Tag Archives: tabata

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.







The #1 Reason People Don’t Make Progress

Maybe this article is the wake-up call you needed, or maybe it’s going to tell you that what you’re doing now is perfect for you, but either way hopefully it helps you realize that action and inaction are both decisions!

People often ask me questions about certain aspects of fitness and physical training (which is awesome, keep doing it!) but often halfway through the conversation I’ll hear one of these lines:

  1. I really want to get into shape but I just don’t have the time right now. I’m too tired to start a fitness program
  2. I’ve tried everything and just can’t lose fat or gain muscle
  3. I can’t train for my sport because I injured my back, shoulder, knee etc. ______ physio/doctor/chiro/trainer/tarot card reader says I’ll never do ______ again. So I can’t.
  4. I can’t do _______ anymore because I’m too old
  5. There’s too much information out there, one place says to do this, another place says do that. It’s too confusing to start
  6. I can’t afford a personal trainer or strength coach

Now I’m sure you’re expecting me to say that all of these are unacceptable and everyone should be training for their sport or to achieve a healthier body image, but the reality is these are all legitimate life situations that can come up, some, in my opinion, are weaker than others, but all could happen to you. The real problem is that after I hear one of these lines there’s usually 0% ownership of the situation, and often the belief that this is happening to them as opposed to a result of their decisions. I’ll often make the incorrect assumption that they truly do want to improve their situation and that the reason that they stated is truly what’s holding them back, here’s an actual conversation I had with an athlete:

“Man I really miss hockey and want to play again, but I can’t play anymore because I injured my shoulder last year, i went to physio for 3 months but never improved”

“who was your physio?”

“______ from _______ clinic, I went for awhile, got an MRI that showed nothing, but I’m still in pain a year later, I’ve tried everything and it’s not getting any better”

“hmm well shoulders are a very complex and unstable joint, one of the physios I refer to helped fix Travis Lulay’s and Jake Virtanen’s shoulder after their team doctors failed to get any  significant improvement, did you want me to see if I could get you on his waiting list?”

“No there’s nothing he can do, my shoulder is messed”

Now if that the injury was the real reason that the athlete was no longer participating, the promising chance to finally fix what was ailing him should have been a welcome opportunity, but the real problem was the commitment to an injured mentality. Which leads me to this:

The number 1 reason people fail to see results, or even get started, isn’t genetics or life situation, injury status, age, or financial situation, it’s mentality and choices.

I want to be on record as saying that I have zero problem with the person who decides that fitness training isn’t that important to them right now, that’s their choice and I 100% respect that, it’s not my job, or anyone else’s for that matter, to decide what is best for them. My point is that “I can’t” is almost always “I won’t”. So with that in mind I want to go over the most common reasons I hear that people can’t achieve their fitness goals, how it relates to mentality, and how you could fix them if you’re in a similar boat

I really want to get into shape but I just don’t have the time right now. I’m too tired to start a fitness program

Don’t have time to go to the gym? no problem! If you’re strength or performance oriented check out Pavel Tsatsouline’s naked warrior manual, it requires zero equipment other than your own body, and revolves around 2 movements.

Time limited and need to train for a sport or activity? Get a single kettlebell and a customized program – an experienced coach could produce a national level athlete with nothing more than 16kg bell for most women, and a 24kg bell for most men in as little as 45 mins 2x per week for most sports (yes you read that correctly).

Physique oriented or just for general health? do a 2 Tabata intervals a day for a total of 8minutes invested, 20 minutes if you want to factor in the shower and changing clothes. No one is going to convince me that they don’t have a single 20 minute block in their day – you could drop a netflix show, spend less time on Facebook, get up 20mins earlier, shorten your lazy morning routine, cook larger quantities of food so you can reheat instead of making every meal from scratch, watch less cat videos, spend less time texting, make phone calls instead of emailing. If everyone took an honest look at their day, I’m positive they could come up with 20 mins to get some physical activity in. Maybe netflix is more important to you right now, that’s ok that’s your choice, but realize it is a choice, own it, and don’t complain that you don’t have time.

For the ones that say they don’t have the time and even if they found it, they’re too tired to do any physical activity, you just have to start. Energy is one of those paradoxical things where you have to spend it to get more, and there’s no short cut, so start slow, go for a walk, or dive into one of the options above and get going, in 4 weeks you’ll be wondering what took you so long to get started. Oh and all those things that were making you too busy and too tired? You’re now more efficient at them and they don’t drain you as much.

I’ve tried everything and I can’t lose fat or gain muscle 

Well since we’re being honest, no you haven’t tried everything. Not even close. Sure you may have been sucked in by some sleek marketing and bought into a pop-culture fitness program with a paid fitness model on the front who’s never used the device or done the program other than the one time in the photoshoot, and you might have even committed 100% to that program and seen very few if any noticeable results. So are you doomed to look like you do forever and now have no chance of ever achieving your body goals? No, that’s horseshit. I’ve never met a single person who couldn’t improve their physique barring serious medical conditions, and no, diabetes isn’t one of them. Next time research the product or program thoroughly, and find a system that works for you, or work with someone who understands physiology well enough to come up with a truly customized program (shameless self plug, I know). Thomas Edison is famed for taking 10,000 attempts to create the lightbulb, and after 9,999 he is quoted “I have not failed. I have just found 9,999 ways that do not work”; take this mentality and I guarantee you will reach your goal.

I can’t train for my sport because I injured my back, shoulder, knee etc. ______ physio/doctor/chiro/trainer/tarot card reader says I’ll never do ______ again. So I can’t.

Basic disclaimer: I’m not telling you to ignore your medical professionals advice, but I can tell you that there’s definitely some merit in getting a second opinion. Do your research into your professional, my criteria personal criteria is as follows:

  • Take any chance to see a sports medicine doctor over your GP, ask for a referral
  • When selecting a physiotherapist (or physical therapist for you Americans) look for someone who deals with athletes, who won’t be shocked by what you’re doing (I still remember the chiropractor who told me I shouldn’t deadlift after I told her I was a competitive powerlifter), unless they are new to the field, they should have at least one or more professional athletes as clients – for these people their body is their paycheque and they rely on the best mechanics to keep it in order. If you live in BC Here are the therapists that I refer to:
    • Soft Tissue:
      • Grant Kim – Spine and Sport, Port Coquitlam
      • Dan Bos – Abbotsford Physiotherapy
    • Spine alignment and loading issues, Concussions, Nerve-related issues:
      • Donald Grant – Catalyst Kinetics
      • Dan Bos – Abbotsford Physiotherapy
    • Nervous System Imbalances, Adrenal Issues, Overtraining
      • Jonathon Berghamer – Catalyst Kinetics
    • Eye tracking or Visual Issues/Training
      • Kevin Loopeker – Fortius Sport and Health
    • Keep in mind some of these people have extremely long waiting lists (up to 9 months)
  • If you’re having trouble with a certain issue even after seeing one or two very qualified physios or sports medicine doctors, start looking into ones that specialize with your specific joint or area of discomfort. Inherently some will be better with disc herniations, while other with shoulder impingments, be prepared to travel (within reason)
  • Never take no as an answer. If they can’t help you, they can’t help you, that doesn’t mean someone else can’t

Now just because your ankle is injured doesn’t mean you stop training completely, you still have a perfectly functioning upper body and no excuse not to use it. Always find a silver lining; shoulder is broken? leg press, seated calf raise, sprint, leg curl, lunge, back raise, abdominal work etc. Lower Back injury? Lie on a bench, brace the back, and get creative, next article will be how to train around a lower back injury, so stay tuned!

I can’t do _______ anymore because I’m too old

I hate this one. That’s your own self-imposed limitation and it’s got almost zero foundation in science. Ya maybe your chances of making the Olympic podium have dwindled but that doesn’t mean you can’t play recreational hockey or ski until you’re done with it. Take care of yourself physically with some activity outside of your sport, do some mobility work, and don’t ignore your aches and pains. The body has an amazing ability to adapt, just take a look at the studies done on geriatrics who start weight training after the age of 70, all of a sudden they are walking around, generally being a pain in the ass, and doing activities they haven’t done in years. There are 3 members over 90 years old at the gym I currently train at, and I see one of them at the rink every once and awhile still playing hockey. That can be you too, so long as you take care of yourself

There’s too much information out there, one place says to do this, another place says do that. It’s too confusing to start

I actually sympathize with this one, the internet era is an awesome time, but along with all it’s benefits comes all it’s faults, and the amount of misinformation is beyond ridiculous. The solution? Hire a coach while you work on your bullshit filter (shameless plug number 2). Pick one or two sources of information and don’t branch out until you have a solid base of knowledge, by then you’ll be able to assess different sources and integrate what works. Here are some suggestions on authors to read:

  • Bodybuilding and Physique:
    • Easy:
      • Jason Ferrugia
      • Precision Nutrition
    • Medium:
      • Josh Bryant
      • Bret Contreras
      • John Meadows
  • Athletic Preparation/Strength and Conditioning
    • Easy
      • Dan John
      • Pavel Tsatsouline
      • Michael Yessis
    • Medium
      • Mike Boyle
      • Eric Cressey
      • Louis Simmons
      • Mike Robertson
    • Hard
      • James Smith
      • Yuri Verhoshansky
      • Mel Siff
      • Cal Dietz
      • Charlie Francis

There are more than I can list, but those are some great starts, many of them have blogs, but some of them are dead, so needless to say they don’t have active blogs, although some of them have active websites run by other people dedicated to their work.

I can’t afford a personal trainer or strength coach

I can sympathize with this one as well, if you don’t have the money you don’t have the money, and fitness training is an optional expense, however, if you’re spending money elsewhere in the fitness industry and have nothing to show for it, then that’s where my sympathy runs out. Too many times someone will say “I wish I could afford a coach” and my next question is “how many supplements are you taking?”, and usually receive something along the line of “I take ____ pre-workout powder, BCAA’s, creatine, glutamine, omega 3’s, a multivitamin, and protein powder” some are taking even more. Now don’t get me wrong, supplements have their place, but they are the last 5% maybe 10%, so here we have people spending an average of $200-250 per month on the last 10% when they don’t have the first 90% covered. I guarantee you would get better results spending that money on a qualified coach, and eating a well balanced diet, and dropping every single supplement in your arsenal. So how does this relate to mentality? I’d like to think that most people know that there’s no substitute for hard work and a program designed specifically to you that adapts to your changing situation, and for the most part people understand this, but it’s all too easy to fall for the seductive marketing that the body of your dreams or that national championship is going to be sitting on the shelf at GNC for 49.99 and all you have to do is take it 2x a day with a meal.

My main point with all of these common situations is that there’s always a way to achieve your goals, they will take some small or large sacrifices on your behalf, but there’s always a way. So next time you say “I can’t” realize it’s more likely “I won’t” and decide what’s most important to you at the time; it might be netflix, but hopefully it’s improving yourself. Don’t make excuses, make decisions! Henry Ford said it best “whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right” – it really is that simple.