I was watching a few minutes of Shaun T’s T-25 infomercial this morning in which he stated something along the line that long cardio workouts are a poor way to burn fat… He then switched gears from “poor” or “worse” to “efficiency” of fat burning in regard to High Intensity Interval Training and his workout. One is left with the mistaken impression that his way of losing weight might be “better” than another.
Ah, I love it when political maneuvering makes it into business.
Here’s the truth without the political wrangling* – because I have no dog in this hunt, do what you want, I’m certainly not hanging up the cycling shoes for T25: If you want to burn calories, thousands of calories, cardio kicks everything’s ass but it takes a lot of time. If, on the other hand, you want to efficiently burn as many calories as possible in a small amount of time, short high-intensity workouts are where it’s at – and that’s why Shaun switches to “efficiency”.
See, most people don’t, can’t or won’t put in the kind of time and effort it really takes to burn fat with cardio. Now, I could use running here because I spent the better part of a decade running my weight into manageability but cycling is way more efficient, effective and reliable in terms of avoiding overuse injuries. Additionally, recovery periods after a workout once a decent fitness base has taken hold, can be measured in terms of hours rather than days. This means that cycling every day, rather than taking days off in between workouts, is possible. Then we have to look at effort. If you’re riding and you’re not entirely drenched in sweat afterwards, at least two days a week with lighter workouts in between, you’re simply not working hard enough. In other words, the goal is not just to move the body, it’s to build muscle while moving the body. As always, consult with your doctor to make sure you can safely perform sexu… er, I got my small print mixed up. …safely perform physical exercise**.
Now let’s not kid ourselves, Insanity, P-90X and T25 are all cardio. They’re just mixed with body weight lifts too so you build more muscle, a more balanced body, than you could hope to riding a bike. On the other hand, in 25 minutes you might burn 600 calories (that’s really intense – multiply that by six days and you get just over a whole pound or 3,600 calories). That is exceptionally efficient for just a half-hour a day. On the other hand, I ride around 150-200 miles a week throughout a typical cycling season. That’s 8,600 to 11,500 calories a week. That’s between 2.4 and 3.2 pounds worth of calories. The problem, if it is one, is that 150-200 miles a week takes me between 8-1/2 and 11 hours. Spread out over a season, I can burn through 80 pounds worth of calories on my bike – it just takes a long time.
Another variation of cycling’s shortcoming is that, and this is going by my personal experience, you have to get into the really long rides (3+ hours) to get into the quicker, body-transformative weight loss. Don’t get me wrong, an hour a day is excellent and that will go a long way to transforming you over time but if you really want to drop some serious weight, long rides are fabulous for it.
So each person must define their own as “better” or “worse”. Let’s approach this another way though…
Okay, this is what T-25 looks like (or Insanity or P90X or weight lifting – take your pick):
Now you can call T25 more efficient, but I’ll take cycling as better any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Ride hard, live long, and prosper.
*Political wrangling is noted as the art of making one’s position look like the best way to go by leaving out the important “other half” of the information that shows the position to be preposterous.
** To all of the doctors who will read this post: I know you’re going to tell the vast majority of people to get off the couch and move. I know that you’re going to tell your patient to shut up and get active. I know. I have to add the small print so if somebody drops dead of a heart attack because they spent most of their life abusing their body, their wife or kid can’t sue me for offering ways to repair some (or all) of that damage.