If you’ve been struggling to lose weight, or have always had to battle trying to maintain a healthy weight, you may not look forward to the holidays as much as those who have no bodyweight challenges. Feasting on Thanksgiving spreads, along with the plentiful leftovers available for several days to follow, may cause rapid fat gain that doesn’t come off so easily. Rather than compromising, you can eat well and maintain your shape during the holidays with a glycogen-depleting workout.
Before getting into the why and how of this workout, let’s talk turkey! Turkey is not what is making us fat during the holidays. Along with turkey, which is often filled with stuffing, a Thanksgiving feast often includes mashed potatoes, casseroles, rolls, fruit cake, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie – and perhaps a few cookies and candy treats to snack on during the football game. These high-carbohydrate foods cause the pancreas to secrete insulin, a hormone that enables your body to use sugar. The big rise and drop in blood sugar is what is primarily responsible for causing drowsiness after a big meal. Now let’s address the issue of fat gain.
The body converts carbs into glucose. Glucose is converted into glycogen, which is a stored form of fuel for the body. When you exercise, the body depletes glycogen. When your glycogen stores are topped off, the excess glucose will be turned into fat. Therefore, one trick to helping prevent excess fat gain during the holidays is to increase your body’s requirement for carbs. You do this by performing a workout that depletes your glycogen stores so that less glucose is converted into fat.
A study on the effects of glycogen-depletion exercise was published in the October 24, 2016 issue of the Brazilian Journal of Biological Research. The authors concluded that the key to creating the highest energy expenditure was to take a workout to exhaustion. Because glycogen depletion would be highest immediately after a workout, it would be best to perform such a workout as close to your big holiday meal as possible.
Another advantage of a glycogen-depleting workout is that it increases your post-exercise oxygen consumption, such that you burn more calories after the workout. Of course, a glycogen-depletion workout will not prevent fat gain if too many calories are consumed, but it definitely has some advantages over a conventional weight training workout. One type of workout that would deplete glycogen stores significantly is the Gironda 8x8 System.
Vince Gironda was a bodybuilding coach who garnered a reputation as being a “Trainer to the Stars” because of his work with Hollywood celebrities, including Clint Eastwood, Cher, Denzel Washington, Kurt Russell, Burt Reynolds, Carl Weathers, Michael Landon, James Garner and Erik Estrada. Gironda’s gym, which was located on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, attracted many of the top bodybuilders of the ’60s and ’70s, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno. One of Gironda’s most popular workouts was the 8x8 system, which he liked to call “the honest workout.”
With the 8x8 system, you select one exercise per body part and perform 8 sets of 8 reps, for a total of 64 reps. The rest intervals are one minute for legs, back, and chest; 30 seconds for other body parts. This is different from German Volume Training, which allows for more rest time between sets so that more weight can be used. Because the rest time is so short in the 8x8 system, you may have to start with about 40 percent of your 1-repetition maximum for each lift, especially if you are new to this type of training. Although you are performing a lot of reps, the shorter rest intervals enable you to finish a workout in about an hour.
The exercises for an 8x8 program are divided into a split system, such as the following: Monday and Thursday: Chest, Back, Shoulders; Tuesday and Friday: Biceps, Triceps, Forearms; and Wednesday and Saturday: Legs, Calves. However, for your pre-feasting workout you could select a few basic exercises to work the largest muscles for more of a total body workout. For example, squat, pulldown (or chin-ups), bench press, seated cable row. That’s 256 reps in about an hour – a level of volume that is certain to have your body craving for some carbs!
If you want to indulge in a holiday feast without compromising your waistline, a glycogen-depleting workout before you celebrate is the obvious choice.