July 15, 2010 posted by

Why Short Intense Exercise Is Best

I was asked to critique Dr. Mercola’s critique (like the show we once wanted to do where we came on after Sneak Previews and critiqued Siskel and Ebert’s movie reviews) of a USA Today article on how short, intense exercise is better than long, easy aerobic exercise. We’ll begin right after this word from our sponsors.

Mercola can be sort of fringe in his thinking. I don’t always agree with him as he’s got an even more skeptical view of mainstream nutrition thought than I do. He also spends a lot of time pitching his products but, hey, a guy’s got to make a living. Anyway, he rarely discusses exercise and in this article he goes into quite a bit of depth. Of course, as a nutritionist that is the line he tackles first:

I actually view exercise as a drug with regard to being properly prescribed and having proper dosage, And it’s one that you can readily substitute for some of the most common drugs used today for things like diabetes, heart disease and depression. All of these conditions will improve with exercise and with the help of an experienced natural health care clinician.

Nearly one in four people in the US have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes and it is my experience that most of them could be reversed with the appropriate diet and exercise regimen — exercise being the crucial key.

This article is definitely worth a read and my only critiques are about its hyperbolic nature. The idea that short and intense exercise is better is not new, as he states. Those in the business have always known it. Granted, it isn’t the way mainstream health clubs or the medical community has spun things but, as I’ve stated before, this has a lot to do with liability. Many professionals are afraid to prescribe intense exercise because of lawsuits. It’s much safer to advise walking around the block.

If you look at our Beachbody products we’ve always used intense exercise done in an interval format. This goes back 12 years but we’re playing on principles that have been around all of my life. Sports trainers and coaches have always known (I would submit the Greek’s knew this) that for maximal performance you need to train every energy system and stress the muscle fiber types that are specific for performance. We are pitching HIIT training with the new Turbo Fire program but, remember, our very first products (Great Body Guaranteed) were intense 10-minute workouts.

And the powerful link between diet and exercise he addresses is, indeed, the cornerstone of our company. We don’t just provide exercise programs, diets, or supplements. We sell the entire package. So, again, there is nothing new there from our perspective. I mean, he’s even teaming up with Kathy Smith and she is one of our trainers!

He also fails to mention the importance of not training the same way all the time or how longer more intense exercise can yield even more benefits. There is benefit of training all other systems, and even that walk around the block is not a waste of time. But I’m going to let him slide here because it’s not the article’s premise to discuss all aspects of training. His point is the easy aerobic cardio is not a very efficient way to change your body, which is true.

Where there is some confusion amongst Beachbody-ites is in his dietary guidelines where he recommends not eating, especially sugar, after your workouts. He’s not wrong here because the entire article is addressing 10 minute workouts only. I will, however, take exception with the growth hormone spike window being up to a couple of hour when the research I’ve seen shows this happening within about 20 minutes. But, more importantly, in 10 minutes you cannot extinguish your body’s glycogen stores. When they are exhausted, however, your nutritional needs change and sugar becomes vital because the longer it takes to recharge those stores the more damage is done to your muscle tissue. This is why we recommend Recovery Formula with our longer workouts like P90X and Insanity programs only—and with Turbo Fire in it’s later stages—and not with programs like Ten Minute Trainer. Different situations call for different nutritional strategies. And that’s nothing new for us either.

But do give the article a read. Mercola makes you sign up for a free account and sends you newsletters daily. And while I wouldn’t blindly believe everything he says it’s probably a lot more valuable than watching Fox News. The Straight Dope says two thumbs up for Dr. Mercola’s critique of USA Today.


  • hmm… Aren't all beachbody products based around a periodized program? aside from 10 minute training. How come it's usually the talk about how to train, but not on how to plan the training?

  • Programs are based on everything, from the individual moves, to the workouts, to the schedule, diet, etc. Mercola is simply addressing short intense workout vs long easy one. It's not all the interesting unless you are unaware of it,which many people are.

  • Didn't feel like signing up to read the article, but just wanted to chime in here. Admittedly, I am an endurance sport addict. However, in the past couple of years I've finally realized the importance of "mixing it up" with tempo and speed interval pace workouts — even though I love going long (who wouldn't when they've got the beautiful outdoors as their backdrop) gotta improve that lactate-threshold pace and leg speed as well as the endurance if I want to maximize my performance. :)/michm

  • Short intense exercise isn't totally necessary for everyone for health, especially addicted endurnace athletes who spends many hours each week outside doin' stuff. It's best for efficiency for time-crunched types and vital for people who do very little in order to keep certain hormonal patterns.

  • Please talk a bit more about not using recovery drink in the "early stages" of Turbo Fire. Haven't heard this and I'm on week 4. Chalene constantly recommends it during the videos. Thanks.

  • Our programs come with diets that a very lean and we test our programs with test groups who are often on a clease version of them. For these people RF is a cornerstone of their programs. Notice, though, that RF comes with the dulux version of the program only. This isn't to say you don't need it early on; you just don't necessarily need it. It a function of your total diet. There are long hard workouts early in the program but you'll only want RF after the 15 minute HIIT workout if you were on a very lean diet, which you might be if you follow the diet guidelines and are using a big caloric deficit.For 90x we ensure you can use it with Phase 1 of its diet plan which reduces your carbs to the point you are almost certainly out of glycogen after each workout. We found its strict diet guidelines difficult and confusing for some people with with TF we let you choose your own diet.

  • Thanks, Steve. That makes a lot of sense!

  • google…


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