What Training Methods Will Grow Muscle and Burn More Fat?

21 10 2013
How to burn more fat and grow muscle

How to burn more fat and grow muscle

First of all one must realize after reading the article title “what training methods will grow muscle and burn more fat,” there is a lot of moving parts in answering this question.  I can break these moving parts down enough and provide a solution on how you can train and achieve both fitness goals.  Although diet and health are very important variables to consider in achieving these fitness goals… I will primarily focus on muscle fiber types, intensity of effort and body fuels needed to achieve the desired result.

Research shows us, muscle is stimulated to grow when the fast twitch muscle fibers within our chest, back, arms, legs, etc., are contracting at a fast rate during anaerobic exercise activities.  To grow muscle optimally, also requires there is enough glucose and stored muscle glycogen fuel available to the working muscles during a physical event.

In contrast to burning body fat, activation of the slow twitch muscle fibers requires less effort for longer periods during aerobic exercise activities.  To burn fat optimally, slow twitch muscle fibers require a glucose and fat fuel source to endure those exercise activities.

It is important to know muscle groupings have three muscle fiber types that move the body at a slow, intermediate or fast pace per slow twitch, intermediate and fast twitch fibers contracting at varying rates of intensity as exercise increases and decreases.

Let’s briefly examine the characteristics of the muscle fiber to better understand their food fuel preference and varying rates of contraction as exercise intensities change.

Fast twitch muscle fibers are less vascular than slow and intermediate fiber types and appear white in color and are highly stimulated during anaerobic (speed, power and strength) training.  These muscle fibers primarily fuel their quick contractions using carbohydrates to produce the ATP (adenosine triphosphate) energy at 2 times the contraction rate of “the red and vascular (oxygenated)” slow twitch “endurance muscle fibers.”  Slow twitch muscle fibers contract at lower intensities and prefer fat fuel to produce the required ATP energy for long endurance activities.  And the 3rd muscle type “intermediate” makes use of both metabolic worlds to support the ramping up and down of exercise intensity and rate of physical movement (Katch and McArdle 1993).

It is important to understand, any type of exercise will burn food fuel calories.  But it is your muscle fibers fuel preference that changes as intensity of exercise decreases or increases. “If intensity continues to rise, slow-twitch fibers are unable to continue working and fast-twitch fibers will take over (Loya 2013).”

“Human muscles contain a genetically determined mixture of both slow and fast fiber types. On average, we have about 50 percent slow twitch and 50 percent fast twitch fibers in most of the muscles used for movement.”  However, “Olympic sprinters have been shown to possess about 80 percent fast twitch fibers, while those who excel in marathons tend to have 80 percent slow twitch fibers.  These well-conditioned slow and fast twitch muscle fibers may be genetically provided within naturally lean-muscular body types (Quinn 2013).”

From a genetic perspective this is likely the reason most of us will never be Olympic contenders no matter how hard we train.  One thing appears certain, if the average human muscle is comprised of 50% slow twitch muscle fiber; it stands to reason, the majority of us have a genetic and competitive advantage to burn body fat when participating in low intensity exercise.

You are now aware there is an order of muscular contraction where slow twitch fibers yield to fast twitch muscle fiber as physical effort increases.  Also a muscle fiber fuel preference is required to produce the energy and muscle contraction rate necessary to achieve the physical speed, power, strength and fat burning goal.

For example, when you walk you’re mostly stimulating the leg muscles slow and intermediate twitch muscle fibers to perform that specific task.  But when you sprint or squeeze out those last reps on a heavy bench press station, the slow and intermediate twitch muscle fibers yield to the faster twitch muscle fibers needed to contract a higher rate of intensity to achieve the optimum muscle building result.

Sprinting with all-out effort is similar to squeezing out that last rep on the bench press.  The fast twitch muscle fibers fire (contract) at a high rate of intensity and energy exchange, while the slow fibers stand-by until the high intensity effort is complete.

We all know a high level of muscular intensity and physical effort has limitations.  That is fFast twitch fibers utilize their preferred fuel source glucose first which lasts for only seconds. Glucose fuel allows intense contractions for up to a maximum period of 10 seconds. After this time and up to a period of 3 minutes, the fuel source switches to glycogen.  In contrast, slow twitch fibers use a combination of glucose and fats for their energy supply. This is a much slower process and can be maintained with constant intensity for a continued time period (Fitnessbeans 2012).”

Now that we’ve reviewed some basics of muscle fiber characteristics and fuel preferences during specific types of exercise activity, let’s answer the question, “what training methods will grow muscle and burn more fat?”

The answer is fairly straight forward, train “task specific.”  If you want more bulk, strength and power lift heavier weights at increasing intensities.  If you want more speed and endurance, train to achieve that condition and performance, e.g., sprinting, wrestling, karate, boxing, basketball, football, etc.  If you want to burn more body fat train aerobically by performing low intensity exercise activity, e.g., walking, jogging, biking, dance, etc.

And if you want the best of both worlds, you must cross-train.  For example, take your exercise time and split into two training session (train aerobically and anaerobically) within a specific period of time.  For instance, if you only have one hour to exercise, spend 5 minutes stretching, and then 25 minutes on an aerobic exercise activity like low-intensity walking, stationary bike, jogging, tread mill equipment, etc.

During the last 25 minutes use increasing resistive weight on free weights or stationary equipment and/or circuit weight training equipment.  On alternating days if another fitness goal is to participate in a competitive sports activity, spend a full exercise day “session” participating in that activity:  e.g., racquetball, basketball, baseball, soccer, dance, running, power lifting, boxing, karate, etc.

Somewhere mid-week be sure to take a day or two off to rest muscles so they can repair.  This is especially important if you’re training at a high rate of intensity daily.  If you over train your muscles, they will be in a state of breakdown and repair more so than growing.  With low intensity exercises, rest is not so much of an issue.  The more time you put into a walking activity for example, the more body fat you’ll burn and tone the body.

If you can’t participate in your favorite intramural-team sport, or train in a gym for whatever reason, train the next best way.  Head to the nearest sports field and perform repetitive quick sprints, use walk-jog-run and/or circuit training exercises (pushups, bleacher step exercises, sit ups, pushups etc.).  Or participate in home exercise using a repetitive speed bag, jump rope, aerobics video dance, or shadow kick and punch exercises, etc.

I’ve given you a whole lot of information to mull over.  And there are many training techniques one could choose to perform anaerobic and/or aerobic training to achieve a chosen fitness goal(s).

If your goal is to lose weight, chose activities that require long-endurance and low-intensity physical effort.  If you want more muscle bulk, strength and speed, choose short-endurance, and high intensity “specific” exercise training exercises.  If you want the best of both worlds: bulk muscle and lose body fat, equally split your training time (cross-train) and use task specific exercise to trigger the muscle fibers necessary to energize those activities and achieve those fitness results.

Citations and References

Fitnessbeans. “Muscle Fibers: Fast Twitch Versus Slow Twitch.”  FitnessBeans. BeansPublishing, 2012. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.

Katch, Frank I., William D. McArdle, and Frank I. Katch. “Chapter 11/Energy for Exercise.” Introduction to Nutrition, Exercise, and Health. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1993. 169-90. Print.

Loya, Dennis M. “Training Fast and Slow Twitch Muscles.”  TotalFitnessExperience.com. TotalFitnessExperience.com, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.

Quinn, Elizabeth. “Fast and Slow Twitch Muscle Fibers.” About.com Sports             Medicine. About.com, 18 Oct. 2013. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.

Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, CPT, MSC ARNG Retired.  2013 Copyright, All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing: http://www.mirrorathlete.com.  Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.