Using Science to tackle Weight loss

Using Science to tackle Weight loss

It’s a common enough complaint; someone joins the gym and at first through diligent attendance and hard graft, weight loss is achieved and the person is delighted. Then, some time later, despite regular gym work and participation in classes, the weight loss stalls or even begins to creep up again.

Why is this? Well, perhaps the person is not only doing the wrong kind of exercise but perhaps they are doing too much of it?

Strange as that may sound, the premise behind this ‘too much of the wrong kind’ of exercise is taken from the scientific approach to professional athletes.

Mission Possible from the Peak Centre in Sandyford applies the science of sport to mere mortals. Peak integrates scientific fitness testing to individualize exercise prescription with periodic reviews. While that sounds quite a mouthful, account executive with a major Dublin design company Orla Brandon was interested enough to find out more.

“I am a regular gym member and would have lost about a stone in the beginning. Then recently I found the weight started to creep up again and despite attending spinning classes I seemed unable to shift the newfound weight,” says Orla. “I then heard an interesting interview on the radio with some body from Peak about the drawbacks of exercising too hard, especially where weight loss is concerned. I had heard this concept mentioned by people in my gym, but this made me want to go and try it out.”

“Mission Possible is a very straightforward programme for people of all walks of life,” says Emma Cutts, Exercise Physiologist of Peak Centre Ireland. “It can be done at home or at the health club and fitted around peoples current schedules taking less than an hour a day of moderate exercise for up to 5 days a week. By the end of the year your body will be burning more fat, your muscle to fat ratio will have risen sharply, your Slow Twitch muscle fibres will become more efficient at burning fat, and your weight will have declined significantly,” she claims.

For journalist Campbell Spray, it was more than a few pounds that troubled him. He moved to Ireland some 26 years ago and as he approached his mid 55s he acknowledged himself to be a large man weighing in at 101kgs. A full medical conducted by The Well in Beacon Court at the end of 2003 confirmed his health was ‘roughly’ good but he was put on a diet and exercise regime that never really kicked in. Fast forward to the end of 2004 when he was called in for a repeat medical and he knew that something had to be done.

In combination with The Well’s Weight Management Programme Campbell attended the Peak centre. Campbell believes that the exercise and diet regime would not have made sense without his attendance at the Peak Centre. While the process was uncomfortable to say the least, it was according to Campbell “probably the most useful thing that I have ever done.”

Five months later and through a combination of diet, exercise and motivation provided by the Well and the Peak Centre, Campbell had lost three stone and had to replace his entire wardrobe.

Campbell admits that he was unhappy before with his weight but he had to hit rock bottom before he got the motivation to lose the weight. There are also disadvantages to being obsessed about his weight. “I am now basically an addict,” he says. “If I miss weighing myself each morning I feel seriously deprived. If I don’t do at least three gym sessions a week, I’m practically suicidal.”

Campbell is radically changed in many ways but would not go back and regrets only that he didn’t do this sooner. “Despite my appetite for the good things in life, I may just have cracked it – for the sake of my health, renewed self confidence and longevity, let’s hope I have.”

The difference that Peak brings to personal training is that its scientific methods allow the centre to determine exactly where a person’s aerobic threshold lies and set his/her exercise intensity level slightly below it. One of the most accurate methods of doing this is to measure the lactic acid level in the blood and VO2 at known exercise intensity levels. By getting an individual to work at an intensity below their aerobic threshold it ensures that they are producing minimal levels of lactate acid within their body which competes with fat as a fuel. i.e. less lactate more fat burning.

Orla was impressed by the logic and attended an assessment in their premises to have her fitness and aerobic levels checked. After fifteen minutes on the treadmill at varying intensities all the relevant data was collected ready to be used to develop Orla training programme.

“By following our specified programme and exercising at the intensity established from the initial tests, our clients find that after several months, their aerobic threshold climbs, and they have gained muscle and lost fat,” says Emma. “We then repeat the test after three months to establish where the new, higher aerobic threshold sits. Then we can design the next set of programmes to reflect this. This continuous feedback means that no one ever really plateaus in their training, they just keep on improving”

Orla is only on month one but her exercise routine is significantly reduced and consistent. “When I was doing the spinning classes, my heart beat was too high and my lactic production too great which prevented fat from being burnt,” she says. “I am very comfortable with this level of exercise and feel positive about the long term benefits and sustainability.”