Wednesday, January 20, 2016

More Exercise is Not Always Better


If three sets of an exercise are good then six sets must be better. Right?
If a one hour workout is good then two hours must be twice as good for you. Right?

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Your body doesn’t work that way. You don’t get stronger or add muscle in the gym. You get stronger or add muscle during recovery.  Exercise is just the stimulus to improve your strength or muscle mass.

So what is the ideal length of a workout? Here’s what happens and why.

After 45 to 60 minutes several things start to happen to your body that make continuing much past that time less and less efficient and can even make continuing past that time detrimental to your progress.

·        Testosterone is a strong anabolic (growth) hormone. After 45 minutes of heavy lifting testosterone levels begin to drop rapidly. (As much as 80%)
The lower your testosterone levels the lower your rate of recovery and the less growth in strength and muscle will occur.

·        At the same time Cortisol, a strong catabolic (muscle breakdown) hormone increases. At about 60 minutes, the catabolic hormones start to outweigh the anabolic hormones. 

·        In addition, 45-60 minutes is the time frame in which the body processes blood glucose (blood sugar). Blood glucose is what your body uses for energy.(Mostly from carbs). At this point your body starts breaking down muscle to provide the energy it needs!

When your blood glucose drops past a certain point you are done. You may stay longer but you’re probably wasting your time. Energy levels will drop rapidly, mental focus deteriorates quickly. In short, you no longer have the ability to workout at the intensity needed to do you any good. And the time you need to properly recover increases substantially.

What about the stories and articles of the pro’s and movie stars and their marathon workouts getting ready for competition or movie roles? Do you have professional nutritionists, coaches (plural), physical therapists, chefs preparing every meal?  Not to mention the genetics necessary to even reach that level or, um, chemical assistance. Professionals and action stars have all those resources at their disposal.

In addition, those long workout sessions are usually sustained for a relatively short period of time….preparing for a competition or movie role is lot different from maintaining long hours in the gym day in and day out.

You won’t see any outward signs of the drop in testosterone or the increase in cortisol. But often, the drop in blood glucose is very noticeable. Use that as your sign that it’s time to finish up and get out of the gym.

One of the keys of how long your workout should last is intensity. If you are working at the intensity necessary to maximize the benefits of your workout then, 45 to 60 minutes is about the limit. Try to never exceed 75 minutes. There comes a point where you out work your ability to recover properly and your progress stops or even reverses.

You want to leave the gym tired but not exhausted. You should feel like you to do the same workout again within 2-3 hours. 

There are ways to make the most of your time in the gym that we’ll take up in another article.

Make the best use of the time you have. Keep the intensity up. Forget the chit-chat, the music and needless conversation.

 And stop staring at the girl in the white yoga pants!

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