Metabolic Training – the Good, the Bad and the Ouch

Last week, I wrote about my current eating habits and fitness nutrition so I figured I’d talk a bit about my workout regimen. Like I said in my previous post, the weight that I lost is significant but it’s not unbelievable – which is exactly what I want. Usually when someone loses an unbelievable amount of weight, it is [generally] done so through rather extreme measures such as crash diets and extreme caloric deficits. This not only impacts your physical body, but also your state of mind – if, in your first month or so, you lose 10-15lbs, your expectation will be to lose that amount every other month that passes. I am a huge proponent of the “slow and steady” mentality. After all, it took months or years to develop bad habits and put on extra weight – it’ll take just as long, if not longer, to undo it.

Last year, I decided to get a heart rate monitor so that I can track my workouts and how my heart reacts while I exercise. This was mostly due to the fact that I would like to continue working out while pregnant so it was really important to me that I monitor my heart rate. I’ve tried the Fitbit Charge HR and it was ok. There was no real indication of how accurate it was in terms of measuring heart rate. To see where my heart rate was, I’d have to tap the band for the the number to show, which was a big pain since most of the time, both hands were preoccupied. Also, I didn’t really care about getting steps in or tracking sleep patterns (I’m a very “good” sleeper haha). One day, I decided to join Orange Theory, a group fitness class based on keeping your heart rate in the orange zone. Because of that, I had to buy one of their heart rate monitors. While slightly annoyed at first, it turned out to be a fantastic device with an intuitive app. You can record your heart rate each time you exercise and it’ll store the data in the app. You can then export that data to your computer.

Sample of my workout

As you can see, it’s nice to be able to track heart rate (both average and max), speed, pace (if I was outdoor running), calories burned (on another screen), etc. It also allows you to turn on GPS recording so you can export your distance traveled.

Anyway, the reason I brought up heart rate monitors is that the data I’ve exported demonstrates how my workouts are so successful in short period of time. In general, I train for 1 hour sessions 5 days a week. If I want to add my own workouts in, I’ll either do a heavy lifting session or run some stairs but I don’t miss my hour-long sessions. The type of training I do is called metabolic training, or training that includes structural and compound exercises with little rest in between exercises. This is meant to maximize calorie burn and increase metabolic rate during and after the workout. By the way, your metabolic rate is how many calories your body burns at rest.

To break this down a little more, metabolic training involves the following:

  1. It uses large or multiple muscle groups. “Structural and compound exercises” uses more energy because multiple joints are involved. For example, squat with a press. The more muscles you use, the more energy you need, and the more calories burned – simple.
  2. It is high intensity. Metabolic training is anaerobic exercise meaning that it is comprised of brief, strength-based activities. It is opposite of aerobic exercise, which is centered on endurance. So lift heavy (within your ability), rest little and keep moving.
  3. Feel the burn. With metabolic training, you’ll feel your muscles burning. It won’t be as intense of body building where you focus on one muscle group, but it’s still enough to hurt (a good hurt).

The good about metabolic training is that they involve a lot of muscles, requiring tremendous energy expenditure. Because this pushes you, these workouts force rapid adaptation, which results in massive fat burning, increased work capacity, and enhanced local muscular endurance. This means you burn more calories in less time – you really don’t need to spend hours upon hours at the gym to get an effective workout!

The bad side to it is that IT. IS. HARD. A lot of programs don’t take into consideration that many people just might not be at that level. This is where you need to know your body and what you are capable of. People get a little scared when they hear “metabolic training”, partially due to the popularity of Cross Fit and other similar workout styles. While metabolic training isn’t suppose to be easy, it can definitely be taken down to individual paces. The key premise is to keep moving and your rest periods to a minimum. If this is something you want to try, this article has a few good options to get yourself started.

The ouch is pretty self-explanatory. You’ll feel the burn, you’ll be puffed but you’ll also be getting stronger in terms of cardiovascular strength, as well as physical strength. Oh, and you’ll be torching those calories!

Essentially, if you were to map out your workouts, your hear rate graphs should look something like these:


Since starting this type of training (last November/December), I’ve noticed a huge improvement on pretty much all fronts – strength, endurance, motion, etc. – in my day-to-day life and through my workouts. I used to train bodybuilding-style: target 2 muscles groups each session with some cardio. It definitely worked, I lost fat and gained muscle, but I would also be at the gym almost 2 hours each time. And because metabolic training involves different muscle groups, it requires you to move more which improves your overall mobility. Think: only doing weighted squats compared to step-ups .

This training style and my nutrition plans was specifically tailored to me. I work with a personal trainer and train out of a gym that offers classes. It also took me a while to figure out what my best nutrition game plan would be. I understand this is a luxury that’s not afforded to everyone, but if it’s something you’re looking to do, definitely talk to someone and ask for a consultation.

Be patient, follow the blueprint, and listen to your body. It took me months to get to where I am today. I didn’t realize how efficient my body became until I took 2 weeks “off” – I only worked out twice a week but still ate fairly clean – but I still lost over 2 lbs. I’ve found a good balance, and that’s what this is all about – balance.


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