Aerobic exercise does burn some fat, but nowhere near what most folk think. To lose any fat at all, you first have to coax the adipose cells to release it. Then you have to oxidize the fat, that is, mix it with a whole lot of oxygen to turn it into energy. That requires a lot of deep breathing, roughly 8 times the usual person’s breath while walking (1).
High school chemistry will tell you that fat molecules are mainly carbon. Given enough oxygen they are turned into carbon dioxide and expelled through your breath. Your lungs are the final exit point for most body fat. Unless you take in much more oxygen than usual, you haven’t a prayer of losing fat (1).
Mixing the fat with oxygen happens mainly in your muscles. So you also need to have a lot of muscle to burn fat well. Most folk who come to us for fat loss programs, don’t have enough muscle to burn the fat, and never get enough oxygen to do it anyway.
It’s easy to lose water and muscle, which is what happens on most fat loss programs. But it’s not easy to lose substantial fat. If you follow the rules dictated by the design of the human body, however, it works like a charm. People who don’t like rules, or mistakenly think there are magic ways to slim down in 30 days, often want to just grit their teeth, get their head down, and sweat the fat off. Not going to work. Sweat is a measure of water loss, not fat loss.
Anyone who has run a sweaty marathon knows well they lost a lot of water, but very little fat. From those we have measured, an average 4-hour marathoner is lucky to lose a quarter pound of fat while running 26.2 miles. Some folk who stuff with, gels, bars or other ineffective goop during a marathon, actually GAIN fat. They may be 7 lbs lighter from water loss at the finish, because the carbs inhibit water absorption from their gut, but their weight rebounds to include more fat within 24 hours.
Here’s a typical research study that measured fat loss in men and women over a 20-week training program for a half-marathon. They did 20 weeks of fairly intense endurance exercise. On average they did 80 workouts each. Workouts were all runs of 1-3 hours. The average training time over the whole study was 150 hours per runner.
Note well. That is 150 HOURS of aerobic exercise. For the average person, that’s 150 days of workouts at the gym. If you go 3 times a week, that’s a year of workouts.
Over the 20 weeks of training in the study, that is, 80 workouts totaling 150 hours, the men lost an average of 5.3 lbs of fat. That’s only half-an-ounce of fat loss per workout. The women lost an average of only 2.0 lbs of fat in the 80 workouts. That’s a tiny one-quarter ounce of fat loss per workout (2). That’s about the best you can expect from most exercise programs for fat loss.
The average person doing aerobic exercise at the gym to lose fat, may go three times a week and spend an hour on the treadmill. That’s 3 hours per week of the wrong exercise. Under the very best conditions, they will lose only about one ounce of fat per week. If they watch their diet, and work out religiously, every single week for a year, they can lose 52 ounces. That’s 3.25 lbs of fat loss in a year. Divide the 20 lbs of fat they need to lose by 3.25. It will take more than 6 YEARS of these workouts to lose 20 lbs of fat.
This miniscule loss of body fat with the usual aerobic exercise is confirmed again and again by science (2,3). But it’s very depressing for the average person, because the weight loss media, especially shows by prick-me-dainties like the Wizard of Oz, claim just the opposite. To listen to them you just need to walk around gobbling raspberry ketones to flush body-fat like magic, or green coffee beans, or whatever hokum is the magic of the month.
Unfortunately, the Wizard sells no magic, as the Federal Trade Commission has recently ruled, fining him and others on his show $9 million for misrepresentation. The real magic lies only in the science. Follow it and you can become permanently slim. Look at the photo at the top of this article. It shows my youngest daughter Tamara, age 23, at 11.9% bodyfat. It also shows me, age 75 at 5.3% bodyfat. It works with anyone at any age.
Here are 10 top things from the Colgan Team Program. They are mandatory on our program, and anyone failing to comply is politely asked to leave, because we know from long experience they are not going to succeed.
1. You will get 8 hours sleep per night. We all have a built-in circadian clock in the brain linked to light. Our circadian clock regulates almost everything, 24 hours a day, for life, including sleep-wake cycles, hormone cycles, brain growth, muscle growth and recovery, and, of course, fat loss. (4-6). The extra sleep is essential to get the fat loss and muscle growth you need. We use a proprietary sleep spray that I designed.
2. You will work out every day, seven days a week, so that you provide an adaptive stimulus to the body each day, This adaptive stimulus will be used by the sleep recovery system that night, for fat loss via the breath, and for muscle recovery and growth. Do not lose a single circadian cycle. Once passed, the opportunity for growth during each cycle is gone forever (4-6).
3. You will join a yoga breathing class for two sessions each week to raise your habitual breathing volume by 6-8 times, to get the necessary oxygen to oxidize the fat (1).
4. You will work out in the mornings, the most anabolic time of the day (7).
5. You will work out on an empty stomach, except for a strong cup of coffee, or a proprietary energy shot we use, and a proprietary creatine supplement taken 30 minutes before workout, to maximize the anabolic response of your muscles (8).
6. Each day at the gym, first you will do 30 minutes aerobic exercise. You will do this exercise in the fat-burning zone. This is essential to make the complex hormonal changes that switch the body from burning mainly sugar to higher fat burning (7). The aerobic gym device you use does not matter. We advise clients to jog to the gym to fulfill this requirement if possible.
7. Each day at the gym, you will do 60 minutes of a resistance program individually designed for your body, age, and condition. We set a goal of 2-4 ounces of muscle gain per week, depending on gender, age, weight, and condition. With the aerobic exercise, each workout burns an average of 450 calories, with about 225 calories from sugar and 225 calories from fat. The resistance exercise, plus our nutrition program prevents muscle loss. As muscle increases, you will burn more fat, about 500 calories per workout, with about 250 calories from fat. Our aim is to burn 8 ounces of fat per week.
8. You will not slurp juice, or eat cookies or muffins or fruit or chocolate or whatever after workout. Instead, you will have a whey protein concentrate shake containing 35 grams of protein, the right amount of carbohydrates, and an arginine/creatine mix within 30 minutes of finishing. This timing is essential to take advantage of the anabolic window of 90 minutes after workout, the period when the body will take most protein into muscle (7).
9. You will hire a mentor. More than 90% of people who try to lose fat fail repeatedly. It’s a very hard job alone. You need a personal mentor. Find an expert, someone who has done what you want to do, someone who is a living example of what they know, someone who walks their talk along the same path as yourself, lifelong.
10. You will follow the Team Colgan Nutrition Program – religiously.
Doing 10.5 hours exercise plus 2 hours yoga breathing a week is a lot of work. But, combined with our nutrition plan, it works like a charm for your health. An average woman of 30-something can reliably lose 20 lbs of fat, and gain 5 lbs of muscle in 40 weeks, without disrupting hormonal systems. With more muscle to burn the fat, and no hormonal drag, they are in a good position to stay that way for life. We have several clients who have lost over 100 lbs, and gained 20 lbs of muscle in 2 x 40 week programs, and have improved their bodies and their lives permanently.
Our results are in sharp contrast to fat loss achieved by dieting. Contrary to the muscle gain under our system, the average muscle loss with dieting is about 25% of the weight lost (2,3) Dieting also induces long-term detrimental hormonal changes that make fat regain almost inevitable (3,9). Also, the reduction of muscle mass makes fat loss much harder in repeat attempts. Research shows that approximately 97% of people who lose weight by dieting regain it, and more, within 2 years (2). In sharp contrast, our records show that almost all those who have stayed with us long-term, have maintained a slim body for up to 21 years.
The systems we use for the pre-workout are AMPED Power and E+ shot. For post-workout we use IsaLeanPro Shake and AMPED Power. To help with sleep we use the Sleep Support Spray. We use all of these as part of a complete system, though they can be used individually. For more information on these products go to "Nutrition Products and Systems" at www.colganinstitute.com.
If you think you might be a fit for our Colgan Team Program go to www.drmichaelcolgan.com.
1. Meerman R, Brown AJ. When somebody loses weight, where does the fat go? BMJ 2014: 349:g7257 doi:10.1136/bmj.g7257 16 December 2014.
2. Miller WC, Koceja DM Hamilton EJ. A meta-analysis of the past 25 years of weight loss research using diet, exercise or diet plus exercise intervention. Int J Obesity, 1997;21:941-947.
3. Sumithran P et al. Long-term persistence of hormonal adaptations to weight loss. New Engl J Med. 2011; 365:1597-1604.
4. Aldabal L, Bahammam AS. Metabolic, endocrine, and immune consequences of sleep deprivation. Open Respir Med J. 2011;5:31-43.
5. Maury E, et al. Circadian rhythms and metabolic syndrome: from experimental genetics to human disease. Circ Res. 2010 February 19;106(3): 447–462.
6. Cipolla-Neto J1, Amaral FG, Afeche SC, Tan DX, Reiter RJ. Melatonin, energy metabolism, and obesity: a review.J Pineal Res. 2014 Mar 21. Doi 10.1111/jpi.12137.
7. Colgan M. Optimum sports Nutrition. New York: Advanced Research Press, 1993.
8. Van Proeyen K, et al. Beneficial metabolic adaptations due to endurance exercise training in the fasted state. J Appl Physiol. 2011 January; 110(1):236–245.
9. Saderi N, Alteration of biological rhythms causes metabolic diseases and obesity. Reviews Neurology. 2013 Jul 16;57(2):71-8.