The Science Behind - Exercise

We all love exercising. The satisfaction after setting a new personal record in any major lift, the end of a long distance run or the final sprint interval leaves us happy and content. The efforts you put in leave you feeling a better person than when you first started. But have you ever wondered what goes behind the scenes when you exercise?

This does not simply involve the mental but physical processes as well. Be it the ‘pump’ effect after every workout when your muscles enlarge, or the racing heart that manages to keep up with our running pace. Our body works in wonderful ways and is capable of adapting to any physically and mentally strenuous situations. 

Cardiovascular Activities

As the name suggests, cardiovascular activities train your heart. Yes, this is a different perspective as compared to running or cycling to strengthen our legs, swimming to lose weight or doing HIIT to train for cardio without going out. Not only do these exercises show visible improvement in your looks after a certain point of time but every workout you do helps the body adapt to different levels of cardiovascular stress.

When you go for a long run, the body uses glucose for energy. This energy comes mainly from two sources - fats and carbohydrates. The body has a systematized way of using both these sources for energy during cardiovascular exercise. 

The Role of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates have been observed as the most used energy source when exercise intensity is high, however, this has limitations too. The study found that exercising at moderate intensity, which is about 62-63% of VO2Max to burn fat. VO2Max is the body’s measurement of how much oxygen can be utilized during a bout of high intensity exercise.

The Role of Fat

In order to burn fat, our body needs to learn how to oxidize fat i.e. use it. This is more likely to occur among trained people, as the body learns to oxidize fat for energy. Your lower fat oxidation level might occur due to obesity or insulin resistance. So the key is to keep training as results that come with gradual progress are also likely to last as long.

Strength training

Be it free weights, or calisthenics, strength training works one way - under progressive overload. Progressive overload is the simple, most effective way to build strength and size. When you are strength training, your muscles break down, and this can be repaired by consuming protein

Let’s Define Muscles

Muscles are made of muscle fibers called myofibrils. These tissues break down every time you lift heavy or perform advanced exercises. Doing so is essential for becoming stronger as progressive overload is necessary for looks as well as strength. When you consume protein in the form of food or shake after a workout, your body breaks down the proteins into amino acids and uses it to repair the muscles damaged. Basically when you are showing off your hard worked muscles, they are inflamed which gives them a more defined or bigger appearance.

There has been a constant debate if there really is a post workout window. Endurance athletes showed a higher insulin sensitivity after a long workout, which meant  the body was able to replenish the lost energy faster and more efficiently. Gym enthusiasts have debated the same exists after lifting, called a post workout anabolic window.

A Post-Workout Window?

Now you must be wondering what is with big words like anabolic window. Let’s break it down. Anabolism is the stage where the small molecules in your body become bigger, complex molecules. This is the opposite of a process called catabolism where the larger molecules are broken down. There are some studies that showed that there is increased protein and carbohydrate synthesis for 30 minutes after a workout, but that should not be the only factor you are looking for. 

Timing nutrition has no effect on the growth of your muscles or increased strength. Though the studies did show improvement for some, we are all built differently. Also due to the lack of scientific evidence available, it is better to train hard and eat good, simple advice that will help you get stronger than wait for 30 minutes after a workout.

In the end, our body takes care of all these processes by itself. Our bodies are a complex organism that can perform processes for our betterment without our knowledge. So even if you are a bit confused, the simple rule is to work hard and let your body take care of the rest. Just avoid overtraining, as that is a road that will lead to negative association with exercise and mental health and possibly injury.

Reference:

  1. https://www.peakendurancesport.com/endurance-training/base-endurance-training/fat-burning-using-body-fat-instead-carbohydrates-fuel/
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/anabolic-window#protein-window-theory

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