I came across this article a few weeks ago, and have been excited to share it with all of you. With the hype and excitement surrounding the release of P90X3, not to mention my own vlogging of my progress through the program, I have yet to get a chance to write about this important bit of information. However, now is as good of time as any, as many of you will be starting X3 soon, or will be contemplating starting in the near future. Inevitably, I will be getting numerous questions about the "effectiveness" of P90X3.
Before we discuss the study's findings, let's have a quick discussion on how the body operates. Keep in mind that this is a very brief synopsis, and if you have any further questions, make sure to comment below or e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss things in greater detail.
Everybody consumes food. Food contains macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates), and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, nutrients). Food gives us energy, which is generally measured in calories (kilocalories, actually).
Your body needs energy (calories) to function. Thinking, breathing, walking, digesting food, building tissues, talking, having sex, etc. All of these daily processes and the energy needed to function are known as the basal metabolic rate (BMR). Although there are great variations in individuals' BMRs, most people average around 1500-2000kcal/day. This number varies greatly beyond this baseline based on how much fat-free mass you have (muscle), not to mention your activity level, types of foods you eat, how stressed you are, what type of occupation you have, genetics, etc. Basically, there are so many factors involved in calculating exactly how many calories you actually burn in any given day, that being attached to any specific number is an estimation at best. Sure, you can try and ballpark the number of calories you use in a day, but do not think that this is all that accurate.
The way your body uses energy is based on your level of fitness as well as what type of activity you are performing. Low-intensity activities such as walking (for most people) is relatively easy to accomplish, and is considered "aerobic" because the body can fulfill the energy demands through oxidative metabolism.
Body fat (adipose tissue) can only be used as an energy source when oxygen is present. So, if you respire fast/quickly enough, and your heart can pump blood to your working muscles efficiently and effectively, then the more "fit" you become, and therefore more efficient your body becomes at utilizing body fat stores (adipose tissue) as a primary energy source. What a lot of people seem to forget, is that the "fitter" you become, the more effective your body becomes at using adipose tissue (body fat) as a primary energy supplier, lowering your body fat percentage with less "effort."
Anyways, back to calories. Too many individuals become very attached to counting calories. I definitely recommend that my clients track their food intake from time to time to get a basic idea of exactly how much they are eating, and in what macronutrient ratios, but don't believe that this is something that is sustainable for most people, nor is it the most accurate.
I also try and point out the fact that the number of calories that your heart rate monitor tells you that you burn during a workout should not be something that should be stressed over either.
Despite all of that, this question will be raised time and time again, as I have already been asked a number of times since programs like P90X3 are out on the market. "How many calories are you actually burning during a P90X3 workout?"
Back to the study.
"While other low volume HIT protocols have reported non-significant (Burgomaster. 2005, 2006) or small (below 10%) increases in aerobic capacity (Burgomaster. 2008; Hazell. 2010) the current protocol induced rela- tively large increases in both VO2peak (+19%) and an- aerobic performance (+12% - 14%). These findings con- firm the results of Tabata et al.(1996) who reported ele- vated VO2peak at both 3 and 6 wks of training, and demonstrate that increases in VO2peak occur following 2 wks of training. Interestingly, while VO2peak is traditionally believed to be determined by cardiac output, a recent report demonstrated increased VO2peak without an accompanying increase in maximal cardiac output following treadmill sprint interval training (MacPherson. 2011)."
So what does this mean? Well, basically, something that I have stressed time and time again. Short bursts of intense exercise is very effective at keeping you "fit" and improving your VO2Max. VO2Max, basically, is how effective your body is at utilizing oxygen. As we discussed earlier, the more efficient and effective your body is at utilizing oxygen, the harder, faster, and more effective your exercise and everyday activities can become. Not only that, but your body then becomes a far more efficient machine at burning body fat stores as a primary energy source, lowering your body fat percentage.
The study had participants using Tabata-style exercise, which is a form of HIIT (high intensity interval training). The study subjects completed 4 workouts per week, each consisting of 4 minutes of exercise (8, 20 second intervals, 10 second break between. Total time = 4 minutes). Yes, you read that correctly. In just 16 mins of exercise every week, these individuals improved their VO2Max, but maybe more importantly for many of you, they also had an increase in mitochondrial protein.
If you remember back to your high school biology days, mitochondria are considered the "power plants" of your cells. They have a number of functions, but the function that is most important to those exercising, is the production of energy through aerobic means.
So, with intense exercise, your body becomes more efficient at burning body fat as a primary energy source, leading you to be more effective at everything else you do throughout your day, burning more body fat during every other activity that you are doing.
The name of the game is intensity, however. You need to be pushing yourself extremely hard during the intervals of work. This is one common problem that I see with many individuals, especially when it comes to shorter P90X3 workouts. If you reach the end of a 30 minute workout and feel as though you have "more in the tank," then you simply did not intensify enough.
The style of P90X3 workouts is such that it focuses on power and performance training. Power refers to contracting a muscle as quickly as possible. In the Agility X routine, for example, every single movement should be done as fast and as powerfully as possible. Power training is about going from point A to point B as quickly as possible.
Too many people miss this opportunity and believe that this routine is just a "cardio" routine, so they can just follow through the motions. Instead, every single agility sequence, every single jump, every single movement should be done with as much force and power that you can muster. If you are not exhausted by the end of the 30 minutes, then you need to jump with more force, move with more purpose in the agility sequences, etc.
If you do this, 30 minutes of exercise is more than enough time to get a tremendous workout in, improving your aerobic efficiency, keeping you "fit", and allowing your body to maintain a much healthier body composition.