What If Less Is More To Be Fitter, Stronger & Slimmer

Less is more - woman sitting on couch

I have been in health care a few decades now and often the mindset that has been promoted is that if something is good for you then doing more of it is even better.

Makes sense???

What if Less is More

This has certainly been the case with food and intermittent fasting as I personally have experienced and all my clients have experienced. Giving your body a break from frequently eating food is actually better for it.

Just because healthy food is good for us doesn’t mean that eating it several times/day is better.

While we fast, our bodies burn more fat, our bodies detoxify, our bodies kill damaged cells or “zombie” cells and stimulate growth of new healthy cells and the list goes on.

Well the same is true for exercise.  All the benefits we receive from exercise with respect to getting stronger, getting faster, improving our cardiovascular fitness happen in the Recovery period of time.

Yet we often think the more I do for exercise the better it is.

I recently came across new research  about the groundbreaking benefits of cardiovascular exercise  that can happen in 2 periods of 20 second sprints of Very Intense cardio workout.  It is showing that it is better to do a  very short burst of maximum intense exercise followed by a few minutes of recovery and then repeat.

This concept of interval training originally came out of research from McMaster University by Dr. Gibala several years ago and it rocked the world of exercise physiology globally which gave birth to a type of exercise called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).  

HIIT is now, very common in the exercise world but what this more recent research is showing is that maybe even less time of cardio but at higher intensity is even more effective and better.

Basically shift the emphasis to Less on cardio – focus more on Recovery strategies.

This is called ReHIIT

It showed that using ReHIIT people are improving their VO2 Max (measurement of cardiovascular efficiency/fitness) by 12 % in just 8 weeks which is phenomenal.  The total time doing this exercise over the 8 weeks was 3 times/week for ……wait for it ….. Only 5 minutes/session with 2 – 20 sec very intense cardio.  That is only 15 minutes/week.

I know that is hard to believe!

This research also showed that all the changes in the body that need to occur in order to reap these benefits happen during the recovery phase after the exercise session, not while exercising.  Those 20 seconds of intense cardio simply kickstart the necessary physiological change for the body to respond but the body needs that recovery time afterwards to integrate these changes into measurable results. 

In other words once you turn the light on in the room you do not need to keep pressing the light switch.

In other words if people keep exercising longer there are no further benefits and in fact it could be counter productive depending on their goals. 

Of course people may want to work out longer (NOT at max intensity)  because they enjoy it, they get an endorphin rush etc but strictly from the physiological changes focused on cardiovascular benefits there is no need to workout longer when doing ReHIIT

As well after this ReHIIT workout there is an increase in Growth Hormone and Testosterone meaning the body is in a better position to put on muscle if one also incorporates resistance training to their weekly workouts.  

Long periods of cardio actually decrease testosterone so it becomes counterproductive for improving lean muscle mass which is one of the biggest predictors of healthy aging.

As well, for those thinking that they want to burn more calories, they show that after ReHIIT there is an increase in caloric burn for a period of time after the workout, more so than with other types of cardio exercise.  So once again more is happening in the recovery phase.

I am not going to get into the details here of how exactly to do ReHIIT specifically as it is quite precise and may not be right for everybody but my emphasis here is that it seems that we are moving away from this idea that all benefits happen while we are actively doing something (exercise, eating etc) but in fact a lot of the true benefits happen during our rest and recovery phase afterwards.

This applies to fasting vs eating, exercise vs recovery, awake vs sleep.

In fact in the DNA testing I do with clients there is an entire report focused on how well a person’s body will recuperate from exercise, both with respect to cardio and weight training.

Not everybody is the same and some people may need to give their body more time to get rid of the toxins and oxidative metabolites produced from exercise.  Also a person’s DNA hormone profile plays a role in determining recovery time required  between strength training workouts in order to build muscle and get the results from their workouts.

The exercise recovery recommendations from this report based upon a person’s DNA include ratio of cardio workouts to strength training in the week, rest time required post workout before next workout along with several dietary and supplement recommendations to ensure the body can clear out the toxic metabolites produced from exercise.

So maybe less is more and we should put more value on the Rest and Recovery Phases in our lives including fasting, sleep and of course  after our workouts when we give our body a break and the support it needs to let it do what it needs to do in order to detoxify, burn more fat, get stronger,  faster, slimmer and healthier