Tracy Anderson on Burning Fat
We asked our go-to trainer to answer some of our burning questions about getting the most out of our workouts—and what causes fat to linger.
We heard that to burn fat, it’s good to do cardio on an empty stomach so that your body immediately targets fat cells when you start exercising. Is there any truth to this?
Those who aren’t high-energy exercise performers and can’t make it through at least 45 minutes of intense cardio aren’t going to make it to the point where their bodies would begin to burn fat effectively on an empty stomach. What normally happens is that they feel weak, and the workout ends up being a waste of time. That said, you should still be smart about what you put into your body before training. If you eat a bagel or spaghetti before working out, you will not burn as much fat. Substitute something like 2 scoops of protein powder with half water and half coconut water for that bagel, and you’ve got a win-win: Fat is broken down faster, and you can still go the distance to create real and lasting results.
“Those who aren’t high-energy exercise performers and can’t make it through at least 45 minutes of intense cardio aren’t going to make it to the point where their bodies would begin to burn fat effectively on an empty stomach.”
We’ve heard friends who train for marathons, (which includes short runs during the week and long ones on the weekend), say they feel like they’re actually gaining weight. What’s going on?
This is one of those frustrating situations where many elements are at play. Performing repetitive movements in fitness (such as running) creates a distinctive imbalance in the muscular structure and causes the large muscles in the legs to charge up. While running and cycling may burn calories, they do not design feminine muscles or get rid of an imbalance that may masquerade as a “problem area”—even on women who are genetically thin.
“While running and cycling may burn calories, they do not design feminine muscles or get rid of an imbalance that may masquerade as a “problem area”—even on women who are genetically thin.”
I’ve spent the past 14 years dedicated to the creation and testing of my fitness method specifically because of this problem. The whole concept of “calories in and calories out” is true and fair—but how you choose to burn those calories has a direct effect on how your muscles change. Running a marathon is a real and measurable accomplishment, but if you’re looking to lean out and lose weight, training to complete 26.2 miles isn’t going to give you the physical results you crave. After you cross that finish line, choose a program that reflects your goals.
So, if you’re saying that repetition can lead to imbalance, is it a good idea to vary our workouts? How often should we be switching up our routine and why?
Yes, it’s good to change your workout—but not your overall program.
I learned very early in my career that to combat real problem areas, there needs to be enough content (routines and movements) to keep genetic weaknesses and imbalances awake, alert, and engaged. In my method, the routines change every 10 days, and are customized to different body types and shapes. Not only does this require your brain to stay connected to your body, but it demands the participation of more of the small muscles, rather than just relying on—and charging up—the larger muscles, which can add bulk.
It seems that some people are all about kettle bells while others are diametrically opposed to heavy weight lifting. What’s your stance?
I am NOT a fan of kettle bells. Without a truly keen mind/body connection and ability to control swinging weights, you can easily injure yourself: The way that the momentum forces the muscles is a very difficult process to master. And overuse, which comes from constantly swinging in the same rotation, can lead to lasting damage. Kettle balls are also unnecessary, since you can easily get the benefits of incorporating weight and motion in a way that doesn’t add bulk or put your body at risk of injury.
“While bulkier muscle looks OK on women in their 20s and 30s, it doesn’t age well.”
I have occasionally designed programs for men that incorporate kettle bells, but I would never recommend them to women, even for women who are fans of bulkier muscle lines. While bulkier muscle looks OK on women in their 20s and 30s, it doesn’t age well. The sooner you build a long, lean, and feminine arm, the more sustainable the results will be—and with no sacrifice in strength.
What (besides your famous exercise program) are your top tips for getting rid of baby fat after pregnancy?
As many of us know too well, it’s impossible to control your body’s response to pregnancy. Beyond eating well and exercising—which are key to both your baby’s health, and your stamina on the delivery table—there’s not much you can do to manipulate your body into doing what you want.
After the baby’s born, there are a number of things that can help you reconnect with your body, such as nursing, and of course, exercise, as soon as your doctor releases you to do so. I kid you not, the goal of my post-pregnancy program is to not only get women’s bodies back to their pre-pregnancy state, but to make them look the best they’ve ever looked in their lives. It’s kind of like a blank slate.
For more on Tracy’s fitness advice for expecting and new mother’s, check out The Pregnancy Project.
Gwyneth mentioned you have a shake that’s great for getting rid of the last few pounds when you’re trying to lose weight. What goes into the shake and when/how often should we be drinking it?
I drink my Wellness Formula Shake every morning.
It has a complete amino acid profile and comes from an all-vegan protein source. I mix two scoops with grass-fed, hormone-free whole milk, fresh coconut water, and a little dark chocolate agave mix. It’s my power milkshake and gets me through my morning, my workout, and my shower. I then eat a light lunch with loads of fresh greens and an early dinner of whatever I want. I am very consistent and that routine has been a key player in my results.
Powders are a great way to add protein to your diet without all the potentially harmful effects of some protein sources. Keep in mind, protein shakes in general should be treated as a meal replacement, not a snack. If you combine two scoops of the shake with water and ice in lieu of breakfast or lunch, you will lose weight and feel great, as it provides clean energy to burn throughout the day. If you add coconut water, fruit, almond milk, et al, you’re packing calories into the drink that can quickly add up and ultimately cause weight gain.
How many avocadoes is too many avocadoes a week? Or, more simply put, how much good fat is too much fat?
‘Good fats’ absolutely merit the title, but it’s important to remember that a little goes a long way. Good doesn’t equal all-you-can-eat. That said, a few slices of avocado, along with other powerful superfoods like fresh, lycopene-rich tomato sauce, can help your body absorb antioxidants. Besides being delicious, avocados have anti-inflammatory properties, are great for eye health, help regulate homocysteine levels associated with heart disease, and lower cholesterol. Because of their calorie count, I make a meal of them! I will sprinkle an avocado with sea salt and dig right in, or if she’s in the vicinity, I’ll opt for one of Gwyneth’s avocado sandwiches. They’re so good, you won’t miss a burger! If you only eat half, enlist the rest as a face masque: Nutrient-rich avocados are loaded with essential fatty acids that are a natural and fresh wrinkle reducer.