T Nation

Cardio It Up: Timing, Experiences, Musings

I know everybody has some feelings on the subject and it seems that a lot of T-Peeps are interested in the dealyo with the ol’ Cardio, so I thought I’d ask a few questions of my own. First off, JB, I hate to call ya out, bro, but your expertise and experience is high-caliber and I was hoping you could drop a bomb of knowledge on me too. It’s known that you do a cardio session after weight training, but I remember you mentioning that if time permitted you would prefer to do it at a separate time. So, if you had the option, when would you do your cardio? And I don’t believe you ever mentioned at what intesity level you get the ol’ ticker going? I would like to hear some other opinions on the subject as well, as far as general feelings on performing cardio, timing (after training, separate session, first thing in the morning on an empty stomach), intensity levels, personal experiences and just any thoughts you guys/gals care to share.

Just to share my recent experiences: I have been doing cardio first thing in the AM on an empty tank for the last four or five weeks, on non-training days and maybe one training day (separate session) for three days/week. I do 15 minutes at a varied pace on a recumbant bike, then get on the treadmill for 20 minutes, and vary the intensity from a jog to a run. My heart rate gets up to about 75% but since my intensity is varied, that’s probably the peak. I have been consuming at or slightly below the calorie level I had been prior, actually increasing calories over the course of the weeks (currently at a little over 3200). As far as training, I have been making progress at a slow but steady rate. I was just trying to cut a little bit more, seeing that I had been eating at about the same level for an extended period and wanted to provide somewhat of a shock. I do believe, by experience only, that I’m about as lean as I’ve been and probably skating around 5-6%.

Timbo my man! What’s up bro? Hey, I got a question for you. Are you trying to gain or get lean? I thought you told me you wanted to get bigger? So how are you going to do that by barely eating enough and doing cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach? From what you said, you’re 6’ and about 160-165lbs, right? Sounds like you are already super lean bro. Especially if you are at 5-6% bodyfat. I know you start getting scared about gaining some fat, but why not move the cardio to post-weight training and be sure to eat a high protein meal first thing in the morning!?? I think that will make a HUGE difference for you. And the weights will start moving more. I know you come close to crossing the line with overtraining, so be careful my man!

It sounds to me as though you have conflicting goals! I know I haven't seen you personally, but it does sound like you are lean and need a little more size. Especially at your height. Don't be afraid to go to 8-10% bodyfat in order to gain. I know, I know. It's hard to do that. Believe me. I'm in the same boat. When I gained, my abs disappeared. By I will get leaner soon enough. Besides, my bodyfat is much higher than yours. I would love to keep it at 8-10% all the time. Anything less isn't required for me. Just enough to feel good, look good and peform well.

Nate Dogg, hey, bro, thanks for droppin in and showing some concern. I appreciate it. You’re right, my long-term goal is to pack on some size–and it’s definitely needed. However, I had been consuming a consistent calorie level and had been excluding intense cardio work for some time. I felt it was necessary to switch things up a bit…and you’re right on target with your conjecture that I’m afraid to get big. Yeah, it’s something I’ll have to overcome. I like to push it to the edge, my man. I find that the cardio first thing in the morning is rather advantageous and decided to give it a go based on recommendations set forth by John Parrillo. Basically, I enjoy it, it gets the metabolism fired up and melts the fat.

I knew I was going to catch some heat, and not only do I respect others' opinions--especially my boy Nate--but I accept them gladly. Another thing I have noticed since adding the cardio is a drastic increase in appetite, which is great because I plan on taking advantage of this when I go into a caloric surplus. Another reason I started doing an extra session of cardio was for the benefit of increased insulin sensitivity as mentioned by JB. Thanks again for showing concern, Big Nate. I may take a different spin in a mass-gaining phase and do the cardio later in the day, but I did temporarily set a different goal...to see how lean I could get and I think I'm about there!

Sounds good Timbo. I was just checking up on you. I wasn’t sure if you were headed the wrong way. But it sounds like you are working on accomplishing your goals my man. Keep up the good work. I know what you mean about cardio in the morning. It does make you hungrier all day! And that’s a good thing for my man Timbo!! :slight_smile: Hopefully JB will put his two cents in too!

This is an interesting question, I also have another, what would be the minimal amount of cardio-time needed to increase insulin response?? Also, John B, what type of cardio do you prefer, whole body (like an air bike where you control your speed w/legs and arms), or walking on a tread mill, ect??

Steve: As a corrallary to your question, I have been wondering ON AVERAGE how long into a cardiovascular workout does Cortisol begin to rear its head to “catabolic” levels? Anything in the research?

Im wondering if Surge would be helpful after your cardio workouts also.Be ready to drop a bundle of $$ with that many servings a week,but maybe just for a while.

I will be using a question very similar to this one in my next “appetite” column. So I will only briefly comment now. I think that there are MANY ways to get big and MANY ways to get lean. So there is NO optimal way for everyone. In regard to the cardio question though…Doing cardio in the am has advantages while doing it after training has other advantages. Why not do both if you can. 20 min at 60% of HR max after training and 20 min at 60% of HR max on non-training mornings (empty stomach) may be a great way to lose fat when dieting. In addition, during a mass phase, this might work too as long as you eat for the expenditure and get good postworkout nutrition after every training session. The workouts can promote nutrient storage and if you throw some quick nutrients in there after, you will have a great anabolic response. The only program this would not work for is for strength and power training. If your goal is power or strength alone then the extra cardio will inhibit your gains. If you cant do both, either is probably fine as long as each session is followed with a pw drink. If dieting, your best bet is to probably do it separately. All this debate is funny because when I used to get really lean (2% or so) for contests, I would do cardio for 1.5 hours EVERY day. I would do a 45 min am session on empty stomach. And a 45 min post workout session. I was 190-195 on stage with minimal symptoms of muscle loss. BB are way too worried about muscle loss with cardio. It does inhibit stregth gains but the muscle thing can be remedied with enough calories.

JB, you da man, baby…always coming thru for your boy Timbo and fellow T-maggers:-)

I know this may be somewhat repetitive–just completely ignore it if monotonous–is it necessary to follow-up cardio only sessions with Surge or a mock creation? Or is that the optimal way to go, with whole food coming in second? Thanks, JB, you lean, mean butt-kickin machine!

I usually carry about 15%bodyfat at 5’ 7" and 190 lbs. I found that after I included spinning at home 3x per week I improved my fitness without any significant muscle or strength loss. Thi s is with only minimal weight training to maintain strength. It actually seems to have benefitted the lifting. I often take some lifting breaks due to some injury, that I found cycling is a great diversion.
In pa. we have a lot of hills so you can get an intense interval type of workout, just out your front door. I’ve found it great for the old gpp.
I think you should start on a westside program Timbo to increase your strength and size. A buddy that trained with me went from 6’3" 198 to 225 in half of a year with no increase in bodyfat %. I really feel you have to let that fat % slide to 10-12% for a while until you get big. Good luck on the training!

irondoc, where are you from in PA? Im from PA also but have defected to canada (at least for my education).

Hey Timbo, good post here buddy,lotsa valid questions. I’m not JB thats for damn sure, but I think Surge after cardio would be great in a perfect world,but that can mean lots C.R.E.A.M
I think its important to take in some kind of Protein carb concoction though. Just my humble opinion. Hey JB and irondoc, i am also from Pa, from Peckville bout 15 min from Scranton(Let the scranton jokes flow). i’d be interested in hearing your keystone dwellings also. Later guys,Mike

John, when you say “optimal” post cardio nutrition, what are you referring to, a liquid delivery system, or whole food with optimal ratio’s, and what are those ratio’s?? I would assume that they would be different from those of the post workout period. By the way, I’m also from PA, where are you origionally from? Have you ever heard of Bloomsburg University??

JB, what is the theory as to why cardio with additional calories compensate can cause strength losses but is not likely to cause losses in muscle mass? Brian

Cardio is likely to cause a fiber type conversion of the type IIb/IIx to type IIa. Type IIx are the fastest, and at a given velocity produce the most force. So, if you have a conversion of the IIb/IIx fibers to IIa, you may still have the same amount of protein, it just doesn’t produce as much force, which is what determines strength.

Type IIx? why have i never heard of these fibers? what are they?

A small town called Rigtown about 20 miles south of Hazleton, Pa. My office is Shenandoah. Go ahead boys, start with the Schuylkill county jokes. You can get the personal info from the ART referral website. Have a good one!

Steve M…I was at the field house in Bloom on march 23’d for an exercise science seminar .a friends there too

Im originally from montgomery county PA but have lived in pittsburgh and lock haven over the years for university (just 2 of the 6 universities Ive been to).

As far as the strength stuff, the fiber conversion is the reason why cardio interferes with strength gains. Type IIx fibers are intermediate fibers (some call them IIa) that have both oxidative and glycolytic properties (unlike IIb which are mostly glycolytic and type I which are mostly oxidative). In fact most people dont know this but there is a whole spectrum of fiber types and not just 3. But since we dont know too much about them, the main three are usually discussed. All in all, type II fibers hypertrophy the best relative to type I. Interestingly most bodybuilders have more IIx fibers than IIb (whether this is genetic or training-induced is questionable - probably mostly genetic). So the fiber shift with cardio is not harmful to muscle gain but is to strength gain.

I need to make a point of clarification here. When I wrote type IIb/IIx, I was referring to them as the same MHC group. There is a bit of a split in the field of muscle physiology as to how to exactly refer to fiber types. One of the big camps will argue that IIb should rightly be called IIx because of their homology with the rat IIx, at the transciptional level, which was identified first. Most others will refer to these IIx’s as IIb’s. The same group that will refer to them as IIb will say that IIx is an intermediate fibertype, between IIa and IIb. Some will also refer to the intermediate type as IId.

So, I was kind of trying to keep it uncomplicated by putting the slash in IIb/IIx and intending them to be accepted as the same fiber type.

The interesting thing is that the group that argues that the IIb should be referred to as IIx believes that there is a IIb fiber type, it just is not typically seen. They argue that it is the fastest fiber type, but is only seen in denervation (paralyzed). They also demonstrated in one study that when you train you convert IIb/IIx (sorry) to IIa, but when you detrain you actually convert more fibers to the IIb/IIx phenotype. They called this overshoot and it serves as a strong argument for programmed periods of detraining since we know the IIb/IIx fibers are faster, stronger and have a greater capacity for hypertrophy.