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How Effective ‘Walking’ is For Fat Loss?

How Effective ‘Walking’ is For Fat Loss?

Are You Walking Endlessly Without Losing Even a Pound?


What you are about to read is life-changing information. This article will save you tons of money, frustration and time.

It has been a long time I have been watching people walk in the streets and parks in the city. Nearly all my personal training clients had a treadmill at home before joining us as well. They all walk for the same reason – losing excess body fat! It is definitely not working for them or else they would at least take a break. I have had so many people come to me having run hours and hours on treadmills with heart beat monitors and working at “fat burning zones”. It is time to step in and throw a bit of science. But before that let me make it clear. Walking is a very good thing. The physical and mental health benefits of walking are enormous. I love walking myself and I suggest my clients do as well. But it is not anything near efficient if you are doing it to lose fat. Plus I am not a fan of electronic machines as long as physique transformation is concerned. If you want to walk just get out and walk. Let it be a joy rather than a chore.

Yes, there is nothing wrong with you. It might just be the way you are going about it. There are more efficient ways of losing excess body fat and I am going to show you what they are.

Are you still with me? Okay. Let’s break it down.

There are three main bioenergetic pathways that produce ATP, namely,
Aerobic system,
Anaerobic system and
ATP-PC system.

ATP is the intercellular molecular currency of energy for muscle contraction. Essentially, this is the energy needed for muscle contraction. The supply of ATP in each cell is limited and therefore cells must have a means of producing more.
We use ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) to move. Fat, glycogen or ATP-CP are the pathways of energy metabolism and are turned into ATP as fuel when we perform physical activity. However, the speed and intensity at which we work dictates which energy system or pathway our body uses primarily. I will not go through a lot of detail and just outline each system briefly and where they get the energy from.

Aerobics - Ken's Transformation at Omnifarious gym

Aerobic system:

This system is dominant in long physical activity work like Marathon. Fat is the primary fuel in this mode of exercise. Hence the term “Fat Burning Zone”. Yes you do burn fat running on a treadmill or when you go for a walk but hold on I will explain why this is not the way to go to lose fat fast and keep it away!

Anaerobic system (Glycolysis or Lactic Acid system):

This system is used by the body in physical activities shorter than about 120 seconds. Glycolysis uses the breakdown of carbohydrates (glucose) to rapidly produce ATP. Here, one glucose molecule will produce 2 ATP. (This system is our focus at Omnifarious)

This is Ken's transformation at Omnifarious in 8 weeks only!

ATP-PC system:

This system is used in situations that require a lot of power and that last less than 10 seconds. Short distance sprinters and Olympic Weightlifters would make good examples of people whose primary fuel comes from this system.

The chart below shows you the cardio-respiratory demands on the body at two levels of Aerobic and Anaerobic zones.

Exercise target zone chart
Now let’s look at the efficiency of each system

Let’s look at the different energy systems involved in metabolism. First, the aerobic zones. This means that you are working at an intensity where the demand for oxygen does not exceed the supply, based on your body’s ability to use oxygen (commonly referred to as the VO2). “Fat burning” for immediate energy is the primary energy source used here, and at higher intensities, some carbs. The downside is that this is a very energy-efficient fuel source, and one molecule of fat will produce about 100 molecules of ATP, the energy source for muscle contraction. Put another way, if the human body relied on carbohydrates to store energy, then a person would need to carry 67.5 lb (31 kg) of hydrated glycogen to have the energy equivalent to 10 lb (5 kg) of fat. Ever thought of the last few pounds? They are there to save your life in case of famine until you get food.

Think of energy utilization kind of like fuel economy in your car: the more ATP produced per molecule of substrate, the longer it will take to burn off the tank.

Marathon runners basically use fat as their fuel. Each time they train they become more and more efficient in not only “burning fat for fuel” but also at storing it (after each session you would need to replenish the body by fat so you can survive the next hour-long session on the treadmill). In fact, a runner will have to run 40 miles more each year to maintain the same percentage body fat, ceteris paribus. Where do you think that will take you? That’s right. Shin splints, heel spurs, knee pain and low back pain. Staying in the fat burning zone is also catabolic (breaking down muscle tissue for energy). Muscle loss is bad news for fat burning because you are decreasing the consumption of the engine (decreaed muscle mass). In other words, your base metabolic rate (how many calories you burn to sustain life each day) decreases as well. So if you eat the same amount of food the more you will tend to store it rather than burn it by muscle. Muscle tissue require calories but fat tissue doesn’t.

long distance runner average muscle
Average Muscle Mass of a Long Distance Runner

So every time you go for a walk on the treadmill you do burn fat. But you put it back on the next day. To keep it off you will have to walk every day. But the more you walk the more efficient you become at the task of walking and also at storing fat since that’s your primary fuel. So if you don’t go for the walk the weight comes back and if you continue walking you would make little to zero progress. The first few days will always be challenging and you will lose a few pounds but after a few days you will have to increase the time of walking to keep the same the fat loss pace going. But how many hours can you do that every day? The more you run or walk the more your joints will suffer and that will be the end of it. Most of us are not made to run for long periods of time. We are too overweight and deconditioned to do that. The weight-bearing joints will sooner or later give out.

Conversely, if we compare that with anaerobic system (glycolysis), which is the burning of carbs as the main energy source at an intensity that requires more oxygen than is readily available, the conversion is one molecule of glucose producing 2 molecules of ATP, or to put it another way, 50 times faster weight loss!! Compare that with the ATP-CP system, which is typically only utilized during all-out sprinting endeavors, and it produces a 1:1 ratio, or roughly 100 times greater weight loss!! To continue with the car analogy, the fat burning zone is like driving a hybrid on the highway at 50 miles per hour, sipping fuel and taking forever to burn off the gas tank, which will get re-filled every time you lean into the fridge, versus training in the Anaerobic zone, which would be similar to driving a hummer in first gear, red lined, with the AC and the E-brake engaged. You’d burn through a hell of a lot more fuel in option 2 than in option one, which would translate to greater weight loss. So training in the “fat burning zone” while burning a greater percentage of fat during exercise, doesn’t burn more fat over time, nor does it burn off more carbs, which will get converted into fat if they don’t get burned off, and once burned off requires the breakdown of fat to replenish!!!

Harry Aikines muscle mass
Harry Aikines the 23 yo English Sprinter (notice low body fat % and muscle mass)

Looking at how many calories are burned and where the sources come from, we see that more calories are burned from fat at lower intensities than at higher intensities, but the greater carb loss will pretty much blow the hell out of the fat burning zones benefits:

% of maximul oxygen consumptionAs you can see from the chart, at higher intensities more energy is supplied by carbs (Glycogen). That happens during the workout, but what about after? Can you actually increase your calorie-burning potential after the workout by changing what you do in the workout?

Absolutely. By working at a higher intensity that requires the anaerobic use of a lot of carbs, your body has to break down more fat to replenish the stores in your liver and muscles in order to let you do that crazy-hard stuff again, which looks something like this:

comparison before training, after trainingMoreover, now you are very inefficient at storing fat. Which in our case, unlike cars, is a good thing. Next time you eat a meal you would store your calories more as Glycogen rather than fat. Training at higher intensities and shorter periods of time will make you not only sustain your muscles but also make more of it. Your base metabolic rate also increases this way. So if you keep the same caloric intake you would burn more fat sleeping or let’s say watching TV Smile Fat loss can be maximized by working at higher intensities and using the Anaerobic and ATP-CP systems without changing diet and with minimal time investment, simply by altering training variables to use the most fuel possible in the shortest period of time available.

Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC):

This is also known as “oxygen debt”, oxygen deficit or exercise afterburn and measures the increase in consumption of oxygen after an exercise session to return the body to the pre-exercise state. This is accompanied by post exercise energy consumption (higher metabolism) to bring back every body system (heart rate, BP, ATP, oxygen stores, ventilation, blood circulations and body temperature) to normal pre-exercise state. Anaerobic (like weight training) exercise produces a much greater EPOC than aerobic exercise and it continues to do so up to 40 hours after the exercise session. This means you will be burning more calories above resting calorie-burn level up to 40 hours after your exercise session more. There you go! MORE FAT LOSS. Don’t do much yet burn fat more!

Muscle mass Omnifarious Gym!
Mehrdad 18 does ZERO traditional Cardio at Omnifarious

Training for long at slow intensities will also make you change the type of muscle fiber you are made of. There are broadly speaking two types of muscle fiber: Type I muscle fibers (slow twitch) and Type II fibers (fast twitch). Fast, intense and power activities tend to use fast twitch fibers and prolonged activities use slow twitch fibers. Training too long at slower intensities will change your fiber type to slow twitch and decrease maximal strength. Being inefficient at burning fat and being weak is not good news if you are looking to get in the best shape of your life.

Like most animals we are not designed for long hours of running at moderate intensities. We are designed to either walk or sprint as fast as humanly possible. The best example would be the Cheetahs. These wild animals reach a speed of 100km/h in just three seconds. Their top sprinting speed is 120km/h and they normally can’t run more than anything from one to three minutes or 500 meters. These animals are seen resting after hunt is over. They can’t run for long because their body temperature rises so much that it would be deadly to continue. We can’t run as fast as the Cheetahs but the physiology is the same. You wouldn’t see any fat animal. Certainly your diet and where your calories come from play a significant role but it’s also how you train your body.

Working at higher intensities will enable you to handle Carbohydrates insanely better. In other words, you will become extremely Insulin sensitive. What this means is that your muscles can soak up carbs once ingested and will not get stored as body fat. I have had numerous diabetic clients coming to me as the last resort. I would normally investigate into their diets and lifestyle. Without exception even the ones who would take as less as just a whole grain toast per day would have problem handling carbs. Their morning blood sugars would almost always be above 140 even when on medication (normal morning blood sugar for diabetic patients would be 80 to 120). After higher intensity resistance training blood sugar levels would turn to normal even without medications. This is an extremely important point for all of us. True, we are not all diabetic. But we still have the same physiology. Many of us, however, are pre-diabetic or are extremely insulin insensitive. I should add that even older people can do some sort of resistance training. I am not talking about sprinting or push-ups. There can be ways around this and we are dealing with it all the time at Omnifarious.

What to do?

Do short intervals of work and rest. Train as hard as you can for 20 to 30 seconds and then stop and rest for 10 to 60 seconds. This doesn’t necessarily mean sprinting. Doing body weight exercises like push-ups, chin-ups or squats for short bouts is also sprinting. Training with weights will have the same effect. And if you are a woman you don’t need to fear getting bulky with weights. We have a lot of woman at Omnifarious training with weights and they are in the best shapes they have ever been. You can also read my article on “why women won’t get bulky weight training”.

We consume carbohydrates more than ever before, exercise the way we shouldn’t and don’t burn any of it. No wonder ‘obesity’ and metabolic syndrome have become epidemic. You can’t fool nature. The body has the mind of its own. Stop walking on the treadmill and pick some weights or get good at doing body weight exercises. Any high intensity exercise you do that will be in the 8 to 15 repetition range will work at the anaerobic zone and will burn a lot of carbs not only during your workout but also hours after you are done with your workout and next time you eat you would not store your calories as fat! Instead, you would become a stronger, leaner and a more energetic YOU.

Don’t worry about getting enough Cardio! Research has consistently shown that interval training at higher intensities will have a much more profound effect on VO2 max than traditional stead state cardio. If you work out at Omnifarious you will learn how you can get a good cardio workout doing body weight exercises and weights. If you are advanced you can take your conditioning level to a whole new level. See how Ken got his pack in video section.
Note: Ken is an advanced level client and you wouldn’t be working out like him for a good few month.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below. Also do feel free to share this article with your friends.
Committed to your health & happiness,

Moez Aryan
Omnifarious Owner
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Clinical Sports Nutrition, Louise Burke and Vicki Deakin, second edition.

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