T Nation

Cardio?

I just started working out again and have been lifting and doing cardio almost every day now and im a little confused about the cardio rule… if im trying to burn fat and not lose any muscle, at what intensity should i train at to maximize fat loss and avoid burning up muscle… im currently doing 20-30 min on the treadmill daily at high intensity but im not sure its the best way to go… ive read that a more moderate pace is best for burning fat … im 5’6 and weigh 195lbs …im on a low fat diet but not too low… im trying to lose weight by doing more cardio

You’d be surprised that heavy resistance training would better fit you.

Is cardio your only exercise regimen?

[quote]mike51183 wrote:
I just started working out again and have been lifting and doing cardio almost every day now and im a little confused about the cardio rule… if im trying to burn fat and not lose any muscle, at what intensity should i train at to maximize fat loss and avoid burning up muscle… im currently doing 20-30 min on the treadmill daily at high intensity but im not sure its the best way to go… ive read that a more moderate pace is best for burning fat … im 5’6 and weigh 195lbs …im on a low fat diet but not too low… im trying to lose weight by doing more cardio[/quote]

This is somewhat in the nature of a beginner question you are asking here. However.

In the first place, purely from the standpoint of fat loss, how much sugar and other high-GI carbs you’re getting may be more important than how much fat. Hopefully you’re keeping track of exactly what you eat. Otherwise you’re going to have a hard time making any progress.

In the second place, yes it’s true that higher intensity exercise tends to get powered by whatever carbs you have eaten recently, and not off of body fat. But in fact whatever energy you burn in a short period of exercising is not enough energy to make that much difference. If you spent several hours walking each day and were very restrictive about your intake, that would start to implement fat loss by direct burning. The Japanese experimented with this technique during WWII.

Anytime you’re restricting intake you’re going to wind up losing some muscle. Lifting weights and not being too restrictive, you can avoid most of this.

The way you burn the fat therefor is not by doing some death by cardio thing, but by raising your BMR. This is the burn that keeps on burning, even while you’re indulging your worklife, or TiVO or whatever.

You can both eat to raise your BMR and exercise to raise your BMR. John Berardi is writing about some of these strategies right now.

thanx for the feedback endgame… no, i do 20-35 min weight training (either chest and biceps or back and tricep) before i do my cardio workout… I work out 6 days a week but im carefull not to overtrain

[quote]mike51183 wrote:
I work out 6 days a week but im carefull not to overtrain[/quote]

I personally think the word “overtraining” is used too often at the expense of actually working hard enough to see significant gains. Yes, you can overtrain, however, without ever pushing your limits, you will never push yourself much farther beyond where you are right now.

Also, your diet has much more to do with you losing body fat than cardio. Going all out on cardio first without promoting a loss directly from food intake first will leave you with no recourse when your metabolism slows down from an extended period of time on a calorie restricted diet. I would cut back the cardio to around 3 (and the most 4) times a week, put more intensity into training, and work on promoting a loss in weight through your diet. It should also be understood that unless you are obese, losing much more than 1lb a week will cause you lose much more muscle (aside from the initial weight loss from dieting which is mostly water weights from a reduced carbohydrate intake).

Training six days a week with weights will result in “systemic overtraining” at the endocrine and nervous system level. Anabolic steroids would mitigate against this problem however.

Donnie…

Hey Donnie -

If you train to failure that can be true with some people. Some people can do it without steriods.

Also, I don’t know if you noticed, but he’s only doing 20 to 35 minutes of weights each training session. I hardly think that’s going to lead to overtraining.

[quote]PtrDR wrote:
Training six days a week with weights will result in “systemic overtraining” at the endocrine and nervous system level. Anabolic steroids would mitigate against this problem however.

Donnie…[/quote]

I have trained six days a week for years. I also only do one body part a day and I am not overtraining and don’t get sick often (can’t remember the last time I was). If you had added “six days a week for over 1 1/2 hours a day”, then you might have a point.

one thing that no one mentioned is your not doing any lower body training… squat and deadlift… do them!

[quote]mike51183 wrote:
thanx for the feedback endgame… no, i do 20-35 min weight training (either chest and biceps or back and tricep) before i do my cardio workout… I work out 6 days a week but im carefull not to overtrain[/quote]

I’d like to reinforce the theme from some others posting here that it is a better way to train to really give your body something to adapt to, and then give it time to recover.

Part of the problem you face is that the body adapts to whatever training you’re doing. That is the purpose of training, to get that adaptation, but unless you periodically make significant changes in how you’re training, the body stops adapting - it’s adapted already thanks. Yes, you’re still working away, but your body’s not really changing anymore. For this reason alone it often helps to make periodic changes in how you structure your training.

A problem with working out frequently over the long run is that ‘muscle group’ is somewhat a theoretical concept: you’re using lots of muscles and support mechanisms in common among your different training days even though you’ve set out to hit only some particular group of them on any given day. After a while your every day treatment of these common muscles limits the intensity you can really bring to the training, when compared with a policy of staying off the weights altogether for a day.

To get the maximum rate of adaptation, you need to do something that’s really a challenge for you at your current state of training, then give your body time to recover (adapt). If you truly do the first, you’ll find it hard to avoid doing the latter. Among the most challenging activites are things we haven’t done in a long time, or things that we have never done before.

Definitely consider doing squats, deadlifts, calf raises, OH Press, shrugs, dips, lat pulldown and similar multi-axis moves in place of working “bis and tris”.

Finally, and this may be of interest to other beginners, something that I had tried unsuccessfully to put into my original reply to you, which is that if you would like to see a complete program based on manipulating BMR, together with a tool that will help you adjust your diet optimally in order to lose fat only, but not muscle, check out www.physiquetransformation.com. This is a gadget that will help you log and plan your daily intake. The site also tells you when and how to exercise in order to maintain BMR. My impression is that the strategies used by the gizmo as to macronutrient and fats balance are pretty much in line from what I’ve read from John Berardi here over the past several years

I used the site’s diet monitoring system to lose 25 lbs of fat only in about sixteen weeks, a couple of years ago. They have been making incremental improvements to the diet strategy since then. Warning: to take this approach you will have to take complete control of your eating. That means clearing out your kitchen of bad stuff, planning and making meals in advance, having food with you so that you can eat frequently, logging everything you eat (fortunately, the gadget makes this easier than most other food loggers I’ve tried).

This gizmo was invented by some bodybuilders who started a small business helping out folks entered in 12 week physique improvement contests. Note y’all please spare me the jeers of derision, the scheme can work for most anyone however you’re training, unless your activity level is high: its model doesn’t cope with that so well because the gadget doesn’t have appropriate facilities for logging and/or planning your activity. Their scheme has in effect a small bulking phase built into the front of it, where they are building your BMR by making you overeat very slightly - psychologically the hardest part of the scheme. The exercise specified is very moderate, lift three times a week and twenty minutes of cardio here and there. You will not get hungry on this diet, until perhaps the very final stages. After all, if you feel hunger your BMR has been declining, and that is a no-no with this diet.

If you actually get started with this thing, besides losing some fat you will definitely learn how to ‘eat clean.’


My opinion- I HATE machine cardio and never get the results that I want- weight loss and strength KEPT, but I get sweaty and feel tired so I think it works- thats where it BULLSHITS YOU, it actually drops your test. level and chemically starts changing you into a woman.

I have had the best results with weight assisted cardio- which is twice a week Ill do a bunch of single joint blood volumizing movements with only a 30 second break between sets- a REAL 30 sec wear a watch, my heartrate is 130- 180 for a 40 minute period, burning fat, my muscle is being pumped and kept and the strength is KEPT because I use light weights that I can nail for an easy 8 reps so I am also moving through the movement quicker working on my SPEED training maximizing my explosiveness. This is MAN cardio not some sissy spandex electronic gadget. Hope this helps

This puts me in mind of “Manly Weightloss” by Charles Poliquin. I tried that program and it was fun to take the volume up, but I didn’t have my diet well enough nailed down. Then I got the diet under control and my butt was dragging in those workouts. But I think Charles had me going longer than 40 minutes.

Come to think of it, that program might have worked better for me if I had been doing the workouts in the early morning before work, instead of in the evening afterward.

Getting the old HR up good and high seems to do wonders for speeding up BMR, at any rate people successfully lose noticeable amounts of weight also when they get started with jumping rope, swinging kettlebells, bodyweight exercises, any of which done regularly with short rest intervals between sets will launch the heart rate into orbit and set the scales to plunging.

Provided of course one doesn’t start eating more to make up the deficit.

Do as Dan John recommends and use the Olympic lifts for fat loss and a cardio workout. It works! When I competed in Olympic lifting, those were some of the toughest workouts ever, and even when only doing 3-5 reps in most lifts, it would leave me gasping for air and my heart pounding hard.

Also, if trying to lose weight and keep/gain muscle, I like Dan’s approach that you shouldn’t try to do too much at once because the body can’t adjust properly.

He recommends three good workouts a week (a few exercises and three sets of eight with one-minute rest breaks or using the 8/6/4 method) and a couple days of hill running. Along with a good diet, the fat will peel off in no time.

graphicsman…you have a good point. and so does Prof X. My question is this: Have you tried training less days per week and compared it to almost everyday training? Was there any difference in your drive, motivation and strength?

[quote]PtrDR wrote:
graphicsman…you have a good point. and so does Prof X. My question is this: Have you tried training less days per week and compared it to almost everyday training? Was there any difference in your drive, motivation and strength?[/quote]

My training was a progression. My first decent routine came in a box of Cybergenics that cost me over 100 bucks. It had me lifting 5 days a week training two body parts at the most a day. Regardless of how crappy that supplement was, the training routine wasn’t bad at all. I then became certified as a personal trainer years later. I started training one body part a day possibly 5 years ago. I have no need to try anything else when my arms have grown from a starting measurement of about 15" post training to currently hitting about 20" at an off season weight.

So, yes, I have tried training less days a week. I also feel I am trained enough to listen to my body. I rest when I feel I need rest. I have gone some weeks without a rest day. I have gone other weeks taking two days off in a row simply because I needed the break. Your body is not in stasis. It won’t respond the same in 20min as it will right now. My strength is at its greatest right now. My drive is intact and has been for years because I know what I am trying to reach and won’t stop until I reach it.

More than anything, people on this site need to realise that we are not all made the same. How you structure your routine is also a LARGE factor. That means you can’t make a blanket statement without loooking at both.

Prof. X, I’m nearly always impressed with what you have to say. He’s totally right.

PtrDR:

As for my experience, when I have time I try to train in the gym 4 to 6 days per week. I find that I personally make great gains that way, as long as I’m careful not to overdo it (I’ve sometimes a tendancy to do this with 3 hour workouts, which is fine when you’re using MAG-10, but not so good otherwise).

Currenly I have very little time, and I only have access to a crappy gym, which brings down my motivation a bit. As a result I’m only working out 2 days a week. One day is pushers, the other is pullers. Because I’m relatively out of shape right now, these workouts usually only last about 2 hours - that’s only 4 hours per week. Certainly far from ideal, but considering that I’m out of shape at the moment (oh, and did I mention I’m out of shape?), this is enough for me to make gains in size and strength.

Likely when I get back to the US I’ll start doing a 4 day per week workout again. I just FEEL BETTER when I get to the gym more often. If I wasn’t doing martial arts, climbing, and starting to train for a triathlon (and didn’t have research for my degree to work on), I’d be in the gym every day.

I will repeat:
SQUATS!
Lots of them.

Graphicsman and ProfessorX: Thanks alot for taking the time to share your perspectives!

Donnie…