EPOC – Metafit’s jewel in the crown

Burn fat in your sleep with Metafit! The 30-minute class that lasts 24 hours! The HIIT workout that keeps on working! These are just some of the claims that Metafit loves to make but what exactly do they mean and are they true?

I love Metafit. It’s by far my favourite workout. In under 30 minutes you can have an intense workout that burns fat, boosts metabolism and improves strength, speed and cardiovascular fitness. It is one of the quickest ways to improve your overall fitness and for beginners, if you’re committed and work hard three times a week, you can easily start to see real results within 6-8 weeks. So what is it about this short workout that makes it so successful?

The answer is simple: EPOC.

Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (also referred to as the “afterburn” effect) is an increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity. Essentially, our body uses more oxygen after exercise than before exercise, and we expend more calories during our recovery from exercise than we do before exercise, even at rest. EPOC is the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to its normal resting metabolic function called homeostasis.

Your metabolism is how your body converts the nutrients you consume in your diet to adenosine triphosphate (or ATP), the fuel your body uses for muscular activity.

Here are seven important points about EPOC and how it can help you achieve optimal levels of calorie burning from your workouts:

1. During the immediate post-exercise recovery period, oxygen is used for the following functions:

  • Production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to replace the ATP used during the workout,
  • Re-synthesis of muscle glycogen from lactate,
  • Restore oxygen levels in venous blood, skeletal muscle blood and myoglobin,
  • Work with protein for the repair of muscle tissue damaged tissue during the workout,
  • Restore body temperature to resting levels.

2. Exercise that consumes more oxygen burns more calories.

The body expends approximately five calories of energy to consume one litre of oxygen. (A calorie is the amount of energy required to heat one litre of water to 1°C). Therefore, increasing the amount of oxygen consumed both during and after a workout, can increase the amount of net calories burned.

3. Circuit training and heavy resistance training with short rest intervals = a significant EPOC effect.

Strength training with compound, multi-joint weightlifting exercises or a weightlifting circuit that alternates between upper and lower-body movements places a greater demand on the involved muscles for ATP from the anaerobic pathways. Increased need for anaerobic ATP also creates a greater demand on the aerobic system to replenish that ATP during the rest intervals and the post-exercise recovery process. Heavy training loads or shorter recovery intervals increase the demand on the anaerobic energy pathways during exercise, which yields a greater EPOC effect during the post-exercise recovery period.

4. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the most effective way to stimulate the EPOC effect.

The body is most efficient at producing ATP through aerobic metabolism, however at higher intensities when energy is needed immediately, the anaerobic pathways can provide the necessary ATP much more quickly. This is why we can only sustain high-intensity activity for a brief period of time – we simply run out of energy. HIIT works because during high-intensity exercise, ATP is produced by the anaerobic pathways – once that ATP is exhausted, it is necessary to allow it to be replenished. The rest interval or active-recovery period during an anaerobic workout allows aerobic metabolism to produce and replace ATP in the involved muscles. The oxygen deficit is the difference between the volume of oxygen consumed during exercise and the amount that would be consumed if energy demands were met through only the aerobic energy pathway.

5. EPOC is influenced by the intensity, NOT the duration of exercise.

Higher intensities require ATP from anaerobic pathways. If the ATP required to exercise at a particular intensity was not obtained aerobically, it must come from the anaerobic pathways. During EPOC, the body uses oxygen to restore muscle glycogen and rebuild muscle proteins damaged during exercise. Even after a HIIT workout is over, the body will continue to use the aerobic energy pathway to replace the ATP consumed during the workout, thus enhancing the EPOC effect.

6. Research has shown that resistance training can provide a greater EPOC effect than running at a steady speed.

One study found that when aerobic cycling, circuit weight training and heavy resistance exercise were compared, heavy resistance exercise produced the biggest EPOC.

7. The EPOC effect from a HIIT or high-intensity strength-training workout can add 6-15% of the total energy cost of the exercise session.

High-intensity workouts require more energy from the anaerobic pathways and can generate a greater EPOC effect, leading to extended post-exercise energy expenditure. Heavy weight training and HIIT workouts appear to be superior to steady-state running or lower-intensity circuit training in creating EPOC.

Watch Metafit’s Justin Corcoran (below) demonstrate the correct technique for the exercises in the May 2018 “10 Lashes” workout:

Increasing the intensity of your workouts will produce results.

It is important to remember that it is the intensity of your workout that produces the results. There is some debate about the significance of the EPOC effect for the average exercise participant because the high-intensity exercise required for EPOC can be extremely challenging. However, if you want results and are up for the challenge, increasing the intensity of your workouts by using heavier weights, shorter rest intervals or high-intensity cardio intervals may be worth the effort. While HIIT or heavy resistance training is effective and beneficial, remember to allow at least 48 hours of recovery time between high-intensity exercise sessions and try to limit yourself to no more than three strenuous workouts per week.

Thanks to the American Council on Exercise.

Metafit tips:

  • At the end of every Metafit session you should feel exhausted and be unable to hold a conversation for a minute or two.
  • If you are able to carry out a conversation during your workout you are not pushing yourself hard enough and you are unlikely to reach EPOC.
  • It’s important to get your technique right and it is better to use the regressive form of each exercise if you are struggling to maintain technique. Poor technique = less benefit and more likelihood of injury.
  • Think “slow and controlled” for your core exercises, particularly hot hands and hot knees.
  • That voice that says “I can’t do it” is the very same voice that says “I can do it!” Your mind will tell you “I can’t continue!” but if you push yourself a little further each time you will see that your body is perfectly capable of doing additional reps. Keep going no matter what – remember each interval is usually no more than 25 seconds.
  • If you are finding an exercise easy, then progress your technique by adding a jump or a tuck jump (for instance, adding a tuck jump after a burpee). Please ask me and I can show you progressions on all your exercises.
  • Metafit should never get easier – the fitter you become, the harder you can push yourself.

Men should exercise BEFORE eating and women AFTER, to burn the most fat.

Could this really be true? Well a laboratory test carried out by Dr Adam Collins, Senior Tutor in Nutrition at the University of Surrey indicates that the amount of fat we burn changes based on whether we eat before or after exercise – and this appears to be different for men and women.

Our bodies use two main types of fuel: fat and carbohydrates – and early indications from Dr Collins’s study suggest that we could increase the amount of fat we burn just by timing when we eat with when we exercise. I was interested to discover more – like many others I had thought that exercising on an empty stomach was the way to go, but now that school of thought appears to be changing.

Michael Moseley’s team from the BBC programme “Trust Me I’m a Doctor” worked with Dr Collins on an experiment to see if it might be possible to change our eating habits around exercise to increase the amount of fat our bodies are burning throughout the day. Here are the results of that experiment:

Experiment 1: The laboratory test

Adam’s initial experiment had shown that for young men, eating carbohydrates (CHO) before exercise significantly decreased the amount of fat their bodies were burning for the 3 hours afterwards, whilst they were resting (n=10, p = 0.02, Wilcoxon matched pair tests, repeated measures 2-way ANOVA, multiple t-tests).

When he did a similar experiment with both men and women, he and his team found that whilst the men still burned less fat if they had eaten carbohydrates before exercising (n=7, p<0.05), the women burned MORE fat if they had eaten carbohydrates before exercising (n=8, p<0.05).

* Significantly different between genders: p≤0.05;
† Significantly different between treatments: p≤0.05
Total fat (g) oxidation between treatments, and genders (Exercise + Recovery).

This experiment was repeated on a single brother and sister pair, Jess and Josh, and got similar results.

Jess and Josh results:

Experiment 2: The long term effect

In order to see whether this effect measured in the laboratory could actually be significant in the real world, “Trust Me I’m a Doctor” teamed up with Adam and his research group to recruit 30 volunteers to take part in a longer term experiment.

Thirteen men and seventeen women who did not normally do a lot of exercise we chosen and for four weeks they all took part in three supervised classes a week: high intensity training, Zumba and Spin classes.

All participants had a drink both before and after each exercise class, but one of their drinks was a placebo (with no calories), whilst the other was a carefully calorie-controlled hit of carbohydrate. No one knew who was taking which drink or when.

  • Seven of the men were taking the carbohydrate drink before exercising, whilst six were taking it afterwards.
  • Seven of the women were taking the carbohydrate drink before exercising, whilst ten were taking it afterwards.

At the beginning and end of the experiment, they were tested on how much fat they were burning whilst at rest (as well as a range of other measures such as weight, waist circumference and blood sugar/fat levels).

The Results

Whilst all the women ended up burning slightly more fat at the end of the experiment, those who were taking carbohydrates before their exercise were burning more.

Difference between men and women:
Meanwhile, all the men were actually burning slightly less fat at the end of the experiment, but those who were taking carbohydrates after their exercise were better off. We saw no significant differences in their weights or waist circumference, but their blood sugar levels changed in the same way as their fat burning.
Difference between men and women:

How it works

Men and women burn fat and carbohydrate in different ways.

Men are very much ‘carbohydrate burners’ – if as a man you eat carbohydrate then your body is going to burn it rather than fat. Just giving the men carbohydrate at any time in our experiment made them burn a bit less fat! However, given that we all have to eat (and carbohydrate is an important part of our food), it is better for men to eat after exercising if they want to burn fat. This is because after exercise, men will use that carbohydrate to replace the carbohydrate in their muscles rather than burn it for fuel and will continue to burn fat instead.

For women, the results clearly show that eating before they exercise is better than eating after if they want to burn fat. Women’s bodies tend to burn fat more easily than men’s, and are not fuelled so much by carbohydrate. Moreover, women are much better at conserving carbohydrate during exercise. So when women eat carbohydrate soon after exercise, this is effectively overloading them with fuel, and interferes with the body’s ability to burn fat.

The amount of carbohydrate in our tests is probably the equivalent of a piece of toast, or a small bowl of cereal – and for men ‘not eating before exercise’ means about 90 minutes before exercise, and for women ‘not eating after exercise’ similarly means for about 90 minutes after.

Although our study was quite small, put together with the evidence from the laboratory experiments, it does seem worth us all making that simple adjustment to when we eat in order to maximise the amount of fat that our bodies burn throughout the day.

So what do you think? These studies are always interesting and I would like to see more work in this area as there does seem to be a lot of conflicting advice available on the internet today.

Super Clean Super Foods

This is my ultimate go-to nutritional guide to superfoods, telling you all you need to know to power up your plate! Keeping active and eating a super food packed balanced diet maximises your chances of achieving a healthy body. Try to build a varied diet from wholesome nutritious foods from each of these five key groups:

1. Fruit and vegetables

Try and eat at least three portions of vegetables and two portions of fruit each day. Research shows that people who eat a diet based on plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables tend to have a lower incidence of age related diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, dementia and cataracts. Fruit and vegetables contain a powerful arsenal of disease-fighting compounds including vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals. No single fruit or vegetable contains all the nutrients you need so it’s important to include a wide variety.

Citrus fruits are rich in immune boosting vitamin C.
  • Nitrates in beetroot improve the blood flow to your brain
  • Vitamins and phytochemicals in raspberries help protect your eyes
  • Tenderstem broccoli contains cancer-fighting phytochemicals
Vitamins and phytochemicals in raspberries help to protect your eyes.

2. Starchy carbohydrates

These come in many different guises and many of the carbohydrates we choose have been stripped of much of their fibre and nutrients. Refining wheat to produce white flour removes over half of the B vitamins, 90% of the vitamin E and almost all the fibre content. Choose unrefined carbohydrates such as wholegrains, beans and pulses, and aim to eat three portions of these every day.

Choose wholegrains instead of refined carbohydrates
  • A type of fibre found in barley called beta-glucan helps to reduce “bad”  cholesterol (LDL – low density lipoprotein).

3. Calcium-rich foods

Calcium is essential for building strong bones and teeth and is particularly important whilst bones are still growing. Aim for at least two portions of calcium each day – milk, yoghurt and dairy products are a good source of calcium as well as providing additional nutrients such as vitamins A and B2.

Dairy products are one of the best sources of calcium.

If you don’t eat dairy foods then try almonds, fortified soya or nut milk, sesame seeds, kale, broccoli and bak choy.

Broccoli contains phytochemicals and is also a good source of calcium.

4. Healthy proteins

Protein should ideally provide 15-20% of your calorie intake each day. Protein is an essential nutrient, responsible for multiple functions in your body, including building tissue, cells and muscle, as well as making hormones and anti-bodies. Choose healthier proteins such as oily fish, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds – in addition to the protein, they also contain other health promoting nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.

Black beans are packed with protein and gut-healthy fibre.
  • Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines are rich in omega-3 and help power your brain

5. Healthy fats

Fat is essential for your health, but most of us consume far too much of it, and the wrong sort. Eat no more than 30% of your calories each day from fat, including no more than 11% from saturated fat. Wherever possible, avoid saturated fats and trans-fats as these increase levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood. Instead opt for unsaturated fats such as olive oil and foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds and oily fish.

Avocados, oily fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds are all healthy fats.

A note about Reference Intakes (RI)

Nutritional needs vary depending on sex, size, age and activity levels so use this chart as a general guide only. The chart shows the Reference Intakes (RI) or daily amounts recommended for an average, moderately active adult to achieve a healthy, balanced diet for maintaining rather than losing or gaining weight.

The RIs for fat, saturates, sugars and salt are all maximum amounts, while those for carbs and protein are figures you should aim to meet each day. There is no RI for fibre, although health experts suggest we have 30g a day.

My thanks to Super Clean Super Foods by Fiona Hunter & Caroline Bretherton.

Why do some people put on weight? It could all be down to your gut!

When it comes to nutrition there is so much information out there that it can be easy to become bamboozled. In the last few years, food science has come on in leaps and bounds and we’re only now beginning to really fully understand how our bodies work and process food.

We all know that eating a nutritionally balanced diet is good for us. But even when sticking to a so-called good diet, some of us can still struggle to lose those stubborn pounds. To make matters worse, there are some people who are lucky enough to be able to eat pretty much what they want, and never seem to put on weight! Ah, if only! But could there be a reason why this is?

I was very excited to read the following article from the BBC TV programme “Trust me I’m a doctor”. Here is the article:

Dr Saleyha Ahsan from the BBC’s “Trust me I’m a doctor” series travelled to Israel to take part in a study, being carried out by the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot and led by Professor Eran Segal and Dr Eran Elinav. And it is producing some very exciting results!

THE STUDY

  • Recruited nearly 1000 people so far to take part;
  • Each participant has provided detailed health and medical data;
  • Participants take part in a week-long close examination;
  • This looks at how their blood sugar levels react to different foods.

During the week, participants’ blood sugar levels are measured constantly by a glucometer placed under the skin. Their sleep and activity levels are monitored by a wrist-band, and they are given an app to record their mood, feelings, sleep and exercise regimes and what they eat. Throughout the week, their meals are planned – some are given to them as standard foods that everyone tries. Others they are allowed to choose, but they have to weigh it all accurately, and record it in precise detail. Each person in the study has also given a stool sample. From this, the researchers analyse the gut bacteria living inside each person. Our gut bacteria are unique to us – it is almost like a ‘fingerprint’ of a person – but, crucially, they can change.

THE FINDINGS

The researchers at the Institute have found several startling things during their study:

1. Every person reacts differently to different foods.
This has been a real surprise, as the textbooks have long suggested that some foods (eg. white bread) give all of us a sudden blood sugar ‘spike’ (which is bad for our health – increasing our risk of Type 2 diabetes and obesity), whilst it has been thought that other foods (such as wholegrain rice) give all of us less of a ‘spike’. This has recently been called ‘high GI’ or ‘low GI’ (for foods that give people a spike or not, respectively). However, the standard group of people on whom these foods have been tested has long been 10 – and now with 1000 people’s data it is clear that everyone is very different.

2. The team have been able to make firm links between a person’s individual response to food, and to the gut bacteria that they have.
Using their huge amounts of data from the participants, the team have come up with a computer algorithm that can now take a person’s individual gut bacteria composition, and from it, predict how their blood sugar levels will react to a whole range of foods. They have done a study to test the accuracy of this algorithm, and it does indeed appear to predict ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods for different individuals based only on their gut bacteria. This goes to show how important our gut bacteria are in regulating our responses to food, and indeed for our health.

3. The team have carried out a small study in which 25 people had a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ diet predicted for each of them by the algorithm – with very encouraging results.
The participants then ate only the ‘good’ for one week and then the ‘bad’ for another – and weren’t told which was which (and because our reactions are so individual, some foods were ‘good’ for one person and ‘bad’ for another). Not only did their blood sugar react as predicted to the different foods, but the team saw changes in the gut bacteria of the volunteers over just the week. Although the roles of different groups of bacteria in our health is still very much uncertain, the changes that they saw during the week of ‘good’ food appeared to be beneficial.

This suggests that we may not only be able to personalise our diets to be healthy for each of us individually, but that we might be able to change our responses to food.

THE FUTURE

Professor Segal and Dr Elinav hope to be able to make the results of their work available to everyone, worldwide. They hope that they will in the future be able to take stool samples, sent through the post, and provide a personalised diet plan in return – listing foods which are predicted to give that person an unhealthy blood sugar spike, and those which are likely to maintain more stable, healthy blood sugar levels.

These will, of course, have to be eaten within a normally balanced diet – it doesn’t mean that if chocolate turns out to be on your ‘good food’ list, you can live on it and be healthy! Nonetheless, the fact that ‘good’ foods for particular individuals usually seem to include some that people very much like, it appears that these personalised diets are much easier for people to adopt than traditional restrictive ones.

The team are also now studying the longer-term effects of diet on gut bacteria. It is possible that as the gut bacteria change in response to the diet (which happens within days or weeks), that the diet could then be modified, or relaxed.

Exciting stuff! If you are interested in finding out more about this study, please check out the following links:

The Personalised Nutrition Project
Trust me, I’m a doctor

Come and Join the Fitness Revolution!

Metafit classes at Xercise Gym Haxby and Poppleton Road Primary School. All ages and fitness levels are welcome!

In just 30 minutes you can start to change your life. Are you ready? It’s going to be tough but I can guarantee it will be worth it. The journey starts here …

Remember: excuses don’t burn calories!
Metafit is designed to be tough and intense but the beauty of it is that it’s over and done with before you know it. Work flat out and by the end of the workout you should be exhausted. But that’s just the start of it …

Burn calories for up to 24 hours after your workout!
Workouts are usually around 22 minutes long. and if you work flat out you can expect to burn around 200+ calories. BUT, it’s the afterburn effect that is really important here. Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) can last for up to 24 hours after exercising – during this time your metabolic rate is boosted and your body continues to burn more calories and more fat. The more intense the workout, the greater the effects will be.

Work hard – play hard!
The idea behind a good high-intensity workout is to go all out – think sprint vs. jog. To achieve true high intensity, use full-body movements that tax your cardiovascular system and build strength endurance. For example, burpees, squat jumps, sprints. Bodyweight exercises tend to be the most effective for maximum output. If you can talk while you’re doing high-intensity intervals, then you’re not working hard enough. Conversation during your workout should be impossible!

Checkout the video below to see the sort of exercises that are included in Metafit workouts … 

Work hard but don’t cheat afterwards!
It’s true that one of the benefits of HIIT is that it triggers the “afterburn effect” (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption – EPOC) which helps boost your body’s metabolism for hours after a high-intensity workout. But, afterburn is not a licence to eat everything you desire.

So remember! If you indulge in a huge cheat meal after every workout, you will never see the results you want. Don’t use HIIT to justify poor eating habits; instead, clean up your diet and not only will you have more energy for your workout, but you’ll start seeing the results – and what amazing results they will be!

You’re never too old to start Metafit!
Whether you’re 20 or 50+, a solid Metafit session is all relative to your personal level of fitness. I will adapt the exercises to suit you – the aim is to get your heart rate up to near maximal levels during the intense sets, before recovering during the short rest periods. We have all shapes and sizes in our classes and different fitness levels. And, the fitter you get, the harder you can work out!

Here we are at Xercise Gym Haxby in our Christmas T-shirts! Metafit class, Xmas 2017.

You will feel like an absolute winner afterwards. If you’ve worked yourself to your maximum during the workout, you will feel completely exhausted but elated afterwards. It’s a great feeling, particularly when you can actively see your fitness levels improving week by week.

7am metafit class at Xercise Gym, Haxby. Xmas 2017.

BBC – The Truth About Getting Fit

By the middle of January many people struggle to keep up their resolutions to be more active. The result is that the UK wastes nearly £600 million a year on unused gym memberships.

But new science has the answers.

Medical journalist Michael Mosley teams up with scientists whose latest research is turning common knowledge about fitness on its head.

They reveal why 10,000 steps is just a marketing ploy and that two minutes of exercise is all a person needs each week. They discover how to get people to stick to their fitness plans and what exercise can actually make everyone more intelligent. Whether it is for couch potatoes who hate the thought of exercise, someone too busy to consider the gym, or even for fitness fanatics who are desperate to do more – science can help everyone exercise better.

A great programme and some fascinating insights! Do watch it if you get the chance.