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Minimum Effective Dose: Biohacking Fitness

December 12, 2021

Pamela Palladino Gold

Minimum Effective Dose: Biohacking Fitness

There is an ever changing “Goldilocks” sweet spot between work and recovery to maximize results.  Having the capacity to easily measure your workouts for overall time under tension, max strength, max power, will help you optimize your training program, and fortunately Arena allows you to measure all three:

The ARENA App tracks the amount of weight, the number of reps, and the speed at which you lift, which means the technology knows how strong and powerful you are with each session.  The ARENA dynamic intensity and Work scores make it easy to track your daily, weekly, and monthly metrics.  Are your trends heading in the right direction?  The answer to that question will ultimately depend on your recovery!

Tracking recovery metrics like those offered by trackers such as Oura ring, BioStrap and Whoop to name a few, will help you hack your way to your perfect Minimum Effective Dose workout over time.  HRV, Heart Rate Variability, along with your resting heart rate and at what point in your sleep you hit it, are the best two recovery metrics we have available to track.

Sleep is one piece of the recovery puzzle, and nutrition is another.  We need to make sure we are optimizing our diet if we want to optimize our training program.  Getting enough high quality protein and the essential nutrients that our bodies need to repair and rejuvenate is key to our gains.

To speed up the process, Arena offers The Lift,  a workout that changes everyday. The Lift is a combination of cardio and strength training to build muscle and stamina. This challenging and dynamic workout will make it easy for you to do a HIIT workout -- what most people will ultimately find to be the most efficient way of training. Not every day of the Lift is HIIT though, some days focus on strength and Sunday is a full recovery day -- a pretty solid balance to get started.

In Body by Science by bodybuilder John Little and fitness medicine expert Dr. Doug McGuff, a program is presented to build maximum muscle in just 12 minutes a week of exercise backed by extensive research. This super slow, super heavy, increasing the weight and slowing down on the eccentric (lowering/lengthening) phase of movement absolutely works if your nervous system can handle maintaining a high level of intensity with stability. This refers to stability in the joint movements and stability in the breath.   Maintaining proper form and stabilizing the joints through the full range of motion, is of paramount importance to do this safely and effectively. At a minimum, carefully follow a video such as on the Arena app for proper movement and muscle engagement and use a mirror for the visual feedback in your body mechanics, slowly working up to super heavy to ensure safety!

For cardio, current recommendations are that adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both. Ideally, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.  However, research has shown that this may not actually be necessary.

A study done in 2019 by ACE (American Council on Exercise) looked at the efficacy of using the CAR.O.L bike, a bike that uses Artificial Intelligence to apply the optimal resistance to deplete the glycogen stored in your muscles and get your heart rate into its target zone in a very short amount of time -- two 20 second sprints, to be exact. Research showed three of these CAROL rides a week, totaling 60 seconds of maximum effort over less than 30mins of active time on the bike, significantly outperformed 5 days of 30 min medium intensity cardiovascular work.

It may sound impossible that we could have maximum gains with as little as 40minutes of work a week, but with the measurements we now have available to us through Arena and our fitness trackers, the data won’t lie!  Just don’t forget to prioritize your recovery even more than you are prioritizing your workouts.  Sleep, nutrition and stress management will all be critical to execute to get these results in such minimal time.

Most people ask at some point, what about burning calories?  There’s no way you can tell me that I am going to burn as many calories doing a 20 second sprint twice, for example, compared to a 45 minute workout!  And of course, there is no way that you will. Here’s the thing: we need to realize that we are not working out to burn calories.  We are working out to maximize our physical systems.  Working out more than necessary puts overdue stress on our systems, including our hormone system that adds cortisol which makes it harder for us to lose fat.

Look to the kitchen for managing our calories, not the gym.

Hacking our nutrition can involve checking our essential mineral levels, deciding whether ketosis, a diet that limits carbs, is right for us (check with your doctor!), and making sure we are getting enough high quality protein.  It also involves making sure that we are managing our stress and getting good sleep, making sure we aren’t eating too close to bedtime and tracking the impact that alcohol has on our sleep.  All of this is supported by using a tracker that shows us the quality of our sleep on a daily basis.  At the end of the day, if we want to hack our physical fitness and get the benefits of a minimum effective dose training program, we cannot neglect our mental fitness, nutritional fitness, sleep fitness or our communal fitness, what I call how connected we are to sources of support, joy, inspiration and love.

It is all connected.  And very doable!

– Pamela Palladino Gold, Founder of PRTL, NYC's first bio-hacking fitness studio.
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