Feeling the Burn Doesn’t Mean You’re Burning Calories

The term “burn” has been associated with exercise for a long time: Feel the burn, burn away fat, calorie burn, burning muscles . . . the list goes on and on. We all want to feel that the exercises we are doing are effective and worthwhile, and that burning sensation we get while doing a specific movement helps us feel that we are working hard, burning lots of calories, and therefore tightening the mus­cles that are burning. But what exactly is that burning sensation, and is it really a barome­ter for the effectiveness of a workout?

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Contrary to popular belief, the burn that we feel in our muscles during exer­cise is not directly related to caloric burn or the amount of fat that is being burned. Just because you feel a burn in your abdominal muscles during a crunch, it does not mean that your body is burning fat in that area.

That sensation in your muscles is actually something else: an indication that those muscles are out of ATP, a cellular fuel your muscles burn for quick energy. Once the ATP is gone, your muscles begin creating lactic acid and hydrogen ions which, well, they burn! That’s all it means. It doesn’t mean you’re burning a ton of calories; just that your muscles have burned all their stored ATP.

What you need to know for the pur­poses of fat loss is that the higher you get your heart rate, the more calories you will burn. It’s tempting to base the effectiveness of a workout on how much “burn” you feel in the muscles, but it’s the intensity and duration of the workout that will truly determine how many calories—and therefore how much fat—you are melting away.

Core Envy by Allison Westfahl Book CoverAllison Westfahl’s Core Envy will tone and sculpt your abs, back, stomach, and sides—and build a strong, sexy core you’ll love showing off.

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Crunches May Burn, But They Don’t Burn Many Calories

Most traditional core exercises are not scorching a lot of calories.

You can do crunches all day long and see no change to the fat you store around your midsection because your heart rate isn’t high enough, which means you aren’t burning calories at a significant rate. Again, it might feel as if you’re working hard because your ab mus­cles are burning and you can’t do more than 20 reps, but if you were to wear a heart rate monitor during crunches, it would show that your heart rate rarely gets above 90 beats per minute. When it comes to burning fat and losing weight, your heart rate is the prime indicator of success. It’s simple math: The higher your heart rate, the more calories you burn, and the more calories you burn, the more fat you lose. One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, so you need to focus on exercises that will get your heart rate high enough to burn the maximum amount of calories in the shortest amount of time.

The higher your heart rate, the more calories you burn, and the more calories you burn, the more fat you lose.

How will you know which types of work­outs are maximizing your fat loss? In 2005, the Journal of Sports Sciences published a study that outlined an equation to predict the number of calories burned per hour based on your average heart rate. We can apply this equation to different types of sculpting and cardio routines to determine which ones deliver the best results. As the oft-used adage goes: Don’t work harder, work smarter.

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Let’s take the old crunches-based core routine as a starting point for caloric burn. If we assume an average heart rate of 90 beats per minute (which is the heart rate most of my clients exhibit while doing crunches), a 40-year-old female who weighs 160 pounds will burn approximately 195 calories in an hour.

You could burn that many calories in 20 minutes by doing a moderate jog. Plus, when was the last time you did crunches for an hour? Most of us can last about 1 minute, which translates into 3.25 calories burned— that’s less than the calorie content of a breath mint.

This is one of the myriad rea­sons why you won’t see standard crunches in my Core Envy sculpting routines. Instead, I’ve focused on exercises that recruit more of the muscles in the core, therefore burning off calories faster by elevating your heart rate. Keep in mind, however, that in order to truly maximize the fat burn around your belly, these sculpting workouts need to be paired with cardio. Sculpting routines alone cannot ensure optimal caloric burn.

That’s why my Core Envy program pairs full-core sculpting exercises with calorie-torching high-intensity cardio.

Core Envy by Allison Westfahl Book CoverAllison Westfahl’s Core Envy will tone and sculpt your abs, back, stomach, and sides—and build a strong, sexy core you’ll love showing off.

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What Is a “Core Workout” Anyway?

A good core workout works a lot more than just your ab muscles.

In my book Core Envy, I talk about laying the foundation for your core. I’m not referring just to the intri­cate musculature beneath your abs. Your glutes and hamstrings are also involved. These muscles are traditionally categorized as “lower-body” muscles, but they serve a dual function in helping to stabilize and move the pelvis, which makes them part of the core.

In fact, any muscle that is attached to either the pelvis or the spine is tech­nically part of the core.

Add to the major muscle groups all of the smaller, deeper muscles in this area, and the count of how many muscles are in the human core eas­ily reaches into the hundreds. If your core strengthening routine is based solely on crunches, you’re neglecting 95 percent of your core musculature.

When a large percentage of your core muscles is routinely ignored, it creates a muscular imbalance in which a muscle or group of muscles becomes tight and overactive, therefore causing a neighboring or opposing muscle to become weak and underactive.

Overworking one core muscle group will weaken the others.

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Core imbal­ances are problematic because our muscles control our joints and bones, and when a certain muscle is doing too much work, it will start to pull the bones and joints it is attached to into uncomfortable positions.

Focusing on only a few core muscles can lead to poor posture (which makes your tummy stick out) and injuries (which will inhibit you from being able to work out). This is part of why you should stop doing crunches and why you’ll never do a single crunch using my Core Envy program.

With Core Envy, you’ll build a solid foundation for your core with a well-rounded core routine, and you will accomplish the dual goals of looking good while being strong and pain-free.

Core Envy by Allison Westfahl Book CoverAllison Westfahl’s Core Envy will tone and sculpt your abs, back, stomach, and sides—and build a strong, sexy core you’ll love showing off.

Core Envy is available now in Target stores, bookstores, and from these online retailers. Take a look!

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Stop Doing Crunches!

It might come as a shock that the Core Envy program does not include crunches!

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I’ve intentionally omitted crunches because they don’t utilize a significant percentage of your core musculature.

While it feels like you’re working hard when you’re 70 reps into a grueling round of 100 crunches, you are predominantly working a single muscle group—the rectus abdominis (rec­tus). In actuality, the true “core” of the body includes countless other muscles. It’s all the core muscles that affect how well you move—and how good you look.

This brings up the issue of function versus vanity. Why wouldn’t you want to focus your gym time on developing a rockin’ rectus? Aren’t those the beach muscles that look great with a spray tan? If a well-developed rectus is what turns heads, do we really need a well-rounded core routine that works all the other muscles?

The short answer is that a high-function­ing core leads to a better-looking core.

Focusing on only a few core muscles can lead to poor posture (which makes your tummy stick out) and injuries (which will inhibit you from being able to work out).

Try my Core Envy program to build a solid foundation for your core, and you will accomplish the dual goals of looking good while being strong and pain-free.

Core Envy by Allison Westfahl Book CoverAllison Westfahl’s Core Envy will tone and sculpt your abs, back, stomach, and sides—and build a strong, sexy core you’ll love showing off.

Core Envy is available now in Target stores, bookstores, and from these online retailers. Take a look!

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Core Envy and the New Rules of Sculpting

Core Envy breaks the “female workout code” with a radical new approach that works

Core Envy by Allison Westfahl

Let’s say it’s January and you’re fired up to lose some holiday weight and get in shape. Or maybe it’s April and you’ve just realized that swimsuit season is just around the corner!

If you had to decide how to get your belly looking sleek and toned, you wouldn’t be alone if you started a regimen of abdominal crunches. It seems like the obvious and logical strategy. After all, if you want to improve your abs, you should work those abs! Right?

Left to our own devices, most of us assume the fastest road to a great-looking core is to dedicate more time to working our abs. A typical visit to the gym might include 30 minutes on the elliptical, 10 minutes of crunches, and a protein shake in the car. Sound like a familiar workout? If you’ve been following a program similar to this for months (maybe years?) and seen little to no change in your body, you’re not alone. We’ve been programmed to think that crunches are the fastest path to a flat belly. It’s a cultural obsession.

And it’s wrong, which is why all those crunches aren’t working.

I developed my Core Envy program at several of the nation’s top fitness clubs because women were coming to me frustrated that crunches and fad diets weren’t giving them the look they wanted. My Core Envy program breaks the “female workout code” (30 minutes cardio, 10 minutes crunches, and a protein shake) with something radical that actually works.

If you take up the Core Envy program, here are the New Rules of Sculpting that you’ll follow:

1. Don’t Waste Time with Crunches: Put simply, crunches don’t work and can actually make you look and feel worse.
2. Burn Calories with Cardio, Not Core Work: High-intensity cardio burns a lot more calories than crunches.
3. Burn Fat Everywhere, Not in a Few Spots: Spot-reducing fat is a myth.
4. Overhaul Your Posture: Slouching at a desk makes your tummy stick out.
5. Build a Strong Core: You’ll feel better, exercise more effectively, reduce pain—and look awesome.

Core Envy by Allison Westfahl Book CoverAllison Westfahl’s Core Envy will tone and sculpt your abs, back, stomach, and sides—and build a strong, sexy core you’ll love showing off.

Core Envy is available now in Target stores, bookstores, and from these online retailers. Take a look!

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Core Envy Uses Metabolic Confusion to Burn More Calories

There is no “fat-burning zone”. Instead, surprise your body with HIIT cardio.

One of the most deep-seated and fiercely argued tenets of cardio workouts is that in order to burn fat, you should always be working in the “fat-burning zone.” If you’ve ever been on a cardio machine at a health club, you’ve seen those nifty little guides that relay the supposed effects of different heart rate zones. With words such as “Maximum Fat Burn Zone” plastered all over lower heart rates, it’s no wonder that we’ve all been seduced into thinking that the only way to burn that stubborn fat off is to keep our heart rates low and steady.

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Consistently working out at a low intensity can actually train your body to store fat. You read that correctly. If you consistently perform low-intensity exercise (that is, at a low heart rate), your body will adapt by beginning to store fat so that it can complete the next bout of exer­cise more effectively. This scenario is called “metabolic efficiency,” and it’s the ultimate catch-22 of exercising. [Read more about how low-intensity cardio can make you gain weight.]

Metabolic confusion is the opposite of metabolic efficiency. By regularly switch­ing up the duration, intensity, and type of exercise you’re doing, you can keep your metabolism on its toes. When your body doesn’t know what type of workout is com­ing next, it doesn’t have the opportunity to burn fewer calories in order to complete the task at hand. Instead, your body is forced to react to the ever-changing stimuli of new workouts and therefore will burn a higher amount of calories. Studies show that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the most effective form of exercise to achieve metabolic confusion and burn abdominal visceral fat.

So what is a HIIT workout? Any activity that spikes your heart rate up to about 70 percent of its maximum for a short period of time, then allows you to recover at a lower heart rate, then spikes your heart rate up again. If you were to graph your heart rate, it might look a rising series of peaks and valleys. [Allison Westfahl explains HIIT workouts in this video.]

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The effectiveness of HIIT workouts is because of a phenomenon known as excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). After a workout, your body will continue to consume oxygen for a certain amount of time in order to bring your body back into its resting state. The more oxy­gen your body consumes, and the longer it does this, the more calories you will burn. As you know, more calories burned equals more pounds lost, which equals a tighter tummy for you. The key letter in the acro­nym is “P” for postexercise. This means that not only are you burning fat during your workout but you will also continue to burn calories and fat long after your work­out has ended.

The only caveat about HIIT is that more is not always better. There is a limit to how much stress the body can handle; if you tax your body too often and too intensely, you will pass the threshold of good stress and cross over into the bad stress zone, causing a release of that dreaded cortisol, which can cause your body to store fat. In order to avoid this scenario, it’s important to give your body time to recover between HIIT workouts, ideally 48 hours. For this reason, the Core Envy program spaces out HIIT workouts throughout the week. [Try one of Allison Westfahl’s HIIT workouts during her FREE one-week trial of Core Envy.]

This post is from Core Envy by Allison Westfahl.

Core Envy by Allison Westfahl Book CoverAllison Westfahl’s Core Envy will tone and sculpt your abs, back, stomach, and sides—and build a strong, sexy core you’ll love showing off. Core Envy solves the problems traditional abs programs ignore with HIIT cardio, functional core sculpting exercises, and a smart diet overhaul.

You can try Core Envy for a week free.

Core Envy is available now in Target stores, bookstores, and from these online retailers. Take a look!

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Gym photo courtesy of Flickr/John Hickey-Fry

 

Get the Strong, Sexy Core You Want with Core Envy!

Core Envy by Allison Westfahl Book CoverAllison Westfahl’s Core Envy will tone and sculpt your abs, back, stomach, and sides—and build a strong, sexy core you’ll love showing off.

Her Core Envy program solves the problems other abs programs ignore with a three-part approach to slim down and tone up. You’ll clean up your diet, fire up your metabolism, and tighten up all the muscles of your core without a gym or equipment. In just three weeks, you’ll start seeing results.

Westfahl is an acclaimed personal trainer who developed her effective core sculpting program for women at several of the nation’s most prestigious health clubs. Her clients came to her because they were frustrated by traditional abs programs that involved impossible diets, endless cardio and crunches, sketchy supplements, and tedious calorie counting.

Allison’s 8-week Core Envy program is a better way to tone and sculpt. Core Envy lays out a triple threat of cardio workouts, sculpting routines, and a diet makeover. It’s a balanced approach that promotes both fitness and weight loss, and you won’t need a gym to make it happen.

Allison’s cardio and sculpting workouts average just 30 minutes and don’t require special equipment. Her high-intensity cardio workouts coupled with full core functional exercises will make sure you slim down while you sculpt all the muscle groups you need for a sleek, toned core. Three levels let you amp it up or tone it down to match your current fitness level.

Allison streamlines dieting with healthy, flavorful foods and snacks that will keep you energized as you rev up your metabolism. Her tasty recipes and complete meal plans simplify calorie counting and make weight loss painless.

Core Envy will help you get the sleek, sculpted core you want. After Westfahl’s 8-week program, you’ll look great and feel confident rocking a fit and feminine look.

Core Envy is available now in Target stores, bookstores, and from these online retailers.

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