Metabolic conditioning (metcon for short and also known as metabolic training) is a method or strategy used to maximize the body's metabolic pathways for a variety of goals i.e. improve sports performance, to boost fat burning hormones, to increase metabolism, to facilitate weight loss, and speed up fat loss.
It is more than just a way to exercise to burn more fat. It's a way to optimize your metabolic system for optimal health and is best accomplished with specific exercise and workouts as well as with all the diet, detox and stress reduction strategies covered below.
This entire site is dedicated to exercises and workouts that maximize fat loss but below is a quick list of fat burning exercises and workouts that train your body to burn fat even when you're not exercising.
Burning more calories AFTER you train is what metabolic conditioning is really all about.
It's known as the metabolic effect, or the afterburn effect also called EPOC.
What all these fun terms stand for is the complex recovery process that occurs after a workout.
Muscle repair, muscle building, hormone balancing, and most importantly increased fuel consumption (the burning of stored fat) due to both intense exercise and recovery from intense exercise all happen post workout and burn tons of fat.
If your goal is maximum fatloss be sure to focus on the 4 types of metabolic training below:
1. Dynamic Body Weight Exercises that work your entire body and that improve a variety of fitness factors including: strength, cardio, and flexibility, balance, stability, agility, etc. Good examples of this would be burpees, mountain climbers, squat thrusts, jumping jacks, jumping lunges, running in place, jump squats, plank jacks, tabletops, and similar exercises.
2. Multi-Joint Exercises that work multiple muscle groups such as squat or lunge or step up with curl to overhead press or row using any type of weight including bands, dumbbells, suspension trainer, sandbells, kettlbells, etc.
Another great example is all forms of pushups such as modified, regular, inverted, or incline with any type of leg lift or glute kickback or knee-in or some form of rotation.
3. Interval Training Cardio such as sprints, jump rope, bike, rowing, climbing, swings, stair sprints, and cardio machines too.
form of high intensity interval cardio whether performed on it's own or in
combination with bodyweight and weighted exercises is a must if you want to
condition your body to burn more fat 24/7.
4. Interval Training Cardio & Resistance Training combined boost afterburn even more. So be sure to combine #1, #2 and #3 at least 3 times a week if you want to maximize metabolic conditioning. The other 4 days you can focus on other types of training i.e. trouble zone workouts, yoga, other types of cardio, sports, functional training, active recovery, etc.
Keep in mind that your workouts don't need to be extreme or ultra hardcore ALL the time in order to maximize fatloss but they do need to feel challenging often enough so that your body is forced to burn more fat both during and after the workout. Get started with my metcon bodycon fat loss workout. It includes all 4 types of exercise listed here and can be modified into an easier or much harder workout depending on your fitness level. You can also try my metabolic conditioning fatloss circuit which is part of a longer outdoors workout.
If you've ever eaten 6 small meals per day to boost metabolism then you are already familiar with the most common metabolic conditioning diet trick. This type of eating is a great way to control appetite, control calories, and to boost metabolism but like any diet trick your body eventually adapts to this and plateaus which can be very frustrating, especially if you're eating adequate calories of all the lean body foods.
This is when more advanced metabolic conditioning diet strategies can really work to condition your body to burn even more fat. Below are 5 diets that work best.
Carb Cycling/Carb Rotation - Slightly lowering calorie intake and cycling between hi low and no carb days several times per week in order to train your body to burn more stored fat. It's simple and very effective but not easy to do for long periods of time.
Calorie Cycling - Similar to carb cycling but instead of cycling carbs you cycle calories each day in order to train your body to burn more fat. This is also known as calorie shifting or zig zag dieting and it can work if you commit to tracking calorie intake from day to day. I personally failed at this twice! I hate counting calories so it doesn't work for me.
Intermittent Fasting - Also called Eat Stop Eat, is my second favorite metcon diet trick because it's so simple! You basically eat nothing for a 24 hour period one day a week. You choose the hours and best of all you don't deal with food all day.
Some people love this strategy so much that they do it twice a week. When I'm on a roll with I.F. I like doing it every 5 days. This trick can be scary for some but works really well for those of us who can't stand food drama.
I spent 8 months consistently intermittent fasting in 2010 and part of 2011 while I was rehabbing my hip and could not workout very hard. I got down to 115 lb and 19% bodyfat which was kind of weird. I have not been that tiny since college. Unfortunately I was not filming videos the entire 8 months bcz of hip issue but I might post a pic when I write an entire article on I.F.
Nutrition Periodization - Is an eating cycle that matches your training cycle to maximize both sports performance and fuel utilization. It is a very advanced strategy that works best if you're an advanced athlete looking to train and perform as efficiently as possible. I tried a simple version of this and found it to be too involved but again it works and it can work for you if you tend to be a very regimented eater and exerciser. I'm neither of those. I like to mix things up too much and have more fun with my workouts.
Strategic Cheating - The Cheating Diet or 24/7 Diet is simply the cheat days approach except instead of just doing it once a week you do it on specific training days to train your body to burn more fat and calories on days when you're not cheating. I personally have a very hard time sticking to clean eating when I cheat strategically. Like all the other strategies it works if you do not have issues getting back to ultra clean eating after a bad cheat day. I find this impossible to do and would rather just fast one day a week but it can work for you.
All these diet strategies have been around for a very long time and they all work. It's really just a matter of experimenting and finding something that works for your lifestyle and your body. My two personal favorites are I.F. and carb cycling. The others are a bit too complicated for me or too stressful for me but this is something that you must figure out for yourself by trial and error.
Detoxing and reducing stress are the most overlooked metabolic conditioning strategies and they may not seem that important but you can't afford to ignore these especially if you have a hectic busy life and your diet is clean only 80% of the time (or less).
Consider that digestion accounts for 60-70% of metabolism and
that high stress increases fat storage hormones and can reduce or suppress fat
burning hormone production.
This means that no matter how hard you train or how well you eat your body will struggle to burn fat and the harder you exercise and the more you diet the harder it gets over time. If your diet isn't perfect all the time and you suffer from high levels of stress then do your body a favor and try some of the metabolic conditioning strategies below.
Anti-Estrogenic Diet - This is one of the best detox diets around because it promotes hormonal balance. I've been recommending this diet since 2006 because it really does work to destress and detox and boost fat burning hormones.
Sunlight and Fresh Air - Did you know that vitamin D is key to fat loss and weight loss? According to Holistic Health Expert Dr. Mercola most of us are deficient in vitamin D which explains why so many have trouble losing fat but Mercola suggests you get it from natural sources not from a bottle.
8 Hours of Sleep Per Night - If you're not getting your ZZZ's then you're short circuiting the systems that produce all those fat burning hormones your body needs to get lean. According to Holistic Health & Fitness Expert Paul Chek most of us just don't get adequate rest which can wreak havoc on fat burning hormone production especially if we are taxing our body with intense exercise so be sure to relax an hour before bed and try to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night.
Flow Yoga or Endurance Activities - Because sweating is one of the best ways to detox and get rid of toxins, any activity that makes you sweat like crazy regardless of intensity is a great choice. My two favorites are hiking and flow yoga but any activity that causes you to sweat a lot works too (tennis, rock climbing, kayaking, martial arts, dance, yard work, etc.) Remember that the skin is the largest organ and it can help you detox like crazy which means more efficient fat burning especially if you hydrate properly.
Massage or Foam Roller Work - Another unusual metabolic conditioning strategy is to release stored tension. Keep in mind that exercise is a form of physical stress and physical stress can block fat loss too so be sure to massage or foam roller or just stretch the tension out of your body after intense exercise. The hot tub or steam room is also a great option just keep it short to avoid dehydration and fatigue.Learn more about all these detox and destress strategies in these two articles: Fatloss Detox Tips and Fatloss Workout Tips