What Your Car Can Teach You About Fat Loss (This Works)

Today we’re going to finally uncomplicated and un-bullshit the fat loss process using the analogy of a car burning fuel. Reality is most people with zero background in mechanics probably have a better idea of how a car works than how their own body functions; that’s ok actually, until you need to fix something. Once you need to fix something suddenly the “I just press this pedal and it goes, now it doesn’t” doesn’t do much to help you find a solution.

Sick of hearing useless and conflicting fat loss advice? Me too. There are too many over-simplifications and over-complications of the fat loss process. You’ve probably heard a few of the mantras of the “fat loss is simple, not easy” crowd, but they all boil down to “eat less, move more” – great advice, sort of. Then on the other side lies the complicated theories on how complex hormone interactions, energy systems, inflammation, metabolite signalling, circadian rhythms, genetics etc all contribute to your ability to lose fat… what a headache. Although there is definitely good research that is highly complex, on this side of the fence is where all the pseudoscience, bullshit, and terrible scientific inferences are made. It’s also where supplement companies attempt to confuse you into thinking you need a pill to lose fat.

First off the basic premise behind the car analogy is:

  • Fat is the gas you want to burn
  • High intensity work uses NOS to boost the engine
  • Muscle and organs are the engine
  • *hopefully you’ve seen the original fast and furious, this will probably make way more sense

And the basic principle behind fat loss is: energy out must be greater than energy in

So we’re going to clear up the fat loss process once and for all, while making as many mechanics as possible cringe at the terribly inaccurate car analogies. Basic disclaimer: in order to make a common sense analogy, some inaccuracies are inherent, but the main goal of this article is turn theory in actionable advice and to understand a little bit of the “why” without going through a whole physiology lecture. So here are the factors involved in fat loss

Size of the engine:

If you want to burn a ton of fuel (counterintuitive I’m aware) then you need a bigger engine. I think we can all agree that the Honda Fit is burning less fuel to go 100km vs the 18 wheel big rig sitting next to it at the traffic light. Your muscles and organs are the engine, but since most of us aren’t too interested in growing our kidneys for fat loss, from here on in we’re just going to say it’s the muscles. Larger muscles = more fuel being burned. 

Types of fuel and how the fuel gets from the gas tank to the engine:

We have two major types of fuel in our body, fat, and stored carbohydrates, fat is burned by the aerobic system while stored carbohydrates are burned by the anaerobic system (this is an oversimplification by the way, but leave the finer distinctions to the athletes and places where it matters more). For now, fat = regular gas, stored carbohydrate = NOS

As you can probably imagine, if the name of the game is put more energy out than you are taking in, then we probably want to be running on NOS all the time, hitting super high revs and high speeds burning as much fuel as possible, but just like in the original fast and furious movies, it only lasts so long and then it burns out. We also have the problem that burning a ton of NOS helped with the energy equation, but we really want to burn regular gas because that’s the fat we’re trying to lose. Fortunately we have a “gas to NOS” converter installed, that will allow us to turn fat into carbohydrates, but it is important to note, this piece is installed by the engine (muscles) not the gas tank (fat stores)

So we still have a problem of getting the gas to the converter, this happens via our fuel pump and fuel line. The fuel pump is the heart, the fuel line is the blood vessels. In order to get a bunch of fat to the converter you need to improve the fuel pump and line, fortunately for us, the more we use something the better it gets and weight training, repeated sprinting, and regular low/high intensity cardio will improve the heart and blood vessel network, improving the delivery of fat to the “gas to NOS” converter.

The last piece of the equation is the “gas to NOS” converter itself, quite simply, if it’s a cheap knock off it won’t do it’s job very well, and instead of turning fat into carbohydrates and then burning them off, the engine will only run on new carbohydrates coming in via the diet, i.e. you going out and buying new tanks of NOS to replace the ones you’ve used, with the zero effect on energy in and energy out. So what if you just don’t replace the NOS tanks? Well, then you only get to run on regular gas but at much lower speeds – this is the recovery process. You’re stuck here until you can refill your NOS tanks from the convertor. The only way for you to “upgrade” you converter at the start is to do low intensity medium to long duration cardio. Once you have the “upgraded gas to NOS” converter, you can improve it just by running it, meaning weight training, and sprint work will maintain the system at a high enough level to continue to turn fat into carbohydrates and having a large net effect on both energy out and direct fat loss.

So here are the prescriptions to get the best fat burning car/body possible if you are starting from a relatively unfit starting point:

  1. Diet: Fill the tanks less than you draining them, more articles on this later
  2. Weight training: be the 18 wheel truck, not the honda fit, weight train 3-4x per week with medium intensity for 6 weeks, kick up the intensity after 6 weeks
  3. 4-6 weeks of low intensity cardio, 3x per week, 30mins 120-140bpm: improve the fuel line and fuel pump, upgrade your convertor
  4. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) 6 weeks and beyond: Start using a ton of NOS, maintain the convertor, burn a ton of regular gas through conversion
  5. Intensify HIIT Training by adding more intervals, using less rest, etc: 

On Facebook I had promised to post some examples of my favourite interval methods for fat loss, so here they are in no particular order:

  • Tabata Interval Options (20s work as hard as possible, 10s rest) rounds of 4mins, 2-3mins between rounds
    • First of all most people make the mistake of not working hard enough during the work portion, if you are using added resistance to any movement, it should be heavy enough that you can only complete 8-12 repetitions per 20s, if using bodyweight, you should be aiming to move as explosively as possible.
      •  Full Body Tabata Intervals
        • Interval 1 Alternating Dumbbell Split Squat Jumps, Interval 2: Mountain Climber
        • Interval 1 Push-up, Interval 2 Skip Rope
        • Interval 1 Dumbbell Push Press, Interval 2 DB Walking Lunge
        • Interval 1 Single Arm Kettlebell Bench Press, Interval 2 Kettlebell Swing
        • Classic Burpee
      • Half Body Tabata Intervals, good for split programs where you cannot afford to exhaust the body parts that you will be using in your next session
        •  Upper Body
          • Interval 1 Push-up, Interval 2 Renegade Row
          • Bear Crawls
          • Interval 1 Kettlebell Push Press, Interval 2 Renegade Row
        • Lower Body
          • Interval 1 Kettlebell Front Squat, Interval 2 Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift
          • Dumbbell Lunges
          • Interval 1 Dumbbell Suitcase Deadlift, Interval 2 Overhead Dumbbell Squat
  • Classic HIIT Intervals (work rest intervals can be progressed for further challenge once max total workout time has been hit, it’s generally not a good idea to take HIIT over 20mins in total length)
    • 10-15s incline treadmill sprints on the minute 16-20mins
    • 30s bike sprints, 30s light pedalling 8-16mins
    • Battle Ropes 30s work, 30s rest 10-20mins
    • KB Swings or Snatches max in 1 minute, 1 minute rest 10-20mins
  • Evil Creations (try at your own risk)
    • KB swing to Front Squat Ladders 1,1 to 20,20
      • Pick a single kettlebell, usually 20-24kg for most men, 12-16kg for most women, and start with a single kettlebell swing, then clean the kettlebell and perform a single front squat, then immediately perform 2 swings, then clean the kettlebell with the other hand and perform 2 front squats, then 3 swings, 3 front squats, 4 swings, 4 from squats etc etc. until you reach 20 swings and 20 squats. The idea is to do this with NO REST
    • Trap Bar Farmer’s walk with 60% of your max deadlift 4 sets of maximum time (aim for 2minutes) 1 minute rest, use straps if your grip severely limits the amount of time you can achieve
    • KB Front Squat to 30s Farmer’s Walk, 8×8, no rest.
      • Perform 8 kettlebell front squats with two kettlebells, then immediately go for a brisk farmer’s walk for 30s, repeat 8 times, no rest
    • Single Leg Romanian Deadlift to Overhead Carry, 8×8, no rest
      • performed in the same fashion as above

These are just some of my favourites, but you’re really only limited by your creativity. Make sure you go through steps 1-3 before attempting any of these workouts. Keep in mind this article is aimed at those who want to lose fat and look amazing. If you have competitive fat loss goals or want to get down into low single digit fat percentages, your fat loss journey is going to be much more personal and complicated. Hopefully this helps clear up some of the BS around he fat loss equation, and helps you on your way to the body you’ve always wanted. As always feel free to ask any questions! Thanks for reading.







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