When it comes to metabolism and muscle preserving strategies, intense exercise is the king. With it, you get to keep that muscle mass and fuel that metabolism. Without it, you get to politely smile while you wave bye-bye to your youth, muscle strength, lean mass, and metabolic rate.
Now, the big question is this; what qualifies as "intense exercise." Well, certainly resistance training (strength training) is one of the biggies. However, there are a host of other types. Here are a few:
- Interval Running, Climbing, Cycling, and Rowing.
- Resistance Circuits.
- Body Weight Circuits.
- Rope Jumping (Skipping)
- Running Hills.
- Burpees, Jumping Jacks, and Other Plyometrics.
- Medicine Ball Tosses and Rotations.
- Kettlebell Exercises.
Basically, any physically demanding task that:
a) Incorporates many muscle groups
b) Is done near your maximum heart rate qualifies. So feel free to invent your own form of intense exercise.
When you do an intense bout of exercise, you overload your muscles and it is this overload that helps stimulate protein turnover, protein building, and gains in lean mass (or at least lean mass preservation).
What About The Cardiovascular System?
Well, with all those muscles doing so much work, the cardiovascular system MUST respond by pumping blood faster and delivering a lot of oxygen to your working muscles. So you definitely get cardiovascular benefit from doing intense exercise.
In addition, your metabolic rate also benefits from the increased oxygen consumption. You see, the more muscle you have and the more exercise you do, the more oxygen your body will need. As oxygen generates 5kcal per litre consumed, a high oxygen demand means that your body is burning a ton of calories.
After The Intense Exercise
Now, it should be clear that DURING exercise, your oxygen demands are high. That's why you're breathing so heavy. You're getting rid of the carbon dioxide your cells are producing at a high rate and you're taking in an additional litre of oxygen.
However, the real key to intense exercise is what happens AFTER your exercise session.
If your exercise is intense enough, your oxygen demand remains elevated for well after the exercise session. With low intensity cardio work (jogging or steady state running), you only benefit from a few minutes of additional oxygen demand (and metabolic activity). However, with high intensity activity, the oxygen demand can remain high for anywhere from 6 hours to 48 hours, depending on the intensity and duration of the exercise session.
In A Nutshell
- Your muscles are your "fat burners"
- Intense activity causes your muscles to burn calories.
- Intense activity causes this "burn" to continue after the exercise has finished.
You MUST include one or more of the following in your running training programme:
- Hill work
- Weight Training
And remember, a bigger oxygen demand means more calories burned. So it's only your high intensity activity that boosts your metabolism 24-7.