How to Create Your Fat Burning, Cortisol Balancing Workout Schedule
If weight loss is your goal, you're probably trying to figure out how you can create a workout routine that will help boost fat burning mechanisms. Believe it or not, MORE exercise is not always better. In fact, a balanced workout routine that considers rest, repair and cortisol levels will help your body more easily tap into fat as a fuel source than performing unstructured two-a-days or overly intense HIIT workouts daily.
Today, I'm sharing the details on why a balanced workout routine is essential to weight loss AND what to consider when creating your own workout schedule.
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Why Create a "Balanced" Workout Schedule?
With the goal of weight loss (let alone overall health) in mind, achieving a balanced workout and therefore decreased levels of inflammation and cortisol are key. It's been known in the nutrition world for years now that high levels of cortisol are tied to weight gain around the belly.(1) Proper rest and repair and a well balanced workout routine allows cortisol to naturally dip back down between workouts. Excessive training or an improperly planned workout routine can lead to decreased rest and repair time and increased cortisol levels as a result. This is evidenced with the higher levels of cortisol found in chronic endurance runners.(2)
There are a multitude of factors to consider, outside of the workout plan itself, on how to create a balanced routine that optimizes fat burning. Namely, ensuring proper rest (sleep, active recovery, stretching, etc.) and repair (the food you eat). These additional factors are covered more in detail in the video below and extensively in the Athlete Protocol in the Complete Intermittent Fasting Bundle.
For now, let's jump into the details of how to actually create a balanced work out routine to help your body better tap into fat burning mechanisms.
This is typically the first thing that people consider when they want to lose weight. But as we learned with the study mentioned earlier on cortisol levels in chronic endurance athletes, this might not be the best route. You can check out my full breakdown of running and weight gain HERE.
But cardio still has some great cardiovascular benefits. And if you have an upcoming 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon race, then cardio is an essential part of training. But running everyday not only isn't necessary for weight loss, it can also be counterproductive - even to your training goals. Remember, our body needs time between workouts in order to repair your muscles. For this reason, alternating days that you incorporate cardio and having one long run per week (if training for a race) is a great way to provide this repair.
And if running isn't your style, then other fantastic, cortisol balancing cardio workouts can include cycling, swimming, hiking and walking. Check out my video with these ideal cortisol balancing cardio options HERE.
Strength training is incredibly important for improving bone density, feeling strong and forming lean muscle. Depending on your goals with strength training, there are a multitude of ways to go about it. However, a good rule of thumb is to alternate days in which you train various body parts. For example, Mondays you do upper body, Wednesdays you do lower body and Fridays you do core. Remember, we want to provide rest and repair to your muscles in order to keep cortisol levels in check. By splitting up days to correspond with various body parts, you allow your muscles to rest even while you still get to work out. This is how the workouts in the Complete Intermittent Fasting Bundle were formulated as well.
Active rest, meaning lower intensity "workouts" such as walking, hiking, light yoga or casual cycling, are great ways to keep your body moving even while you're in repair mode. In fact, this active recovery has been found to help boost performance as well in a few studies.(3) I like to incorporate 1-2 active rest/recovery days per week where I go on long walks, go on a hike, perform a stretching routine or go for a bike ride. Typically I always have one active recovery on Saturday and an optional active recovery in the middle of the week if I feel that my body needs a rest.
Complete Rest (Sleep)
The body does the most repair while you sleep. During this time, your muscles get the attention it needs to repair and reform after your workout. If you don't get enough sleep or HIGH QUALITY sleep, then muscle repair suffers. This can result in increased muscle soreness (DOMS) and elevated cortisol levels the next day as your body tries to play catch up. So while you plan your workout routine, allowing for enough time for sleep and following a night time routine to promote melatonin (sleep hormone) production is key.
When it comes to weight loss goals, the hormonal response from WHAT you eat and WHEN you eat has a much bigger impact on weight loss success than simply upping your exercise.
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Autumn Elle Nutrition