Chapter / Rule 6 – Do 45 minutes a day of low-intensity cardio, preferably before breakfast
Now, you may be shocked to know that I happen to think this is fantastic advice. The first half of the sentence anyway. And the second half works well for me too.
But not for fat loss. Don’t think of it in those terms.
Waking up and immediately getting moving in the morning is WONDERFUL for me because it’s like adding momentum to my day. If I start my day off by checking facebook and answering emails (which is what I do 9 times out of 10), I end up sitting at my desk until 11 or 12, and god knows by that point it’s too late to do anything productive. Like go grocery shopping, or make that doctor’s appointment, or do laundry, or clean or any other number of mundane but critical tasks.
Plus, walking makes me feel AWESOME. Especially if it’s a nice crisp day. Something about getting that blood moving I guess. Probably also something to do with walking for 30 minutes a day being the #1 best thing you can do to improve your health in a wide variety of surprising ways.
So yes, walk. Walk because it will make you feel good. Whether you do it before breakfast or not is kind of up to you and when you’d like to do it. Some people find their lunch break to be the perfect time. Whatever floats your boat, really.
But let’s see why Harper wants you to specifically do it before breakfast:
He starts out with some reasoning similar to what I mentioned above. If you loathe exercise, getting it done earlier in the day may increase your chances of doing it. But, again, that’s all down to personal preference. If you dread getting up an hour earlier to walk before work, there’s a high chance you’ll just say “screw it” and hit snooze. So, again, whatever floats your boat.
Well except for some fancy science Harper wants to throw your way:
“…emerging science on exercise metabolics…suggests that exercise on an empty stomach has a direct link to weight loss in and of itself.”
While it does seem that doing low to medium intensity exercise (say, walking) on an empty stomach will increase fat oxidation, it will not increase the number of calories you are burning anymore than if you had just eaten a stack of pancakes.
Just bear in mind, when it comes to losing body fat, the only thing that matters at the end of the day is if you burned more than you took in.
OVERLY SIMPLISTIC EXAMPLE BELOW:
Let’s say that you burned 75 calories of pure, glorious fat on your morning walk because you did it on an empty stomach. Compare that to burning 75 calories of not-as-visible carbohydrate doing that same amount of walking at the same intensity.
If, at the end of the day, you took in the same calories as you expended, in situation #1, they would go back to refilling your fat stores. In situation #2, some would be diverted to restoring any lost muscle glycogen. At the end of the day, you’re right back where you started, regardless.
Now, in some people, light exercise like this can dull hunger. That would probably lead to some weight loss. Or if you change nothing else and start going for walks 45 minutes a day, you’d probably lose a bit. You can even find studies that say fasted cardio burns less calories than cardio after a small meal. Even Harper admits to that:
“I admit that some science also suggests that eating before exercise might be better for daylong fat burning. But…you clearly burn more fat during exercise when you do it in a fasted state.”
Which misses the point that it doesn’t matter for the average person reading this book whether you’re burning fat or burning carbohydrates. Again, that “fat burning zone” graph on your treadmill is meaningless. Run if you like it. Walk because it makes you feel awesome.
Harper also has some tips for if you feel woozy during your fasted cardio!
- If you get dizzy, drop to your knees and put your head between your legs! Hope that no one calls 911 when they see you doing this in the middle of the street! Get up and KEEP GOING MAGGOT! Unless it happens again, in which case uhh…try again later.
- If you’ve been following his regimine correctly you should be looking good. Totally. If you look haggard or pale, you’re clearly not drinking enough electrolytes or water. You’re just dehydrated. Drink some more water. That will help with the 800-calorie-a-day-barely-functioning-haze. Totally.
- Just keep drinking water and electrolytes. Electrolyyyyyyytesssss. You only feel like shit because you’re dehydrated, promise.
- If you always feel nauseous or dizzy when doing this fasted cardio then I GUESS you can eat beforehand. But make sure that you still do your cardio “or be prepared to look chubby in three weeks”! (fucking REALLY?)
Moral: By all means I think people should do some light exercise everyday. Seriously, this more than what you’re eating is going to have a huge impact on your health. I cannot overstate the benefits of light walking everyday. But you don’t have to do it fasted, and you probably shouldn’t count on it as your magic ticket to leanness. Also if you constantly feel dizzy when walking, MAYBE THE PROBLEM IS YOU’RE ONLY EATING 800 CALORIES A DAY.
Have I mentioned that’s a bad idea?
Chapter / Rule 7 – Five times a week, at any time of day, do 15 to 20 minutes of my Jumpstart Moves
Here’s a chapter that I have a lot of grievances with, for a myriad of reasons. Let’s just get right into it:
“Met-con works the whole body quickly, efficiently. Met-con movements use your own body weight to slim and trim yourself for the long, lean look you desire.”
Ughhhhhhhhhhhh. It’s like a collection of my least favorite fitness buzz-words. Oh yes, it’s totally this workout that is the magical combination of the just right number of sets and reps and movements to get you totally slim and trim and long and lean and jacked and shredded and ripped and toned and tiny and huge ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!! This is definitely NOT just some generic workout that anyone who took a bunch of darts and threw them at exercise names could come up with. Nope.
In fact, I think I’ve just come to an epiphany of why I HATE magazine workouts so much. It is literally like someone took a bunch of notecards with random exercises on them, closed their eyes, and picked them at random out of a hat. Then they got a skinny model, put her in a designer sports bra and short shorts and made the title something along the lines of “Top 10 Total-Body Sculpting Moves For a Leaner, Meaner You!” GOLDEN. Who wants me on their corporate team??? (Yeah I stole that line from Daniel Tosh)
Anyway umm…I think I got a little off-topic there.
“Okay, quick and without overthinking:”
Yes, we wouldn’t want to think about anything would we?
“What, exactly, is happening to your body while doing the burpee? For one thing, by alternating and changing up exercise movements, you help delay a phenomenon in the science of movement known as adaptation – your muscles don’t get a chance to “figure out” how to minimize caloric expenditure.”
Here we see Harper trying to talk about what others will refer to as “muscle confusion” which is a really silly term that no one should use.
The gist is that you need to keep doing completely different movements so that your body will never become very ‘efficient’ at doing anything. The idea being that efficient = less calories burned. And you’re only exercising to burn calories right? Right.
Unfortunately, this misses out on the idea of progressing an exercise to keep things challenging. Yes, if you do the same, say, burpee for the same amount of reps everyday, you’ll stall out. But you could progress it by:
- Adding in a push-up at the bottom of the burpee
- Doing more total reps
- Doing the same number of reps in a shorter time period
- Adding a weight vest
I am a MUCH bigger fan of practicing movements until you’re proficient in them, and then progressing the movement from there – as opposed to just throwing a bunch of new movements at you everyday. Here are few reasons why:
- You don’t have to spend a bunch of time everyday figuring out how to do movements.
- You’ll reduce your chance of injury while doing your workouts since you’ll be very proficient in the exercise movements you do.
- You’ll get a hell of a lot stronger.
Regardless, a burpee isn’t some magic exercise that keeps your body guessing. If you keep doing burpees, guess what, you’ll get good at burpees. Using one exercise for his argument against adaptation makes absolutely no sense.
“Second, in the burpee, you can feel your whole body stretching, flexing, and contracting while your heart pumps faster and harder. You’re working those big muscle groups that tend to burn more calories.”
Oh, I can FEEL my body during this exercise? Wow. How profound.
My heart pumps faster and harder while exercising? You don’t say. That’s incredible.
I’ll agree to that last statement though. It’s the reason why you’d want to do a squat over a calf raise if you were looking to get the most bang for your buck.
Anyway, if you’re eating 800 calories a day and feeling woozy, as you probably will be, a burpee is not exactly the kind of exercise I’d recommend. If someone were hell-bent on doing this 800 calorie a day thing, I’d probably suggest doing at most 2 days a week of weight training with each workout being:
- Squat 2-3 x 5
- Bench Press 2-3 x 5
- Lat Pulldown, Cable Row or Pull-up 3 x 8
- Go home
And that’s about it. If you’re at such a steep deficit, your ONLY goal when working out should be to maintain muscle mass. Doing a bunch of high-intensity crap is pointless and going to leave you passed out on the floor. That’s why I don’t even have deadlifts up there. Blacking out doesn’t seem like a good time to me, personally.
And, go figure, Harper is a HUGE fan of CrossFit-style met-con. Snatch AMRAPs anyone???
(On a side-note: I realize that not all CrossFit boxes are made alike and some are wonderful places to train with responsible coaching. Snatch AMRAPs, however, do not fall under that category.)
Moral: You do NOT need to mix up the movements you are doing constantly to burn calories or get an effect from your workouts. You DO need to progress, but there are a lot of ways to do that with one single movement.