Strategies to Lose Fat and Stay Lean Forever (Part 2)

How to find the right combination of cardio and HIIT to achieve your goals?

We looked at how our bodies react to cardio and HIIT training in Part 1. Theory aside, how do we combine cardio and HIIT to reap the best body transformation results? This is guided by your fitness goals.

We burn both fats and carbs when we exercise and intensity changes the proportions.

HIIT burns in total more calories both during and after exercise due to its intensity and studies have found also that after 6 weeks of training, HIIT subjects have:

  • Increased resting metabolic rate for up to 24 hours after exercise
  • Improved insulin sensitivity in the muscles
  • Higher levels of fat oxidation in the muscles
  • Significant spikes in growth hormone levels (which aids fat loss) and catecholaine levels (which are chemicals our body produces to mobilise fat stores for burning)
  • experienced post exercise appetite suppression

Goal—Body composition (Fat Loss)

Cardio sessions should be kept short with duration relatively lower than HIIT sessions. This is to allow the body to combust fat, grow muscles for long term increase in metabolic rate. The study above also showed that subjects who underwent 6 weeks (ex per week) HIIT training presented with a higher rate of fat oxidation during low intensity cycling sessions.

Based on the above, it is a great idea to mix up cardio with HIIT training. These can be done in the same session or spread out over various sessions during a week.

Combining HIIT and lower intensity cardio in the same workout is one option and in order to promote fat loss, the intense segment should be done first to be followed by the lower intensity steady segment.

Perhaps a 5 minute warmup, with a HIIT session of 3x 10s sprints, then 30-40 minutes of low intensity walking so the fat released from the cells ruing HIIT can be burnt during the low intensity walking

We would suggest, however, combining HIIT and lower intensity cardio workouts separately over the course of a week. Doing HIIT everyday can be counterproductive as it can over stress your body leading to a release of high cortisol in the body which, overtime, can lead to lower insulin sensitivity plus inhibition of the body’s ability to recover. 

Although no two people are the same when it comes to recovery rate, it is probably safe to say that a high frequency of high intensity workouts would leave most people not enough time in between sessions to adequately recover for optimal training responses and results. Low intensity cardio, therefore, is best for topping off calorie burn to shed fat efficiently and steadily when you already have HIIT sessions tabled in your fitness routine.

For those who enjoy the common cardio exercises such as running, cycling and rowing, do them for enjoyment, don’t get too caught up in the calorie burn but train the mind to be present and enjoy the moment (knowing perfectly well that you are combusting fat throughout your session).

Cardio for muscle building

To most body builders, cardio and muscle building don’t go well together and the former is often seen to hinder the latter.

Whilst it is true that too much cardio inhibits muscle growth as such exercises deplete our stores of protein (necessay for muscle growth), carbohydrates and fats (to fuel gruelling weight training sessions), cardio exercises, when used strategically, can actually help with muscle growth and strength building.

Choosing the right type and frequency of cardio exercise to complement weight training is key.

Try to choose the type of cardio exercise that mimics muscle building movements. Building strength means training a movement pattern repetitively and the more you do a movement, the better you become at it.

Use cardio as recovery (as above) and keep the frequency and duration of such sessions to no more than 2 times per week, 30 minutes each. This type of low intensity exercise will improve blood flow to the muscles to aid recovery. Target the muscles you worked on in a previous weight training session to reap optimal recovery benefits.

Slightly more intensive, targeted regular cardio sessions can lower our resting heart rate and enable a faster return to our resting heart rate after intense training. Joel Jamieson in Ultimate MMA Conditioning explained why it is beneficial to train our cardiac system to improve blood circulation in our bodies. The cardio output method, developed by Joel Jamieson, is a method that will improve the amount of blood that our heart can pump with each beat. To train the right energy system, we need to adhere to the following:

  • Maintain a constant heart rate in the 120–150 rpm range
  • Each session should be between 30–90 minutes (depending on the starting aerobic base)
  • Start with 30 minutes and increase the duration each week
  • Start with 2 sessions per week and for professional athletes, increase to 3 sessions per week during off season
  • For professional athletes with resting heart rates above 60rpm, 4–6 weeks of training will be beneficial. Those with heart rates lower than 50bpm should limit such sessions while progressing to more advanced styles of training.

Where To Start?

It is important to be clear as to what your fitness and health goals are, then customize your training program to include cardio, HIIT, resistance training and yoga, adhere to a diet that gives you the energy to fuel your workouts with enough left to build muscles (if this is your goal), build in enough recovery sessions (active or otherwise) and more importantly, enjoy the process of getting and staying fit.

Remember, crushing workouts will only give us a false sense of achievement for a few days when in reality they more often than not subconsciously deter us from subjecting our body to the same torturous session again. This is why most of us find it hard to get ourselves into a fitness class these days. We look for short, quick results when in fact, building a fit and healthy body takes small, consistent steps. It's NO COMMITMENT NO GAIN as opposed to NO PAIN NO GAIN.

To get results, we need to make little changes, practise them day in and day out until they are a part of us, until they become a habit and no longer a chore. 

Perhaps start with some simple daily 5 minute exercises that can be done early in the morning to start building some habits.

Interested in trying this out and testing your commitment level? Email us on to organise a phone consultation!


Perry, C.G. et al 2008: High-intensity aerobic interval training increases fat and carbohydrate metabolic capacities in human skeletal muscle. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 33(6).pp.1112-1123.

How to Motivate Yourself to Get Fit for Summer

Madeleine Buchner shares with us how she plans to make a head start to 2017 to get fit.

Maddy is the co-founder and CEO of Little Dreamers Australia. Little Dreamers aims to reduce the prevalence of mental illness among Young Carers by providing support and promoting social connectedness.

Having experienced first hand as a youngster the frustration, anger, fear and the loneliness when her brother was ill, she created Little Dreamers to improve the physical and emotional health and wellbeing of young carers. She also understands the importance of health and wellbeing and certainly knows how to manage her time between studying and running her organisation. 

junge frau hngt ihren schatten ab

When is the best time to start? 

I think that you would need several hands to count the number of times I have tried to start a “lifestyle change” (code word for diet). I always tell myself—the diet starts on Monday! And I prepare, I set myself up and I usually have a couple of days where I’m really strict, or at least on track. And then I see a friend for dinner and I have a giant burger instead of something healthier, I eat some chocolate because I’m stressed about something at work or I just have so much going on that I don’t go to the gym for a couple of days. I then start to feel down about myself and tell myself that I have to wait until the next Monday to try again. And so it becomes a cycle with me usually giving up on my “lifestyle change” around the Thursday mark just before the weekend kicks in. 


I was talking about this with my friend the other day and she said the same thing always happens to her. So I started thinking—why do we start new regimes on a Monday? Is there something about a new week new me mentality? 

Professor Jason Riis from The University of Pennsylvania called this trend the “fresh start effect”. According to a recent study from the university, people are 33% more likely to go to the gym on a Monday—this is related to a temporal landmark, people have different views of themselves on different days of the week, looking more forward on some days vs. others. There is also a trend for more people to start exercising at the start of a month, the start of a year, the first day of a new semester and the day after a public holiday. People are also more likely to sign up to lifestyle changes on a birthday and an anniversary. To determine what is defined as a temporal landmark, the University of Pennsylvania conducted three experiments: sourcing Google analytics to see when and how often people searched for diet and exercise; tracking the most popular days to attend the University of Pennsylvania gym; and examining a website where people make contracts with themselves to change a behaviour and lose money if they fail. While the University researchers did not study whether the people actually achieved their goals, John Norcross, a psychologist from the University of Scranton says people who make promises during events e.g. aiming to quit smoking during the Great American Smokeout are actually more successful!

Ok—so there is proof as to why a lot of people start their diets and lifestyle changes on a Monday, get over the weekend where you can eat whatever you want and start a fresh the next week. I’m always very motivated when I first start a lifestyle change. I feel good about my decisions and I take more time in picking out what each day is going to be like. 

So here’s a thought—what if I started my lifestyle change on a Friday. Then I would have that motivated feeling for the weekend which is the hardest part to get through, and then I could be pumped for the week ahead because I’ve already gotten through the hardest part. 


Yes, the research says that everyone is a health nut on a Monday, 46% of people in a recent study by Brian Wansink, Ph.D from Cornell Food and Lab said their latest weight-loss attempt began on a Monday morning. But 31% of people said that they had given up by the Tuesday. But—if you start the diet on a Friday, and you choose not to overindulge on your first weekend, you have already taken some massive steps in making a lifelong change. 

According to Cornell University research, almost everyone drops weight during the week and gains weight on the weekend, with most people weighing the lowest on Friday mornings. Based on this, stepping on those scales and feeling your best might just be the motivation you need to kick the lifestyle change off right.


I’m a pretty skeptical person, and while the research said there was something in this theory I knew I would have to give it a try myself. 

In the last week of August 2016 I got up on Friday morning and said “this is the day”—I felt great. I was committed, excited and I felt the best I had in a long time. I got through the weekend. It was hard, I had to think longer about what I wanted to eat each day. I still went out for dinner with my friends but I just chose healthier options. And once I hit Sunday night and I had got through the first weekend I was more motivated than ever. It is now mid-November, 12 weeks later, and I am fitter, stronger and healthier than I have ever been. I put the success down to not only getting through that first weekend hump but also believing in myself and telling myself that it is possible to make the change I had tried but failed to make so many times before. 


According to BAV consulting, only 17% of people who make New Year’s Resolutions stick them out for more than one month! So here is my challenge to you – and my challenge to myself too really. I am going to make my New Year’s Resolutions in December 2016 this year. Then by the time it gets to January, the “official” New Year’s Resolution time, I will have already stuck to my goals for over 1 month, over the 17% hump, encouraging and motivating me in the same way starting on a Friday did!


  • 5 classes per week (3 Yoga and 2 Fitness)
  • 3 weeks
  • $10 per class (total price $150)

Start anytime from the 28th November – 15th December. 

Kick your summer and your New Year’s Resolutions off right!

Don’t know where to start? Here are some timetables you can try! Decide whether your goal is to gain muscle, lose weight or increase fitness and use the below as guides.


  • Mon 6:15pm YPOWER
  • Tue 5:45pm HIITC
  • Wed 7:30am YPOWER
  • Thu 6:30am HIRTC
  • Sat 10:00am YFLOW


  • Mon 6:15pm YPOWER
  • Tue 6:15am CORETC
  • Wed 7:30pm YYIN
  • Thu 7:30pm HOT YFLOW
  • Sat 9:00am CROSSTC


  • Mon 6:15am HIITC
  • Tue 6:15pm HOT YFLOW
  • Wed 6:30pm CROSSTC
  • Thu 7:30am YPOWER
  • Sat 10:00am YFLOW

I know that you can do this—and to make it even better we are throwing in 3 XTC Fitness packages up for grabs for those who complete the challenge and share their progress photos throughout the challenge on social media tagging @YogaXTC and hashtagging #XTCSummerChallenge.

Winners will be contacted on New Years Day—so start off 2017 right and take the challenge. I’ll be doing it!

More information on the 21 Day Summer Challenge can be found in the link below.

21 Day Summer Challenge >

Strategies to Lose Fat and Stay Lean Forever (Part 1)

Say “No” to yo-yo dieting which gives temporarily relief only with the lost fat and weight ready to pile on again. Learn the strategies to not just lose fat but to stay lean forever.

Get our Goal Setting Right. Burn Fat or Lose Weight

For most people, the goal of losing weight really means burning fat in the body for a more appealing physique. Fat Burning can inadvertently lead to muscle loss if we only rely on a restricted calorie diet. The logic seems simple, if we take in less calorie than what we use up, we will lose weight, right? Yes but the weight lost will mean loss of overall muscle mass and not just the fat that we are targeting. A prolonged calorie deficit diet is not only unsustainable, but it is also downright dangerous. We need a base amount of energy to maintain bodily functions and chronic energy deficiency will create havoc to our body and some of these damages can be long term.

Know how the body taps into our fat storage

Fats are stored as triglycerides in fat cells and are released by way of an enzyme known as HSL (hormone-sensitive lipase). Fat storage will enter the bloodstream in the form of fatty acids to combine with the protein albumin and enter muscles to be used as fuel when fast energy from blood glucose and stored glycogen are depleted.

The trick is to get our muscles to burn more fuel from fat storage rather than from protein or carbs and know the after effects of exercise on our bodies. When storage of carbohydrate in muscles is depleted, a drop in muscle glycogen stores trigger hunger and can lead to overeating. The same problem goes with protein depletion as it is protein that keeps our muscles strong and maintain our metabolism. A lower metabolic rate will make it harder for us to achieve any slimming result as the body is constantly trying to find a base metabolic rate that is most efficient to sustain bodily functions. 

Know how our bodies respond to various types of exercises and their unwanted side effects (if any)


Long cardio sessions such as running and cycling can rack up a huge calorie burn count so in the long run, the absolute amount of burnt calories is much higher than a short High Intensity Interval Training, right?

Yes, provided that we do not overcompensate the lost calories from overeating.

How our bodies react

In reality, we can burn both fat and carbs during a workout as the body finds the right source of energy to continually fuel the muscles. The “fat burning” zone that we find on all cardio machines designates the rate at which we need to work when most of our energy source comes from burning fat. This is usually a zone of low intensity exercise which doesn’t call on fast energy source. 

One often omitted fact about cardio workout is that the body adapts to exercises that it is put through again and again and overtime, the body becomes more efficient and uses less energy to perform the same workout. This, coupled with the mentality that we “earned” our post workout treat can easily tip the calorie scale against fat loss.

When most of us find that our cardio workout has become inefficient, that is, we are not losing the weight that we want, we increase the duration and go harder. 

When we start doing this, we subject our bodies to:

  • Higher risk of heart dysfunction the more we with this risk getting higher when we get older [Research conducted by Abdulla J, Neilse JR Eurospace, 2009 Sep:11(9):1156-9, “Is the risk of atrial fibrillation higher in athletes than in the general population?”];
  • More stress on our bodies creating problems with knees, joints, backs, hips, tendons and bones;
  • Higher risk of arterial plaque where a research shows that marathoners develop more arterial plaque than sedentary non runners which increases the risk of stroke and dementia. [Does Long Term Endurance Running Enhance or Inhibit Coronary Artery Plaque Formation? A Study of Men Completing marathons for at least 25 consecutive years. Author: Jonathan G Schwartz]

The conclusion drawn by J Schwartz in his study referred to above is that:

“Benefits of long term, high volume endurance training for overall heath including favourable BMI, heart rate and lipid panel may be counterbalanced by metabolic and mechanical considerations for enhancing coronary plaque growth. Increased calcification may be a response to high exercise levels across a lifetime”.

However, cardio is not all bad and after all we are non athletes looking for a health life and physique and are unlikely to be running marathons for over 25 years of our lives. Moderate amounts improve health but too much can have the opposite effect.

HIIT—High Intensity Interval Training

This is when we alternate between high and low intensity exercises or between high intensity exercise and a short period of rest.

What happens during HIIT (Use sprinting as an example)

For the first 10-20 seconds, we would all fly as we tap into our phosphocreatine (high intensity energy source).

After about 20 seconds or sooner, our immediate energy source runs out low and anaerobic glycolysis kicks in and dominate. At this point, lactic acid is produced and used as an energy source. We start to gasp for air. Soon we will need to slow down or come to a stop.

The two energy systems that work for us

When we are working at lower intensity, aerobic metabolism predominates and our bodies can use oxygen to break down carbohydrates and fat for energy. This is efficient but doesn’t provide the power required for intense workout. When we are working at higher intensity, for instance, when sprinting, anaerobic metabolism predominates as our bodies cannot get the oxygen it requires fast enough. Whilst an inefficient way to fuel activities, it can produce short bursts of speed and high energy.

  • The high intensity periods during HIIT create a metabolic demand that is very effective for long term fat loss and overall conditioning.
  • The lower intensity periods allow us to recover and use the aerobic energy system to burn fat

High intensity bursts also stresses the body so much that it is forced to adapt with the release of hormones such as growth hormone, testosterone, endorphins, adrenalin, noradrenaline, cortisol and aldosterone all increase having effects on body composition and anabolism. Cortisol, in particular, increase protein breakdown in the muscle and fat in the adipose tissue to deplete stored energy and release fuel in to the bloodstream for use.


Cardio exercises (eg done on treadmills) work by increasing the oxygen delivery to our heart and lungs. High Intensity Interval Training however, works more on the muscles to make them more efficient so our hearts don’t have to pump as much to make them perform. Both types of exercise require the body to adapt to the high oxygen demand by increasing vascular supply of blood to the muscles by growing more capillaries over time.

HIIT training not only increases our capacity to transition smoothly from burning fat (gentle work and rest periods), to carbohydrates and fat (intense work periods) and back again. It also creates excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) after a hard session. This means that we are burning more energy than we normally do at rest as our working muscle cells restore themselves back to their pre-exercise level (with improvement in efficiency and strength if we are consistent with our training). 

The Question is then: Which is Better for fat loss?

Research Findings

A study on the Effects of high- intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels on young women conducted by Trapp E.G., Faculty of Medicine, University of NSW, Sydney, NSW (International Journal of Obesity (London), 2008 April;32(4)) showed that:

3x high intensity intermittent exercise per week for 15 weeks compared to the same frequency of static stationary exercise was associated with significant reductions in total body fat, subcutaneous leg and trunk fat and insulin resistance.

A Canadian study in 2007 found that:

Fat oxidation was significantly higher, and carbohydrate oxidation significantly lower after 6 weeks of HIIT. This was largely due to increased whole body and skeletal muscle capabilities to oxidize (burn) fat and carbohydrates in previously untrained individuals.
Perry, C.G.R. et al Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism 33(6)

So should we still do cardio? The answer is Yes but how much?

We will look into this in Part 2 of this Article.

In the meantime, come into our studio and get your muscles working!


Give us a call on 03 8528 1001 or email us on to organise a consultation to find out what will work for you.

Improve Our Mental Health Through Structured Training

Mental Health—A Reality Check

October is mental health month.

Every day we are faced with different types of stress: self inflicted stress of unrealistic expectations, external stress from our work or family environment or stress that we categorise as 'adrenalin rush' which creates the momentum drive to excellence. Type A personalities and perfectionists welcome stress as they thrive under stress. Whilst it is true that some of us become more efficient and work best under stress, we cannot ignore what stress can do to our body, especially when it is part of our daily lives.

When we are physically tired or drained, our bodies have ways to tell us to stop. We become susceptible to infections and illnesses and we need to take time off to get better. What happens when we are mentally exhausted? We don't get little warnings to remind us to change our ways when all the while our mental health is deteriorating. It is not until we get hit with a breakdown or some mental disorder that we become aware of the damages that we have been inflicting upon ourselves.

Why is Mental Health Important?

For most of us it is very hard to imagine what it's like to suffer from mental ailments. We hear a lot about bipolar disorder, depression, alzheimer's and dementia hitting people from all walks of life. For non sufferers, it is hard for us to understand how debilitating these conditions can really be. Many of us fail to understand that it's not "all in the head" it is akin to a viral invasion of our cells which we cannot control. We cannot just "think" it away.

Thanks to Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice and Jennifer Niven, author of All The Bright Places, we are given an inside peek into the psyches of mental disease sufferers.

Mental heath problems are invisible to outsiders and due to the lack of understanding of such illnesses, sufferers are often looked upon as "freaks" as in the case of teenage Theodore Finch ("Finch"), protagonist in All The Bright Places. The book describes patches of time what Finch categorises as being "Asleep" when he cannot recall what or why he has done certain things. He is constantly worried about lapsing into the "Asleep" state and tries to enjoy his "Awake" state whenever he can. His life starts taking on meaning after he gets to know Violet, a girl who is troubled by the death of her sister. He is very much an ordinary teenager and the book propels readers into Finch's feeling of helplessness, his longing for peace in death which he fantasises, his predicament of being in a family that is not supportive and his general feeling of isolation. Mental illness is a lonely disease, support groups are few and far between as sufferers seem to be incapable of helping themselves, let alone helping other fellow sufferers.

Still Alice, on the other hand, takes us into the mind of a renowned cognitive psychology professor who ironically suffers from an early onset of Alzheimers, in her late forties. As Alzheimers is a hereditary ailment, not only does she have to come to terms with her irreversible cognitive downward spiral, she is also overwhelmed with guilt that she may have passed on the dreaded gene to her children. The indiscriminate way the disease attacks everyone seems so cruel. 

Whilst Theodore accepted himself as a "freak" probably due to his young age and the early onset of the disorder in his life, Alice is frightful of losing her identity, her sense of self. We have a teenager who is absolutely confused and longed for peace in death before he has had the chance to recognise or develop a sense of self worth and awareness. We then have a highly intellectually endowed professor who is afraid of losing her knowledge, her identity of self, of losing the love of her family and being a burden to them. Which is more tragic? It's hard to tell, suffice to say that it is unfair that most people have to live with mental illness in isolation, often ostracised with very slim hope of integrating back into society.

How can we maintain our mental health?

Although there is no vaccination against dementia and other mental illnesses, research has shown that certain exercises help improve our cognitive ability. We explored that in our article Exercise and the Brain and hopefully, we will understand more about preventative measure that can be taken over time.

In addition to working on our physical bodies, we need to incorporate relaxation techniques in our daily lives to give our brain and nervous system the much needed break. Schedule appropriate breaks in our working year to spend time with family and friends to recharge our system. 

With the hectic season looming on the horizon, take a few deep breaths and remember to keep calm.

Need some advice as to what type of fitness routine best suits your needs?

We are on hand to work with you. 

Email us on for a confidential discussion.

Get the books

If you'd like to read the books in this article, please use the following links to buy them on Book Depository. This would help us to bring more interesting books and articles to you.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova >

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven >

Head down the three-way route to a balanced life

(Original Article: Mind, Body, Soul Editorial by Tony Bosworth, The Age, Sept 25, 2016)

If you think that yoga won’t give you enough of a workout, try it with cross training and a nutrition plan.

With lots of meditation, slow breathing and tricky postures, yoga requires focus. It has been proven to lower stress levels and promote mindfulness.

Yoga is popular physical activity, ahead of AFL and dance according to the Australian Sports Commission.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data puts women’s participation in the hundreds of thousands; with men’s participation - in the tens of thousands - on the rise.

Yet for many people, yoga just doesn’t raise their heart rate enough.

"Yoga is excellent because it makes you relax and gives you a peaceful mind but it doesn’t build muscle or give you a cardio workout," Christine Lau, founder of Yoga XTC in South Yarra says.

Frustrated with the limits of traditional yoga, Lau invented a discipline which combines yoga with cross training and a 24-stage online nutritional guide. Within a year she’d attracted more than 120 people who wanted to learn how to improve both body and soul.


"Yoga is excellent for developing mobility through the joints, toning muscles and calming the body and mind, but yoga alone does not build enough strength and power in our muscles, which are essential for good posture and stamina.

“We need to balance yoga with the right strength and cardio training to build lean muscles, power and agility."

Combining the disciplines allows people to see the results of their hard work much faster than if they were going to standard yoga classes alone.

"For sure yoga has its place, but now there’s a new take on yoga as one of three building blocks to a healthy life. And it doesn’t have to mean you need to take more time out of your busy life either.

"Ultimately it’s all about balance. Each of these disciplines – yoga, cross training and nutrition – does some good. But if you combine them – and you don’t need to spend hours every day – then you begin to see some real results for both the mind and the body.

"We know everyone is time-poor so it’s important to have structured programs which fit people’s lifestyles.

"If you have four hours a week to spare, and most people will find they do, then putting the elements of yoga, cross training and nutrition together makes sense."

One immediate lesson to adopt is to eat more slowly. It’s a small, effective, mindful change that can leave you feeling full sooner, and thus eating fewer calories. It’s never too late to change your workout habits, either.

"Many of our clients are in their 30s. People in their 50s and upwards are also interested," Lau says. "It’s not about pushing yourself to extremes, it’s about balance.