November 8, 2012 posted by

Fasting, Aerobics, and Weight Loss

GoreTex Experiance Tour – Dave MacLeod goes for a run! from Hot Aches Productions on Vimeo.

I just got back from an easy morning run. It was slow, almost plodding, ended with a short stretching session, and in total took about 45 minutes. I did it because I need to shed a few pounds quickly and it’s the oldest trick in the book when it comes to fine tuning your weight loss.

I was reminding of this “trick” yesterday when my friend Ben brought up Dave Macleod using this tactic to get ready for his hardest routes. We used to run this tactic in college for track. As for climbing, before the most successful road trip of my life I’d tweaked a finger and had to back off on my training. Without the ability to train for strength I aimed instead for lighter (a roundabout way of getting stronger in gravity sports) by starting 3-4 days per week with 2-10 miles of easy aerobic-paced running. I ended up going into that trip 8 pounds lighter than my average weight, which increased my performance far more than any strength training could have hoped to.

Running in the morning before you eat helps improve your body’s use of fat for energy or, as Macleod puts it, “normally if I run I do it after the overnight fast to get into fat oxidation quicker”. A fasted state, while not optimal for hard training because you quickly run out of stored glycogen (or bonk, a point where your workout goes south quickly), is great for easy to moderate exercise because you can improve your body’s ability to tap into it’s “fat for fuel” process.

In general, light aerobic training has very little effect on your metabolic process. This is why you often hear trainers say things like “cardio only burns calories while you’re doing it where weight training burns calories all day long” and so forth. Aerobic training in a fasted state helps your training in two ways. It heightens your metabolism for a longer period of time than it normally would and it doesn’t break down much muscle tissue so you can utilize it during your hard training.

This is why when we recommend doubles programs one of your two workouts is always easier than the other. It’s not running that’s the magic pill here but aerobic training done in a fasted state. Running is efficient, since even easy running stresses the body more than most things, but any low-intensity exercise that raises your heart rate will work. For example, Cardio X was designed as the P90X doubles workout, which is why it’s much easier than everything else. If I don’t feel like going out, like I do right now because it’s raining so thankfully i’m already done, I’ll pop in a cardio vid instead.

vid: macleod on a ‘run’. my runs are often similar. i don’t generally (ever) solo 7B in my hiking boots but would guess well over half my runs are explorations that include a lot of off-trail rummaging around looking for rock, or whatever, which often includes technical climbing or, at least, scrambling over rock. you don’t need to keep your heart rate at a steady state to get the effects of aerobic training. you just need to keep moving.


  • Kimberly Bain Dude, if you need to slim down then God knows what I need to do!!! Just lay off the Dos Equis! Great post as always! I'll be sharing. Hope the bday challenge is going well!9 minutes ago · LikeSteve Edwards Have you seen Adam Ondra? You can't be too light for climbing… unfortunately.a few seconds ago · Like

  • Amazing! I learn something spectacular every time I read your blog. And the video? Awe-inspiring! Thanks for being awesome.

  • Amazing! I learn something spectacular every time I read your blog. And the video? Awe-inspiring! Thanks for being awesome <3

  • Wow, pretty radical….The video should be titled "Old Guy Pacuoring"…

  • Nice vid!

  • I agree. Running is one of the best ways to lose weight. Me, I do it every morning before I go to work. I can feel the difference in my body and it's really working for me. I also attend Folsom Fitness Boot Camp whenever possible.

  • Oh, so that's why Cardio X is in doubles! When I tried (very briefly) to do doubles, I subbed it for Turbo Fire HIIT workouts…Maybe this is why I burned out so quickly? Does it matter much if you do the easier workout in the evening after not haven eaten for a few hours, or does it really make the difference to do it in the morning? Now that I know this, I'd like to see if I could give Doubles another try…Also, do you make any changes in your diet, or does it stay the same for these easier cardio days?

  • You can switch your doubles schedule but you'll miss some of the fat oxidizing effect. I woudn't worry about though, as it's nitpicking. But, yeah, and easy and hard workout is far more effective over the long haul. Diet is difficult to suss. It depends on your current situation. Some can handle a caloric deficit while fitter people with less body fat cannot as well, at least for the longterm. What you're worried about with undereating is putting your central nervous system into a chronic state of overtraining, which takes a long time to reverse. I know this well because I've done it to myself many times. Somebody's got to test the limits and I do that, so you don't have to.

  • Thanks Steve! How can you tell if you *are* in a chronically overtrained state? I've been thinking about this post as well as your Beachbody article on colds/working out over the past few days, and wondering if I've inadvertently done this to myself. I'm a fourth year grad student near the end of my rope stress-level wise, and although I've done P90X (and Turbo Fire, and Brazil Butt Lift…) faithfully, and done pretty darn well with my diet, I have steadily gained about 15 pounds these past four years. I've been wondering if it's possible that the combination of high-intensity workouts + the ridiculous stress I've put myself under has really undermined my efforts to maintain/lose weight. So my question is too, I guess, does chronic stress tie into/affect your body to the point of putting you into overtrained mode? And is the way to combat that doing something like you've suggested in this post?Thanks Steve =)

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