T Nation

Burning Fat vs. Losing Weight


#1

Hey all,

I'm trying to burn fat, but I'm paranoid about losing strength. I've come a long way in that regard, and it's very important to me. That said, I always add some kind of weighted carry after my workouts, and if I'm pulling I'll also do some KB swings. I utilize a modified layer system for five lifts, and with CTs advice I've made it so I can do this type of work indefinitely. The focus is strength, though I have noticed hypertrophy gains.

My main question is whether traditional cardio days would be beneficial or not. I don't want to keep adding things to do in the gym, as I don't want to burn out or stall progress. What I've been doing so far has been great for strength and even hypertrophy, so it's a question of how much more work I can get away with.

And inb4 the diet comments, I am confident that I can tweak things where necessary. My main question is whether added cardio will be detrimental to the strength gains I've made. Thank you; let me know if I need to add more info.


#2

How much fat are you trying to lose? Trying to get from 20% down to 15% is different than 15 down to 10. Chances are a little cardio here and there won’t hurt you and might aid in recovery.


#3

I’m probably closer to 25% (I know, I know, it’s bad). I was thinking of adding cardio on certain rest days for a total of 2-3 times a week, for now. When I say cardio I’m thinking:

Interval on elliptical (2 mins high intensity, 2 min cool down) x 3 and then KB swings for a total of 100 swings. Then rinse and repeat a couple times or so. I wonder if I should only start with the interval on elliptical? When I consider the KB swings after certain workouts, I don’t want to add too much swinging in the span of a week. Unless I ahould, given the fat I need to lose…


#4

What kind of lifts are you putting up? Reason I ask is that, at least for me, when I hit certain strength markers relative to my bodyweight I’ve found cardio to have more substantial effects on progress than when I was not as far along.

Your plan looks reasonable. Another thing to consider is just going for a walk when you wake up every morning–low intensity walking, at an incline if you want.

Edit: just to mention that at least to me, the theory behind increased fat mobilization from LISS upon waking (and fasted) just seems to make a lot of sense. Opinions differ, however.


#5

For my lifts:

Deadlift: 405
Front squat: 260
Push press: 210
Bench: 240
High Pull: 205

Not the most impressive, but I’ve come a hell of a long way. I used to fear benching and never did it, and I’ve gotten a lot better. Testing new maxes next week (been 12 weeks of working within certain percentages of my 1RMs).

As for morning walks, I don’t think I’d be able to manage getting up earlier to do so before work, but thank you for the advice.


#6

The elliptical isn’t going to affect your lifting, but the KB swings may.

I found that 20 minutes on the elliptical (stationary bike in my case) followed by 10 mins of intervals was the sweet spot. Structure the intervals however you’d like (eg: 1 on/1off, 20 seconds on/40 seconds off, etc.)

No discernible negative impact on my lifting at all.


#7

[quote]MikeMezz wrote:
As for morning walks, I don’t think I’d be able to manage getting up earlier to do so before work, but thank you for the advice. [/quote]

How about before (part of warm-up) and after lifting (Part of cool down)?


#8

also worth mentioning two things:

  1. You didn’t exactly specify your longer term goals. Is it just to get strong? There’s at least apparently some aesthetic component to it.

  2. Many powerlifters swear by things like sled dragging as the optimal form of non-lifting activity. I’d say bodybuilders seem to be split between intervals (as you suggest) and incline walking.

Also note that in your plan, 2 minutes “high intensity” is longer than is probably possible: I think many do something more like 45 seconds - 1 minute hard then 3 minutes off for ~5 rounds.


#9

My long term goal is to get Stronger, yes, but I don’t like my midsection and need to lean out. That much is aesthetic. And I agree with you on the intervals–I wasn’t thinking when I was stating a number. I’d do 1 min on followed by 1-2 off and repeat several times. I like 5 rounds, as you said.


#10

I had success with this basic approach: http://www.T-Nation.com/training/ultimate-cardio-solution-disclosed

While not exactly what was in the article, this is what I did:

  • caffeine pills on waking
  • daily 20 minute incline walks, keeping the heart rate in the 120-130 range (adjust incline and speed as necessary)
  • a zero-carb peptide/amino drink during the walks

Doing that, with a calorie deficit, and weight training the same way as before, I still got stronger. Psychologically, using a final AMRAP set with each major exercise helped, since it let me set some volume PRs pretty regularly. YMMV, but that was my experience.

I was also probably in the mid to low teens in bf%, so this may not work as well where you are.


#11

[quote]Dr. Pangloss wrote:
The elliptical isn’t going to affect your lifting, but the KB swings may.
[/quote]

So it’s not possible to see any benefit to KB swings in terms of deads and high pulls? Or do you mean that it’s just more stuff to throw in on a caloric deficit? I assume the latter. . .

But I’ll definitely be adding in some interval training twice a week to start, and then I can always add more days after seeing how everything goes. I don’t want to overdue it and lose strength (it’s a real fear of mine).

Thanks for all the suggestions and advice, everyone.


#12

I’m saying KB swings will contribute to accumulated fatigue in a way that intervals on the elliptical won’t.

edit: by “affect your lifting…” I meant in a negative way. You may find KB swings to be too much in which case the elliptical might be a better option for cardio. Obviously, if you’re programming KB swings for strength, then that’s a different issue.


#13

Okay, thanks.


#14

[quote]Dr. Pangloss wrote:
I’m saying KB swings will contribute to accumulated fatigue in a way that intervals on the elliptical won’t.

edit: by “affect your lifting…” I meant in a negative way. You may find KB swings to be too much in which case the elliptical might be a better option for cardio. Obviously, if you’re programming KB swings for strength, then that’s a different issue.
[/quote]
I am inclined to disagree with you here. I personally found HIIT more taxing than KB swings, perhaps because I am a larger guy (220 lbs).


#15

You’re fat enough at the moment that I think you should do no cardio and get as lean as you can without it. Keep it in your arsenal for when you stall later on. Let’s say you stall out now at 15% body fat and you’re already doing intervals 4x/week? Now what?


#16

[quote]juverulez wrote:
I am inclined to disagree with you here. I personally found HIIT more taxing than KB swings, perhaps because I am a larger guy (220 lbs).

[/quote]

That’s an interesting viewpoint.

I was only referring to the elliptical as that is what the OP said he does. Are you referring to all HIIT or elliptical only?


#17

IMO you don’t need any cardio at that body fat percentage. A simple, non-drastic calorie reduction will see you shed significant pounds. That said, if you want to add a conditioning element to your all round game, have decent recovery ability, and/or don’t want to compromise on your current diet, adding some form of sled/prowler work is a game changer. Doing this for just a few minutes post-workout is a good place to start.


#18

Thanks for the further suggestions everybody. I’m currently focusing on nutrition and diet, and while I decided not to add specific cardio days, I have been doing 7-9 mins of interval work at the tail end of my strength sessions (as suggested in several recent articles).

I’ve been carefully timing my carbs around the workout, and then restricting at other times, and I know that sticking to this will help me see some good results. I think the small conditioning components after my strength workouts will be enough for now to see results.

Let me know what you all think, until then I’ll be continuing with this plan.

EDIT: bike sprints is the specific interval training I’m doing at the tail end of a workout. As suggested by a recent article, 30 seconds all out followed by 60 seconds slow pedal. Not very different from what a couple of posters had already suggested.