T Nation

Cardio after workout?

I’m beginning the long, arduous road to recovery after three years of neglect and a horrid car accident back in January. As such, I’m wondering what the general opinion is on running immediately after lifting? How I think it works is that while lifting your body will tend to burn off most of its glycogen stores. That’s the first source of energy your body looks for when you start doing pretty much anything, as I understand it, so with the stores down after lifting, shouldn’t the body turn to fat for energy much quicker than if you were to run cold on a non-lifting day?

Yes, it will it’s a great approach.

Liver glycogen will be repleted but not as much if you’re using pre-workout nutrition. Cardio after lifting can target fat because you’ve created a hormonal environment with increased release and use of fatty acids. I think the consensus is that cardio after lifting is a bad idea–too catabolic when you need to be anti-catabolic ASAP. However, if you’re using BCAAs and both the weight section and cardio section are short (30 minutes or less), I think light cardio then may be good for dieting and retaining muscle mass.

It works because it creates a larger total caloric expenditure. Whether you’re burning plasma fatty acids, intramuscular triglycerides, blood glucose, etc. shouldn’t be the primary focus. Although it’s nice to be predominantly burning plasma fatty acids, this should not necessarily be the focus of your cardio sessions–or else everyone would be doing low-intensity sessions!

That said, like Brian explained, the hormonal milieu following a lifting session would likely cause the body to be in a preferential fat-burning state if cardio was to be performed as an adjunct.

As far as glycogen stores being depleted being the reason behind post-workout cardio’s efficacy, I’d have to disagree. Unless you’d have to follow up a very, very glycogen-demanding lifting session with a cardio session that uses the same muscle group to take advantage of that. For example, if you just got done training arms and purposely trained to depletion–or relative depletion–you’d have to use an arm-crank ergometer to take advantage of that. Your glycogen storage in your legs would presumably be high still, so any lower body cardio would still have leg muscle glycogen to mobilize for energy. Not that that’s a bad thing. The overall energy expenditure is very important for fat loss.

All that said, I am one of the few proponents of cardio post-workout and during any stage of the game (i.e. cutting, bulking, maintaining, etc.). So, as long as your entire workout is not encompassing more than 75 minutes, I think you should be fine. That said, keep the post-workout moderate-intensity sessions to less than 20 minutes.

I think Berardi probably has the definitive take on this.

He recommends interval cardio done separately from resistance training.

All right, it’s been brought to my attention that I probably should have shared my physical stats in posting about this.

I’m 6’6", and near as I can figure, 350 pounds (my scale only goes up to 330). No idea on body fat but I’d guess at least 30%. At my previous physical prime, three years ago, I was 290 with a BF% of 15 and, believe it or not, was running half-marathons. I trained regularly for 5 years between ages 15 and 20.

A friend recently told me that I “couldn’t” get down to 250 pounds within one year. I haven’t been 250 since 6th grade (over 10 years ago) but the best way to get me to something is to say that I can’t (that’s how I started running long-distance after spending my entire life hating to run).

As I said, I’ve basically neglected my body until the car accident three months ago. I was in poor condition beforehand but I’ve watched my body deteriorate since then and have spawned a healthy loathing for it in recent weeks. My friend’s challenge only redoubled my efforts. It’s been suggested that my physiology might be significantly different from someone of a lighter weight. Whereas cardio might be catabolic to someone in the 200 pound range, I’ve found it to actually increase my squat in the past (I live in a semi-rural area with half-mile deep hills, that might explain why) and help me drop fat in a short period of time.

Taking those things into account, does that alter your thinking on elongated cardio after lifting, Timbo?

Timbo hit right on the nose!

Also, seek the wisdom of the one known as ‘Tampa Terry’.

Catabolism has to be stopped after lifting. It is going to be worse after a session of lifting that is glycogen depleteing. I would definately use BCAAs and anything else that could be potentially anti-catabolic at this time. If you can maintain that state I’d agree that cardio after lifting would burn a lot of fat. There is potential for greater uptake of nutients at that time which makes me think that cardio in this ideal (yet hard to achieve state) might actually potentiate muscle growth as well.

Sure Shot (Scattershot)…Thanks for sharing your story, and that makes somewhat of a difference.

Basically, at this point, I would simply suggest trying to create as large an energy deficit as feasible. That said, I still do not think endless hours of cardio is the route to take.

30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio after lifting is still tops. In addition, I would include another moderate-intensity session first thing in the morning in a fasted-state. Heck, this need not even be done at the gym. This one, on the other hand, can be done outdoors and can be done as a brisk walk. You can crank the duration up to 45-60 minutes, time permitting.

For someone of your proportions, Sure Shot, I surely would recommend a nutritional regime that is low-carb in nature. Even then, I would not recommend carbohydrate sources other than fibrous veggies, fruits, beans and nuts. You really need to optimize the hormonal milieu to utilize fatty acids for fuel.

Your deconditiong, for lack of a better term, did not happen overnight, so I don’t think you should expect results and top-notch conditioning overnight–which you are obviously not.

This is going to be a battle and a test of strength and will-power. We can equip you with the weapons, strategies and artillery to put up the best fight possible, but your own fate lies in your own hands, Captain.

Your physiology may be slightly different from your leaner counterparts, but this is no excuse to not give your best effort to get in the best damn shape of your life.

Set Yourself on Fire and let’s get this party started!

RS, a couple good points that I’d like to hit on, like a hottie in a bar.

Catabolism of protein stores needs to be stopped or attenuated. Catabolism of adipose tissue needs to be maximized, if possible.

Depending on your nutritional status, glycogen stores will or will not be depleted, per se. I don’t think many will train to the point of glycogen depletion, in one training session, unless he/she is on a ketogenic diet and has not carbed up.

RS, your point about nutrient uptake is critical. Glucose uptake in the muscle is facilitated by contraction of skeletal muscle, in addition to GLUT 4 and insulin action on glucose uptake. By using more muscle glycogen, you are increasing your glucose economy and increasing the amount of dietary carbohydrate that will be stored in the muscle as glycogen. You will get enhanced nutrient uptake coupled with insulin sensitivity.

Thanks for all the tips, guys. A few points of clarification.

First, I don’t expect results overnight, but I do expect them quickly considering my relative lack of activity in recent years and my 0-to-60 approach to excercise in recent weeks. 250 is my goal weight, BF% of 10 or less would be fabulous, but I expect that to take the full year. I also expect to lose the first 50 pounds before the 6 month mark (which would be October 1st).

Second, I don’t run specifically because I think it will burn more fat. I run because I like to. You don’t see many 300+ pound guys out there who can run 13.1 miles without dying. That’s the kind of thing that gets me off. Except that I aim to be a 250 pound guy who can run the full marathon, but that’s a little ways off.

Next, I’m currently on a carb-restricted diet. Because I’m getting back into the swing of things, I’m not worried about even keeping track of total kCals consumed per day (though it’s getting to be about time to do that, plus Macro-nutrient breakdown). My primary focus is to just eat clean right now. General rule is not to eat outside of the house (restaurants, especially fast food, and the like) and anything that comes in a box or a can (aside from tuna). A typical day consists of chicken, steak, eggs, tuna, a “garden salad”, oatmeal and lots of LC GROW! Ike has helped me burn into my mind that food should be little more than fuel. To that end, I faithfully gag down 2 cups of canister oatmeal each morning and give the cup of sugar the finger as I pass it by!

As for the excercise itself I’m looking to do 2-3 weeks of “re-introduction” to the weight room, and then begin Meltdown Training. Christian Thibaudeau’s article from last week has also given me some good ideas on where to go from MT.

Finally, as for the contest, I read that article a few weeks ago and felt as though I was being spoken to directly when I came across the line, “You were a fat child and now you’re a fat adult”. It didn’t piss me off so much as it made me see a fact that I want to change. As such, I don’t want to enter the contest. The leather jackets and cash would be badass, but my mind is already set on achieving this. I’d rather someone else have a shot at winning who might need that extra push. As you said, Timbo, this is a test of iron will.

BTW, I like the Sure Shot nickname.

Sure Shot, so what’s the dilemma? I say that tongue-in-cheek style, baby, because all I see is success for you with that motivation and mindset. In addition, you obviously have a good handle on things right now.

Keep busting your ass and sticking to your nutrition and exercise program. Report back to us regularly on your progress.

Let’s get it on, Sure Shot!:wink:

Basically, I just wanted to see if my theory on reduced stores of glycogen after a workout leading to greater fat burning during cardio directly afterwards was correct. I’m still unsure on the final answer but it looks like, “Maybe, but we hate cardio.” :slight_smile:

My knowledge of glycogen is very peripheral. Believe it or not, I learned of it when I was about 12 (I’ll be 23 in May) by watching one of the old ESPN training shows. Some guy on there was asked when the best time to run was and he said, “Right after you lift, since glycogen stores are down.” He went on to briefly explain how the body goes after glycogen first and then fat, so it would stand to reason that if you burn the glycogen first the fat burning would be more intense. But this was 10 years ago and it seems like excerise science discovers “new” truths every few years in some areas.

In training news, I went for a run last night and for the first time in a while I was able to get my sprint on (bearing in mind that my “sprint” is probably a heavy jog for most people here) and felt like a gazelle. I suffered a knee injury while playing football in November which I’m taking glucosamin chondroitin for, and also wear a brace on it but I haven’t been able to sprint, due to both condition and injury, in a long time! Felt damn good.

Sure Shot, well, in theory, if glycogen stores are depleted, your body has to rely on fat for fuel. That fat can either be in the form of plasma fatty acids (broken down from adipose tissue) or from intramuscular triglycerides. A combo of both will likely be the case, but depends on intramuscular stores of triglycerides and exercise intensity.

That said, I tried to make it a point that in a single exercise session you will not be fully glycogen depleted. However, given a chronic low-carb diet, your glycogen stores will likely always be low. This will likely lead to preferential fat-burning at all intensities; however, maintaining high intensities will be difficult.

Having said all that, I still think the point is moot to beg the question, What cardio burns the most fat during the session? That is not your primary concern! While it’s important to try to maximize fat utilization during the aerobic session, you’ve got more than 20 non-exercising hours each day to capitalize on fat-burning. Most people have jobs and activity levels–on a daily basis–that require oxygen consumption that is most efficiently met by utilization of fat.

I’m getting way off here, so I better stop now. Just keep up the great work, Sure Shot!