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Aerobic vs Anaerobic: What's All the Controversy About?

Nov 27, 2007
There seems to be a great deal of debate as to which type of metabolic training is the best... Aerobic vs Anaerobic.

Ok, what is metabolic training?

What is all this aerobic vs anaerobic talk?

Metabolic training is conditioning exercises performed with the intention of increasing the capacity and efficiency of the energy pathways to store and deliver energy for activity.

Most people commonly refer to this as... cardio.

There are three energy pathways used to provide energy for activity... one aerobic and two anaerobic.

Which of these energy pathways you should train is the source of much controversy... Thus the Aerobic vs Anaerobic dilemma.

Aerobic Activity

Aerobic means in the presence of oxygen... and any activity that is performed at a low to moderate intensity for more than 90 seconds, allowing oxygen to release energy through metabolism, is usually called an aerobic activity.

The benefits of aerobic activity are...

Increased Cardiovascular Function
Decrease in Body Fat

The negatives of aerobic activity are...

Decreased Muscle Mass
Decreased Strength
Decreased Power
Decreased Speed
Decreased Anaerobic Capacity

Most people in favor of aerobics in the Aerobic vs Anaerobic Controversy rely heavily on the ability of aerobic activity to reduce body fat... but fail to mention that you are also losing muscle, strength, power, speed and anaerobic capacity along with fat reduction.

And here is the really shocking news... Low Intensity Exercise = Greater Fat Loss is a myth!

OK... let me clarify.

Low Intensity Exercise burns about 50% fat for fuel while High Intensity Exercise burns about 40% fat for fuel... so you could say that Low Intensity Exercise burns more fat for fuel than High Intensity Exercise.

But, let's say you burn 100 calories in 20 minutes of Low Intensity Exercise (50 fat calories), and you burn 160 calories in 10 minutes of High Intensity Exercise (64 fat calories)... you still burn more over-all fat with high intensity exercise than with low intensity exercise.

There is also another advantage of High Intensity Exercise... it increases your metabolism long after the exercise is completed.

More fat burned in less time and an increased metabolism for hours after the workout... sounds pretty good to me.

Anaerobic Activity

Anaerobic means in the absence of oxygen... and any activity that is performed at a medium to high intensity for less than 2 minutes, where energy is derived without oxygen, is usually called an anaerobic activity.

There are two anaerobic energy pathways...

The Anaerobic System (ATP-CP) is where energy is derived from the re-synthesis of Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP) from Creatine/Phosphate (CP) until the stores are depleted... about 5-7 seconds.

The Anaerobic Lactate System (Glycolytic) happens after the (CP) stores have been depleted where the body resorts to the breakdown of glucose for energy.

This results in the production of lactate and hydrogen ions... ultimately leading to fatigue.

The benefits of anaerobic activity are...

Increased Cardiovascular Function
Decrease in Body Fat
Increased Muscle Mass
Improved Strength
Improved Power
Improved Speed
Increased Aerobic Capacity

The negatives of anaerobic activity are...

Anaerobic activity requires an aerobic foundation

When I look at the differences between the benefits of Aerobic and Anaerobic metabolic training I often wonder why there is a Aerobic vs Anaerobic Controversy... the choice seems obvious.

What's all the aerobic vs anaerobic controversy about?

I think the Aerobic vs Anaerobic Controversy comes about due to an improper understanding of fitness and the use of a bad fitness definition.

Physical fitness is a compromise of cardiorespiratory endurance, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, accuracy and toughness .

To pursue fitness excellence you must physically train to "optimize" your performance in all of the physical abilities... and not "maximize" your performance in one ability at the expense of all others.

For people that do not understand that fitness is a compromise, the idea that more, longer aerobic training is indicative of a higher level of fitness is predominate.

However, what they fail to realize is that by focusing on extended aerobic training they are doing little or nothing to improve the other physical abilities needed for fitness excellence... and are actually decreasing their over-all fitness level.

And no, mixing extended aerobic training with body building "isolation" exercises is not the answer.

So what is the answer?

Simple... train ALL of the energy pathways by varying low intensity, long duration - medium intensity, medium duration and - high intensity, short duration metabolic training.

End the Aerobic vs Anaerobic Controversy by making a compromise between the two.

Let's be honest... unless you are training to be an endurance athlete, there is no need to train like one.

The truth is, most activities encountered in sport, work and life are a combination of all the energy pathways seamlessly flowing from one to another.

Instead of aerobic vs anaerobic it should be aerobic and anaerobic!

To exclude the training of any one energy pathway will greatly diminish the performance improvements from your metabolic training.

My advice... Put an end to the Aerobic vs Anaerobic Controversy!

Add high intensity, short duration metabolic training to your fitness workout plan and vary the intensities by changing methods of training and periodically switching from high intensity, short duration to medium intensity, medium duration and low intensity, long duration.
About the Author
Coach Lomax is a strength, conditioning and fitness coach dedicated to building better humans for sport, work and life. Learn more at Optimum Physical Training or take his FREE Tabata Calisthenics Workout Mini Course.
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