meats such as chicken and fish, load up on veggies (at least 50% of your diet) and make sure to eat plenty of healthy fats (check out our previous blog “Big Fat Lies”), as fats actually help burn fat and clean your system out).
Rule 4: Don’t overdo abdominal exercises (core)
Anyone who says you need to do more core work as a way to stay lean is mistaken. Do not replace full-body workouts with core workouts. The fact is, doing a full core workout (or abs class) doesn’t burn nearly as many calories as lifting weights with your arms or a back day would (or vinyasa yoga for that matter). We suggest either warming up with or cooling down with core work on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays after doing a full workout.
Rule 5: Save “cardio” for last
If you must do cardio, save it for after you’ve lifted weights. During a workout, your body uses carbohydrates as its first source of fuel. After and only after depleting your stored carbohydrates, will your body begin to use its stored fat as energy. Lifting weights will help you build muscle and use up your carbohydrate storage for energy. Then, by doing cardio, your body will immediately begin to use its fat stores as energy. A quick 15-20 minute HIIT session on the elliptical is a great way to close out your workout. You won’t need to run on the treadmill for an hour to see the effects that 15 minutes can produce if you’ve done your weights first! The best way to maximize your time here is to crank up the resistance to level 15 here and go for a minute slowly. Then drop the resistance to level 5 and do a full out sprint for 30 seconds. Repeat this cycle for 10-15 minutes and we promise- you will be drenched and exhausted. Another great option is to do 10 sets of 40-yard sprints. Nothing and we mean nothing burns fat like sprints.
Before any big meal and especially before a holiday get together, get your butt to the gym and lift some heavy weights and do some HIIT. Nothing prepares your body to utilize extra calories like an intense full-body weight lifting day. We also love to drink coffee after a big meal to speed up the metabolism and “get things moving”.
Enjoying the holiday season is much more important than torturing yourself. If you feel like a second serving of mashed potatoes or an eggnog night cap…GO FOR IT! Just know that tomorrow you’re going to be back in the gym kicking butt!
What is HIIT? See a great example here: www.bodybuilding.com/fun/wotw40.htm
Nick Palladino-King teaches students and clients how to reduce stress, to increase happiness and to elevate health through yoga, wellness coaching and strength training.