The Endurance Athlete: Lose Fat, Save Time & Improve Performance
It is in endurance athletes that we see the profound value of interval training. If your goal is endurance, but you still want to look jacked and be fast and strong, sprinting is your savior. And of course, you’ll save training time that can be devoted to other thrilling pursuits.
A recent study had endurance runners in their 40s do either a 4-day-a week interval program or an endurance program for 4 months. The interval protocol varied: Day 1 and 3 were ten 30-second all-out sprints with 90 seconds active rest; Day 2 was 6 intervals of 2 minutes at maximal speed followed by 90 seconds active rest; Day 4 was 30 minutes of tempo running at lactate threshold. The endurance protocol consisted of running at 75 to 85 percent of the lactate threshold for 45 to 75 minutes.
Results showed the following greater body composition improvements in the interval group:
• The interval group lost 2 kg of body fat and 16 percent belly fat. They also improved running speed at the lactate threshold by 20.5 percent, and increased aerobic capacity by 18.6 percent.
• The endurance group lost 1 kg of body fat and no belly fat. They improved speed at the lactate threshold by only 12.9 percent, and improved aerobic capacity by 7 percent.
• Both groups lost a small amount of lean muscle—the sprint group lost 1 kg, whereas the endurance group lost 1.5 kg—reinforcing the need for strength training to maintain muscle.
The interval workout was so much more effective because it produced a greater lactate response, which correlates with an elevation in fat-burning hormones. This combined with an increase in the amount of energy burned in the 24-hour recovery period (called EPOC) led to greater fat loss. Leaner is always better when it comes to endurance performance, particularly when muscle is spared since it means you will have greater relative strength.