The Self-Made Man

And The Origins of Fight Smart

Last week, I sent out this newsletter which disputed the claim that "HIIT" (high intensity interval training) is the best form of fat burning cardio, in comparison to the slow, painfully boring grind of low-intensity aerobic cardio.

Of course, this prompted every member of "Crossfit Revolution", "Crossfit Mayhem", "Crossfit Ferociousness", and "Crossfit Insert-Random-Super-Intense-Noun" to aggressively email me in defense of their chosen form of cardiovascular exercise.

Thank you for your emails, and for broadening my mental database of super intense nouns...

Believe it or not, we're actually on the same side here!  After all I LOVE high intensity exercise, but we need to use it for the right purposes.

Please keep in mind, I'm here to build fighters..

90% of a fight is conducted in an out-of-breath (think anaerobic or 'without oxygen') state... much like HIIT.  You sprint punches for a few moments, and then you fall back and try to recover.  You scramble for a takedown, and then you rest while smooshing the guy up against a cage after your takedown fails horribly... or maybe those are just my takedowns.  

There are few clearer examples of high intensity interval training in sport.  

(Also, if you DON'T do any anaerobic training, you're going to be the guy puking on my mats after the first two rounds of punching mitts. I will, of course, coddle you through the rest of the training session, take your money, and make fun of you with my wife after you leave.)

So let's look at the BENEFITS of HIIT, so you can effectively incorporate this into your training.  

#1.  As I pointed out last week, you're going to burn more muscle glycogen (sugar stored in muscle) than fat when doing High Intensity Interval Training.  (source)

"But Trav... you said that's bad last week, because we actually want to burn fat, not muscle glycogen." 

Yes, if your goal is to purely burn fat during your workout, that's bad. 

BUT... when you burn your stored glycogen, your body needs to replenish those stores later, and those stores will be pulled from the carbohydrates that you eat following your workout.  

So, if you eat a sandwich with a little too much bread, or if you snack on some Fig Newtons after your workout... it's not a problem, because those excess carbohydrates will go towards replenishing muscle glycogen, instead of just adding another layer onto your fat stomach.  

In other words, you're not going to be burning as much fat during your workout, but you might STORE less fat later in the day... which has a positive net benefit on your physique.  


Many folks trying to burn fat with their cardio are also restricting calories.  This means that the might be restricting the carbohydrates that they need to actually recover and replenish those glycogen stores.  

Those folks won't build strength effectively, and due to the complicated feedback loop involving glycogen stores, thyroid hormone levels, and the regulation of your metabolism... you might actually end up lowering your metabolism and feeling like crap.

In other words, you can't eat in hopes of shrinking, while doing training that's supposed to make you grow.

This brings me to my next point...

#2.  HIIT is ANABOLIC... you're supposed to build muscle by doing it. 

You need to think of HIIT like it's a weight training session, and you're trying to GROW.   Again, it's not optimized to be fat burning cardio.

Let's look at the long term effect that 'more muscle' has on one's physique (other than just looking nice); fat is burned within the muscle cell, so if you have more muscle, you will burn more fat during all forms of cardio... and even just while sitting around.  

So, if you eat correctly in accordance with your high intensity exercise, it will help you build muscle, thus helping you to burn more fat in the future.

Again, HIIT is ANABOLIC.  It's muscle building exercise.  

If you want to shrink for two days in a row, do two days of light aerobic cardio and restrict your calories.

On the third day, perhaps do some HIIT, and use this as an opportunity to GROW for a day... in the midst of your long term diet.

You will, of course, build your anaerobic capabilities, and be able to last longer in a fight. 

Be smart... use each form of cardio for what it's actually worth!

Now there's other data to support positive hormonal effects of HIIT, like increases in growth hormone and testosterone production, which could certainly have a positive effect on the leanness of one's physique... but we don't even need to dive into that at the moment.

I'm... uh... busy. 

Suffice it to say that there is a big role for BOTH forms of cardio when it comes to achieving the physique that you're looking for... so incorporate both.  

And if your goal is to fight, you damn sure need to be doing some interval training.  

Have a fantastic week.... and Remember, a quick sale starts tomorrow!


P.S.  Click a link occasionally to let me know that you're still reading.  Otherwise, my robots may erroneously delete you.

They're aggressive robots... after all.

My chosen gif will be updated monthly. 

Here's the comment section...

Humans like to talk about things.

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