"Burning fat” - intervals in a form of TABATA

Intervals are almost perfect tool for burning body fat. The solution that you will read about below is not designed for everybody, though. What's more, intervals require months of adaptation to the anaerobic effort (the more intensive the intervals, the longer time of preparation). Unfortunately, people at the gym are often very impatient, and want to see the results right away, as fast as possible. Some time ago, a young man (18 years old) wrote that he's starting his doping cycle, and that his training consisted of 5 sets with 5 repetitions divided into 4 days.

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The exercises were chosen really badly and the day after leg workout (squats) – the young man wanted to train his back. Another group of people are the followers of the philosophy – the more, the better – i.e. 5x resistance training, 3x aerobics and they still ask a question: “when can I add intervals?”. If your attitude is similar, it's not worth thinking about intervals – you will just get injured or overtrained. The same is with people whose meals are still not in order – none, even the hardest interval training, will help if you overeat biscuits, ice-cream, hamburgers and pizza – pouring it all with alcohol. If you use proper diet and resistance training (e.g. the one, which includes the most important parts of the body, i.e. legs and back), your anaerobic efficiency is proper – you can try to add a session of TABATA right after resistance training. This solution is only for the chosen ones – the best trained people. The rest of people can try to include TABATA sessions on the days free from resistance training. You should consider the fact, that a day or two after the session for legs or back (in the divided workout), or the whole upper body (in case of the up/down training), interval training with free weights will be extremely hard or even impossible to do (increased muscle pain – DOMS). But, as I wrote before, if you spare most of your time on resistance training, you should do an 8-12-week adaptation to the anaerobic workout, e.g. jogging, then running and introducing the elements of interval training (e.g. short distance of sprint, ascents, pulling the load). The increase of efficiency is very slow, especially if you have large muscle mass. People with large amount of body fat (e.g. men > 22%), should base on aerobic workout for the first few months of training. On the one hand, it will ensure the adaptation of the joints, bones and ligaments to carrying additional load, on the other – it will adjust the cardiovascular system.

TABATA – the risk and potential problems:

  • the threat of overtraining, if you use appropriately heavy resistance training (you increase the volume of the session, and the intensity of intervals is high),

  • disordered recovery, this phenomenon is getting stronger – if you sleep too little, use stimulants (e.g. ephedrine, caffeine, DMAA), you eat the wrong things (insufficient amount of protein and carbohydrates; especially before or after workout),

  • decreased results of the resistance training (progress of mass and strength),

  • additional energetic expenditure, which has to be included in the calorific balance,

  • the threat of muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis) – it is a very rare phenomenon, but may occur, especially if someone is not used to hard anaerobic work,

  • the cardiovascular risk, if you are obese and have poor efficiency; the risk increases if you use diuretics, thyroid hormones (T3) and/or “fat burners” (again, e.g. the non-selective substances, such as ephedrine, selective beta-mimetics: clenbuterol, salbutamol; other, e.g. adipex); poorly-trained people, even with significantly smaller load, will work on higher heart beat, because of the stimulation of the adrenergic system: “the visible increase of the concentration of the catecholamines occurs in people with poor physical efficiency with the relative lower load by 20-30% than in trained people”. [2]

  • the risk of hypoglycemia – especially if you suffer from diabetes [1], use IGF-1, insulin or some other drugs, your liver is damaged or unstabilised glycemia,

  • dehydration and overheating if you do the workout in adverse conditions (it gets stronger if you use diuretics),

  • the excretion of cortisol, although, theoretically, during 60-90 minutes the level of cortisol should get normal, and according to some studies, intervals are anti-inflammatory.

TABATA – advantages:

  • faster rest metabolism (it may be agreed that it is the most important factor, which influences the utilisation of the subcutaneous fat; according to studies, usual exercises at the gym increase REE by 4-5%, aerobics ~4-5%, intervals by even 15-20%),

  • efficient fat burning, especially if you use mixed protocols,

  • limited appetite – any kind of VO2 max interval training may have such influence,

  • the possibility of additional overtraining of particular muscle groups,

  • ejection of adrenaline, noradrenaline, growth hormone (although, on the other hand, the swing of hormone levels gets normal some time after finishing work – it's not known if the response from, e.g. the adrenergic system has significant influence on metabolism within 24 or 36 hours after finishing work).

Exemplary TABATA workout for people who have no experience with dynamic exercises:

  1. upright row, 20 seconds,

  2. standing barbell press, wide grip, 20 seconds,

  3. full squats with barbell, 20 seconds,

  4. alternate lunges in one place, 20 seconds,

  5. good mornings, 20 seconds,

  6. bent-over rows, 20 seconds,

  7. sumo deadlift, 20 seconds,

  8. dips, 20 seconds.