So, I've been working out fairly consistently for almost the past two months, at Vida Fitness. Last time I went to the gym to work out this regularly was probably in high school.
Part of my goal has been to lose some of the fat that's been accumulating, particularly around my belly, and to that end, I've resorted to the Fatburner program on the Stairmaster machines. Now, depending on the model, the Fatburner program is slightly different, but there's definitely some similarities at least to both of them.
I wanted to look in to the science behind what makes these programs Fatburners. Now, some context. In addition to my roomie Jeremy being a firm believer in the Stairmaster, I also was recommended to use either stairmachines or rowing after a lovely dinner conversation with two personal trainer friends, when the subject of my own personal fitness goals came up. Cycling or treadmills were not recommended in terms of burning calories the way the other two types of machines could.
So then the first thing I do is google: "stairmaster fat burner program".
An article I click-through to, on livestrong.com confirms one part of the conversation with my friends. That reducing body fat is partly a matter of not caloric intake and output, but caloric deficit.
Losing fat requires creating a caloric deficit with diet and exercise. When you eat fewer calories than you burn, your body turns to fat stores for energy, and when the caloric deficit grows to 3,500, you've lost a pound. Read moreAnd although spot reduction isn't a thing, it was reassuring to read that belly fat is one of the first areas to respond to exercise and a corresponding change in diet.
Another livestrong.com article also addressed something I do when on a Stairmaster, I don't hold the handrails, which I've noticed tends to be the trend for most others. Part of the reason I don't is, as a dancer, I focus on balance as well as letting my body move as naturally as possible, which means allowing my arms to swing in opposition to my legs. The piece also said:
If you do not lean on the hand rails, or touch them only lightly, you also engage your core muscles to maintain your balance during climbing. These elements of a stair-climbing workout make it a strengthening regimen. You build new muscle tissue, which makes your body burn more calories to support it. Read moreEngaging my core muscles is also part of why I don't use the handrails, which isn't to say that you can't do so if you're not holding on as well, but it would decrease how much they're engaged, I'd think.
But this still isn't addressing my initial inquiry, regarding what about the Fat burner programs, with its intensity changes over the course of the workout, makes it a program to burn fat, as opposed to the others, like the Aerobic Training or Constant Heart Rate programs.
To that end, I found a PDF of the manual for one of the machines in one of the gym's locations I frequent. But still no breakdown of why that particular routine is that burns fat more than the others.
Speaking of fat, knowing what fat is, is helpful. Check out this link, The science of fat burning. Also, understanding the complexities of exercise and diet is crucial, because creating a caloric deficit might be oversimplifying a complex process. Check out this piece, The Scientist and the Stairmaster.
At some point I realized I probably needed to broaden my search, as none of the results that were coming up were specific enough. So I plugged in some key words that were relevant in a few of the links I came across, and google'd high interval cardio burn fat.
Jackpot. I should've thought about this sooner. This kind of interval training obviously isn't specific to stair machines, and I certainly did enough of them running Track & Field in high school. The best piece I found, was actually updated just several days ago, "High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Best Cardio to Burn Fat".
At higher intensities, you are burning far more fat, even though the fat/glycogen ratio is lower. In addition, Interval training allows you to exercise at very high intensities for a much longer period of time than steady state, so you burn more fat. Read moreSo there it is.
Obviously, this knowledge is only as good as the accuracy of the source I've found, so I'm still open to learning more. If you'd like to share anything to clarify or even dispute the information I've come across, please do so. And keep an eye out for future blog posts on fitness and health, as I carry on my pre-emptive New Year's resolution into 2013,