In at Number One… Out in 50 Minutes!
Why is 50 minutes in the gym the maximum time you should spend working out? Health and fitness expert Jon Robinson has the answers…
Everyone’s allowed an off-day. When Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Where is the Love’ came out, it went flying off the shelves! But remember these guys also wrote ‘My Humps’. Go back a few years further and anybody who was everybody was wedding-dancing to Britney’s ’Oops!’… but then Britney also did that one with Madonna. Go back further still, 70s wordsmiths, and Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkel fame) also wrote some awesome songs. 'The Only Living Boy in New York’…classic! 'Cecilia’…stormin’! He also wrote some turkeys too. '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover' for me, definitely lands atop that carcass pile; it just came on the radio and now it’s going to be sloshing around in my already limited brain vessels for the rest of the day, depositing it’s sticky, cholesterol-laden, twee cutesiness and smug. It’s the musical equivalent of an oh so self-aware, frightfully middle-class dinner party joke (probably about the human condition or something).
So now, I’m stuck with it, but why not turn it into a positive? A mnemonic?
50 minutes then leave your cardio. Now that’d be a solid platinum hit, straight in at the top with a bullet!
So why 50 minutes? Because after approximately that amount of time exercising a stress hormone called cortisol is released from the adrenal gland at an exponential rate. Cortisol makes you store fat, and takes preference to your muscles as an energy source. It’s believed to be a survival mechanism to prevent amenorrhea, (a condition in which the menses stop) but the fat deposition and loss of lean tissue affects men much the same as women. Genetics dictate that cortisol affects some people’s lives more than others, and is one of the key factors we get fatter as we age, as we produce more of the hormone as we get older. Our DNA is hard-wired, largely out of our control, but with respect to lifestyle, we can affect it to a degree through mental stress, diet and physical activity. Let’s focus on the latter.
An effective workout will preserve as much lean mass as possible while burning as much fat as possible.
In exercise, if you want to burn fat, you need cardio. If you want to target muscles, you need strength training. However, it’s a common gym mistake to practise both cardio and weights on the same day for two main reasons.
The first is that you are liable to exceed the 50 minute mark, which is bad because your body will start to work against you and store fat. The second is that in order for your body to adapt, you need to challenge it as much as is safe to undertake. The physiological mechanisms at work performing cardio exercise are far removed from those required for resistance exercise. Nature often strives for the lowest energy state, and your homeostatic systems much prefer dress down Friday to a hectic day. Mixing cardio and weights is simply too easy as far as your body’s concerned, therefore it’s not required to adapt, and the result is that after one workout, you simply don’t burn that much fat.
Non exercise-related diurnal cortisol levels peak in the morning, especially in the first 30 minutes you are awake. Breakfast has been shown to lower cortisol levels, effective throughout the day, the result being that any time of day is good for exercise. But a compound error is to exercise having skipped breakfast (a double cortisol whammy). Your stress levels will be higher, meaning that you are actually more susceptible to weight gain throughout the day, and can also have other impacts on your health: namely increased blood pressure and a weakened immune system.
Now for that mnemonic…
“Keep eyes on the clock, Brock”, “Don’t work out too long, Ron”, “No need to feel pain, Jane” (…I truly loathe that song). Your suggestions on a postcard please.
Paul Simon is available from all good record stores…and some rubbish ones.
Jon Robinson is the founder of web-based platform Makethisworkout. For in depth instructions on routines and durations of how to do these exercises properly, as well as information on alleviating pain and improving posture, check out his blog on www.makethisworkout.com