CT: Energy Systems Work & Dieting

I think this weekly dose mini article makes great points that have come up in the AD thread, but don’t get discussed much:

Energy Systems Work and Dieting
by Christian Thibaudeau

Most people will need to perform some energy systems work (“cardio”) to get super lean. However, that doesn’t mean doing endless hours on the Stairmaster. We’re not gerbils! In the past I recommended a lot of interval energy systems work. However, I do feel that when using a low-carb approach, this isn’t ideal.

High intensity energy systems work relies mostly on glycogen for energy. But when you’re on a low-carb diet your glycogen stores won’t be as high as during a normal diet. And the limited amount of glycogen you have will be needed for the heavy lifting sessions and lactate-inducing workouts.

Adding-in high intensity energy systems work will only lead to further depletion of the glycogen stores and to muscle catabolism. The body will break down muscle tissue into amino acids which will then be transformed into glucose by the liver.

So when adding ESW to a low-carb diet you should focus on the methods where glucose use is minimal. This means either low-intensity cardio or very short sprints. Low-intensity cardio at 65-70% of your max heart rate won’t use too much glucose/glycogen.

Yes, this form of training burns less calories than intervals. However, when carbs are restricted, intervals can lead to muscle loss. Low-intensity work won’t. Sprints lasting around 10-12 seconds can also be used since they rely mostly on phosphagens for fuel, but anything longer than 15 seconds won’t be as effective.

Low-intensity work is best performed right after the lactate-inducing sessions because fat mobilization is at its highest. This way, the low-intensity work will be much more effective than if it were used by itself. Thirty minutes at around 70% of your max heart rate is sufficient for optimal fat loss.

So the updated schedule becomes:

Monday: Chest and back heavy

Tuesday: Legs, heavy

Wednesday: OFF

Thursday: Lactate-inducing workout, then 30 minutes low-intensity ESW

Friday: Arms (heavy) and shoulders

Saturday: Lactate-inducing workout, then 30 minutes low-intensity ESW

Sunday: OFF

A third session could possibly be added after the leg workout, but I’d start at only two weekly sessions and bump it to three only when fat loss stalls.

This is one problem I see with a lot of people attempting a body transformation: they do too much too soon. They set their caloric intake at a super low level from the start, perform tons of cardio, and use all the fat loss supplements known to man. They lose fat fast, but eventually the body will adapt and they’ll stop progressing.

Where can they go now? They can’t cut calories even more without risking muscle loss, they can’t add more training without interfering with that little thing called life, and they don’t have any more fat burners to add to their arsenal. Bottom line: they’re stuck!

We all want fast results. Fat loss if a very emotional issue; we want to be lean ASAP. But you must realize that the ones who will reach their goal are the ones who can progress for the longest period of time. And that requires doing the minimum necessary to get the job done and only adding things in as progress stops. In other words, gradually cut calories, increase cardio, and add supplements, but only as needed!

Good to know!

On my last “cut”(a mistake, I should add) I did lots of med/high intensity cardio while restricting my carbs heavily. This may be one reason I remained more or less skinny fat at 169 lbs(compared to my previous 197). I was definitely slimmer, but I was still soft, which is odd given my height(6’2").

Now, adding muscle is all that matters to me. I realized that cutting with 12" arms and being unable to do a single pull up was a bad sign.

Many things are completely different for fat adapted people which was my main focus here. HIIT works, no doubt, but I have never favored it for AD folks for all the reasons he mentions.