Reemerging from Hibernation

Hey all you cool cats and kittens! I can almost imagine you all beginning to emerge groggily from your isolation-hibernation as rumour of the COVID-19 restrictions easing begin to spread.

Surely this is a cruel prank? We’ve been hurt before... [cont. below]

Hypertrophy
Diet Management
NEAT

But yes, all things seem to point to easing of restrictions.

Alas however, while isolation fuelled TikTok-ing has really given you time to focus on your choreography (my jazz hands have never been sharper – I’m a triple threat), you know deep down you are also completely and utterly unprepared for release back into society, having relied solely upon quality Netflix programming, coffee and apathy for sustenance.

It’s taken months of closed gyms, closed beauticians and children wrangling to really cultivate a corona-persona you can truly be proud of. Aggressive regrowth, jagged claws and the thousand mile stare built from day after day of answer kid questions about where waves come from and why mummy is drinking her night time happy juice so much earlier these days?

With that in mind, here are three tips to ease your way back into training.

1. Sustained fat loss is predicated on muscle conservation

Even if your goals in the gym are more Candice Swanepoel than Ronnie Coleman, it is imperative that you at the very least conserve existing muscle mass in order to ensure consistent and systematic fat loss. This is due to muscle being extremely metabolically expensive – that is to say, it requires the expenditure of significant calories simply by existing.

We have talked previously about the importance of NEAT – Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis – that is, the importance of calories expended or burnt through simply going about your day on overall body composition.

Simply put, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn just by going through your daily activities.

2. Sustained fat loss is predicated on muscle conservation

Not a typo... I just cannot emphasise this point enough.

As people begin to throw themselves back into training, losing those couple of extra pounds of isolation-insulation is going to be an almost universal focus. However, one of the most common self-sabotaging behaviours is throwing yourself into a starvation diet and high cardio focused training program. While there are multiple issues with this kind of training program, outside of it being unsustainable and unhealthy, it is also setting yourself up for failure.

Cardio is a fantastic tool for fat loss and general fitness. However, it’s effectiveness as a fat loss tool is dependent on maintaining muscle mass as you burn fat, and ensuring scope to increase intensity to ensure systematic fat loss. If it is not paired with hypertrophy (muscle building), you lose metabolically expensive muscle mass and not only will you adapt quickly and stop burning fat, you will also need to continue that level of energy expenditure to maintain the same weight.

Be patient: ensure you introduce some hypertrophy (muscle building) workouts alongside your cardio and watch the magic happen.

3. Sustained fat loss is predicated on muscle conservation

Third time’s the charm – Guys, I like you way too much to see you killing yourself training in a way that sets yourself up for failure. Cardio and starvation diets are enticing because they cater to the extremist parts of our brains.

If a moderate level of dieting and exercise is beneficial, than extreme amounts of dieting and exercise must be extremely good. Right?

And the trap is that it will work in the short run. The weight will fall off.

Except you will lose as much metabolically expensive muscle mass as you will burn fat and you will be in a worse position than when you started. As your body adapts to the amount of energy expenditure and you can’t increase your cardio because you’re already running daily marathons, and you can’t reduce calories because you are barely eating anything already, you will begin to put that weight straight back on.

This is what causes those rebounds – And they are even worse than you realise, because not only do you put that weight back on, you also have less muscle mass than when you started and that will make the next time you try it all over again all the more challenging.

It’s a viscous cycle.

Please, do your future self a favour. Include some weights or yoga. Be intelligent with your dieting. Don’t overdo the cardio... And be kind to yourself and others (I know that sounds like a distressed wooden ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ wall hanging from Kmart but it is more important now than ever). 

TL;DR

  • Excessive cardio and extreme dieting is a recipe for failure
  • Muscle helps you better maintain your weight
  • Make sure you add some weights and/or yoga into your workout regime