Does Orangetheory Have You Seeing Red?
Does Orangetheory Have You Seeing Red? avatar

Three scientific reasons you might not be getting results if you are prone to stress!

by Brian Koning, ACE-CPT, Pn1 Nutrition Professional

Not all fitness programs meet the needs of every individual’s goals. Not even mine.

Before I jump into this assessment of another fitness program called Orangetheory Fitness, I want to be perfectly clear that I believe there is a shortage of fitness programs available to meet the needs of the general population. With only about 21% of the adult population engaged in any sort of exercise, that leaves 79% of us needing to get off of our butts and moving.

My program, FitNow Boot Camp, does not meet the needs or wants of some people. It’s not designed for body builders. It’s not sports-specific or geared towards athletic performance. And, it probably wouldn’t benefit someone who is interested in specifically training for a triathlon – although its a good supplemental program.  I developed it to be a general fitness and weight loss/management program.

CrossFit is another example of a fitness program that has its own niche. It caters to people who are relatively fit, competitive and are highly driven to challenge themselves. It is ideal for people who range in age from 18-35. In my honest opinion (and general industry consensus), it HIGHLY DISCOURAGED for beginners or people over the age of forty.

My purpose in writing this blog post is to address specific questions that I, as a fitness professional and fitness business owner, have been fielding from current and past clients as well as friends and acquaintances about a fairly new fitness business in Carmel called Orangetheory Fitness.

I have no affiliation with Orangetheory and have not participated in one of their workouts. Therefore, I can neither endorse nor denounce their program. I can only offer feedback as a fitness professional about what I understand about their fitness programming and why some individuals may struggle to reach and maintain their fitness and weight loss goals.

Orange_theory_workoutOrangetheory Fitness is a franchise fitness business with more than 200 open studios in 28 states, and more than 600 franchise licenses awarded in and outside of the United States. They primarily set up shop in strip malls and offers 60-minute high intensity interval training workouts.

During the workouts, participants wear heart rate monitors and can see their current heart rate and activity level on a large screen while they run on treadmills, row on rowing machines and engage in some boot camp-style resistance training exercises. All this is in an effort to get their heart rate into the “orange” zone and burn 500-1,000 calories per workout. This is from their website…

“The Orangetheory Fitness training session is comprised of three components: treadmill interval training blocks, indoor rowing and weight room or resistance training blocks. These Orange 60 sessions are open to all adults and teens, ages 16 and older. All fitness levels are welcome as our program is specifically designed for everyone from power walkers to elite performance athletes.

As you plan to participate in your first Orange 60 workout, please arrive 30 minutes prior to the start time so we can educate and prepare you for the most efficient, science-based workout you will ever experience. Call your nearest studio to book your first complimentary workout.

If weight loss is your goal, you can expect to see an estimated loss of three to five pounds per week by attending three to five sessions per week and with proper nutritional planning.

If performance is your goal, you can expect to see an increase in power, speed and strength after your first two weeks of attending two to four sessions per week.

Our clients burn an estimated 500 to 1000 calories per workout. We are 5 zone heart-rate interval training.”

Sounds awesome, right?

It is if you are relatively fit, find it easy to lose weight and aren’t prone to high stress.

Right off the bat, I want to address their claim that “you can expect to see an estimated loss of three to five pounds per week.”

That is simply not a “typical”, “safe”, or “realistic” goal. Exercise, alone, cannot cause weight loss and actually only accounts for about 15-20% of the equation. The rest is dependent on your nutrition, sleep, genetics, and other factors. And, while the age-old rule is that you have to have a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories (it’s more like 7,000 calories), to lose ONE pound, you’d have to exercise several hours a day, even with EPOC (afterburn) to lose 3-5 lbs per week. There’s no mention on their website, that I can find, of “nutrition” and its critical importance to weight loss.

Also, there is no “disclaimer” on their website saying anything to the effect of “Results are not typical”.

Now, let’s look at the workout.

You see, some fitness programs are not necessarily designed specifically for weight loss. While they might advertise a high calorie burn and tout the benefits of EPOC or “afterburn”, they fail to take into consideration the stress that some types of workouts can put on the body and the consequences that the release of stress hormones have on weight loss for many individuals.

When our bodies are under stress, we release a stress hormone called cortisol. In short, cortisol can trigger overeating and, in some cases, block fat loss as the body goes into “fight or flight” mode and holds onto fat for future energy. This can even result in weight GAIN even though an individual perceives they are working out hard and eating healthy.

So, how can a fitness program stress somebody out if exercise is supposed to be good for us?

It’s pretty easy. Here are three ways that I see a workout like this triggering a stress response.

#1: Adaptation Stress

First, research shows that when we first start a new fitness program after a period of inactivity, we become stressed. Not only does the thought of exercising and being uncomfortable cause stress, but our body is under attack physically. Muscles are stressed, our hearts are stressed, are lungs are stressed, and other bodily systems can become stressed as we try to adapt to exercise. This can go on for weeks or even a couple of months until our body starts to adapt to the rigors of exercise. Even in my program, clients may not see any change until five, six, seven, or even more weeks into the program. Everyone is different.

#2: Time Stress

Another issue is the length of a workout. When we go much beyond 30-45 minutes of high intensity exercise, our body becomes stressed. We use up our entire glycogen stores (from carbohydrates) and now our body must convert proteins and fat into energy to get through the remainder of the workout. Again, cortisol is released and fat loss can slow down or stop as our body holds onto fat for energy. Our body then breaks down protein (muscle) for energy – albeit not at a very high rate.  But, that last 15 or 20 minutes of a 60-minute workout can really mess with our weight loss efforts.

Also, they tout their “5-zone heart rate interval training”. While that may sound all technical and scientific, three of those zones are not considered “fat burning” zones, so they are useless when it comes to effective fat burning. If I want to lose weight, I’m going to primarily hang out in zones 1 & 2 where 85% of the calories I burn are from fat and I’ll flirt with zone 3, where 50% of the calories I burn are from fat. Zones 4 anD 5 only take about 15% and 10% of their calories from fat, respectively. (At FitNow, we spend most of our time between the 50-85% fat burning zones, which equals… RESULTS!)

For an explanation of the 5 Heart Rate Training Zones, CLICK HERE!

#3: Competition Stress

And finally, the other cortisol-inducing stress factor is “competition.” By focusing on the competition of trying to get your body to reach a certain “zone” or “level” and not being able to reach or maintain that goal during the actual workout, we can become stressed out. Granted, some people just aren’t competitive and handle it much better. But, I am a highly competitive person and always push myself to reach time and intensity goals or even compete with others in my group fitness classes. When we can’t physically achieve our goals, we often become stressed. And… that releases stress hormones!

So, why am I dogging on Orangetheory?

I’m not. Again, I’m just providing feedback as to why some folks may not be getting the results they need. And, this is a relatively new fitness program that has recently appeared on the fitness landscape in the Carmel, Indiana area.  Whenever this happens, clients and friends always ask me what know about it and what my opinion is.

And, like I stated earlier, my FitNow program cannot meet the needs of certain individuals looking to achieve certain fitness goals. No program is a one-size-fits-all solution.

But, when I start hearing from people that they are engaged in a program and aren’t getting results or are even gaining weight, I feel compelled to chime in and provide some feedback as to why this might be happening.

And because I get to know my clients well and have seen those past clients experience some level of success in my program and then fail at a new program, I get concerned. These are people who constantly battle their weight, struggle with nutrition, and are prone to stress.

At FitNow, our clients complete HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts. But, we continue to apply what we learn about exercise science and weight loss.

I made the decision  a couple of years ago to cut our workouts back from 60 minutes to 30 minutes and increase the intensity based on what industry research was telling us. We delicately balance on the edge of stress and never pass that 45-minute threshold where the body retreats and stress hormones are released.

You’ll still burn hundreds of calories, get that same critical “after burn” effect which revs up your metabolism and allows you to burn more calories at rest, and you’ll experience gains in strength, power and cardiovascular endurance.

And, we do incorporate nutrition into our program. We provide valuable information through our classes, website, social media, and weekly newsletter. We fully understand that nutrition is the key factor when it comes to weight loss and make no claims or promises when it comes to actual weight loss numbers as we know every individual is different.

If you have been involved in our FitNow program in the past or are just struggling to hit and/or maintain your weight loss goals, I invite you to contact me about how our program can get you back on track to getting the results you want.

To Your Health!

Brian Koning, Owner & Trainer

Brian Koning, Owner & Trainer

Brian Koning is an ACE-certified personal trainer, Precision Nutrition-certified Sport & Fitness Nutrition Professional, and IYCA-certified Youth Fitness & Nutrition Specialist. He owns and operates FitNow Boot Camp located in Westfield, IN and Fishers, IN and is the creator of the First Step Fitness Program, a boot camp program for beginners and people who struggle with exercise.

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