Q: I’m trying to get shredded like you and compete in an NPC masters 50-and-over-bodybuilding contest. My trainer suggested that I take hot yoga classes and/or hot spin classes to help lose fat faster. Do you ever do those types of classes to get ripped?
A: I have never taken hot yoga or spin classes, and I would not recommend them. I’ve had some clients who took hot yoga. I’ve always given them my opinion about it and explained that I don’t think it’s a good idea. In my opinion, if your trainer was serious about that suggestion, you should find one who understands exercise physiology.
It is my understanding that these “hot” classes generally maintain their rooms at 95 to 105 degrees. They claim that the heat makes your muscles more flexible and supple—and that you burn more fat.
First, the temperature doesn’t have to be hot in order for your muscles to be more flexible. Muscles are initially less flexible in cold temperatures, but exercise increases body temperature and flexibility even in cool environments. Room temperature is generally 72 to 74 degrees, a point at which most people feel neither hot nor cold. A room heated to 77 to 80 degrees would feel warm and would certainly be warm enough for your muscles to feel more flexible. After 10 minutes of exercising at 77 to 80 degrees, you will start to feel hot, so a 100 degree room is completely unnecessary.
Concerning the claim that you will burn more fat by exercising in the heat, some so-called fitness experts have taken scientific data out of context in order to market their hot classes. They are using data that showed more fat being used for energy when subjects exercised at warmer temperatures; however, one article I read quoted a study in which the (slightly) greater fat use at the higher temperature came from comparing exercise in temperatures of 14, 32, 50 and 68 degrees. That’s a long damn way from hot!
Those same “experts” claim that you burn more calories in the heat because your heart has to work harder to pump blood to your skin to cool your body. What they fail to mention is that up to 48 percent of your blood volume is shunted to the skin for cooling in hot environments. You have a finite amount of blood. If 48 percent is going to your skin, there is a great deal less going to working muscles, and so performance drops dramatically. When performance drops, you are doing less work and burning fewer calories. In turn, you end up burning less fat.
Some people will say, “I need to exercise in the heat so I can sweat more.” Keep in mind that sweating doesn’t mean that fat is leaving your body. It’s just your body trying to dissipate heat. In low humidity it will appear that you are sweating less because the sweat is evaporating and cooling your skin. In high humidity—which you will get in a hot class—the air is already saturated with moisture, less sweat evaporates from your skin, and your body isn’t able to cool. When you get too hot, your physical performance—i.e., your power output or strength—drops, and you burn fewer calories and, ultimately, less fat.
Another consideration with exercising in heated conditions is dehydration. Loss of a mere 1 percent of your bodyweight to dehydration elicits a drop in physical performance. By now you know what that means—fewer calories and less fat burned.
Plus, let’s not forget that exercising in extremely hot conditions is dangerous. In 1999 comedian Martin Lawrence (one of my favorites), fell into a three-day coma from heat exhaustion while jogging in a sauna suit in 100 degree weather. By the way, those sauna suits don’t make you lose fat faster either.
I’m sure that some people who know me will read this and say, “Dave, you do the Shredder Walk in 100 degree heat down there in Texas.” That is true—but only because walking on a treadmill bores the crap out of me! I can tell you this, though, on days when it’s 80 to 85 degrees I can do the four-mile walk including 16 flights of parking garage stairs and 11 stories of stadium ramps 10 to 15 minutes faster than I can on days when it’s more than 100 degrees outside.
If you want to take a yoga class or a spin class, you will be able to work harder and burn more fat if you are in a room with a moderate temperature. So don’t fall for the fads. Just train hard and eat clean—and refer back to my previous columns for recommendations on cardiovascular exercise for getting shredded.
Editor’s note: See Dave Goodin’s blog at www.IronManMagazine.com. Click on Blogs in the top menu bar. Check out his new Web site at Shredderbuilt.com. To contact Dave directly, send e-mail to [email protected]. IM