T Nation

Fat Loss + Keep Max Strength

I can see myself opening up a can of worms here lol! but steady state cardio IMHO is overated and can be detrimental to strength focused lifters / athletes especially if performed for a significant period of time. Im not saying that in all circumstances steady state work should be contraindicated but when strength and power performance is of the greated importance then there are better more specific options. My reasons?
well there are two main reasons I suppose:

  1. metabolic cost - the metabolic cost of these activities is low. Therefore the actual energetic cost of this type of activity is pretty small.

  2. Specificity - if your goal is maximal strength then why train like an endurance athlete? Subjecting your body to stimuli not specific to your athletic goals may lead to undesirable adaptations.

My main argument in this case relates to Alwyn Cosgrove’s point about efficiency (see the article by T.C). Efficiency is the ratio of mechanical work and metabolic cost. Essentially anaerobic sports are grossly inefficient / uneconomical (in a metabolic/ energetic sense!). Steady state ‘aerobic’ exercise is however efficient - the work performed is comfortably fuelled by the aerobic energy systems - its economical therefore activity can be sustained for longer periods of time at a low metabolic cost (hence why EPOC is low).

Alwyn makes the point that by training in this way (think of specificity principle at this time!) you essentially train yourself to become more efficient at conserving energy so that you can sustain activity for greater periods of time. This isnt really conducive to maintaining a high metabolic rate (a high metabolic rate if we remember the definition is indicative of inefficiency!!) and therefore weight loss.

Its my opinion that when someone wishes to cut weight and maximise metabolc rate then you essentially need to train yourself to be as inefficient at conserving energy as possible. Therefore any activity that creates a high level of EPOC (which means that the energetic demands of the exercise were not met!) would be a wiser choice.

Steady state cardio does have its uses eg: active recovery. However it may not be optimal for weight management purposes

Thanks for taking the time to explain your point of view. I made a few comments.

[quote]Dave Rogerson wrote:
I can see myself opening up a can of worms here lol! but steady state cardio IMHO is overated and can be detrimental to strength focused lifters / athletes especially if performed for a significant period of time. Im not saying that in all circumstances steady state work should be contraindicated but when strength and power performance is of the greated importance then there are better more specific options. My reasons?
well there are two main reasons I suppose:

  1. metabolic cost - the metabolic cost of these activities is low. Therefore the actual energetic cost of this type of activity is pretty small. [/quote]

I would say if you can burn about 10 calories a minute that is not a small cost. Do that for 500 calories at a time, 5-10 times per week and it is pretty significant. The whole population may not have that time but athletes often would. Cardio at this intensity should have a negligible effect on strength.

[quote]Dave Rogerson wrote:
2) Specificity - if your goal is maximal strength then why train like an endurance athlete? Subjecting your body to stimuli not specific to your athletic goals may lead to undesirable adaptations. [/quote]

You are simply using the exercise to burn calories. I love the principle of specificity but in this case you are taking care of that through your actual training. If you try to do weight loss through methods that focus on max strength I think that those activities, combined with a lot of regular strength training, combined with a diet, could lead to a lot of muscle loss.

[quote]Dave Rogerson wrote:
My main argument in this case relates to Alwyn Cosgrove’s point about efficiency (see the article by T.C). Efficiency is the ratio of mechanical work and metabolic cost. Essentially anaerobic sports are grossly inefficient / uneconomical (in a metabolic/ energetic sense!). Steady state ‘aerobic’ exercise is however efficient - the work performed is comfortably fuelled by the aerobic energy systems - its economical therefore activity can be sustained for longer periods of time at a low metabolic cost (hence why EPOC is low).

Alwyn makes the point that by training in this way (think of specificity principle at this time!) you essentially train yourself to become more efficient at conserving energy so that you can sustain activity for greater periods of time. This isnt really conducive to maintaining a high metabolic rate (a high metabolic rate if we remember the definition is indicative of inefficiency!!) and therefore weight loss.

Its my opinion that when someone wishes to cut weight and maximise metabolc rate then you essentially need to train yourself to be as inefficient at conserving energy as possible. Therefore any activity that creates a high level of EPOC (which means that the energetic demands of the exercise were not met!) would be a wiser choice.

Steady state cardio does have its uses eg: active recovery. However it may not be optimal for weight management purposes
[/quote]

I guess there are a few things to consider here. Exercise economy would be increased by practicing something regularly, however most people are already efficient at walking and I don’t think extra walking will improve that too much. It is conceivable the metabolism could slow down by doing nothing but cardio to get more “efficient” but I haven’t seen too many studies to support that and even if that is the case, again the person’s regular strength training program will more than compensate for that. Also remember that as you do cardio you will burn a higher percentage of fat all the time as your body becomes more “efficient” by burning more fat and saving glucose.

I think about it in terms of the energy systems. In the oxidative system you can burn fat, carbs, and protein. Keep the intensity light to moderate and the chance of burning protein is small and you burn a reasonable amount of fat. Use any energy system other than the oxidative to lose weight and you start burning glucose (ignoring CP system). To this person glucose/glycogen is already precious, they are doing intense strength training and on a diet, probably with reduced carbs. If you don’t have glucose but need it you break down protein and thus may well have muscle loss. To me that is why steady state cardio is great for people in this situation (conserving muscle, losing weight, training hard with weights) because you can get a reasonable gain with little loss.

Thanks again for elaborating on your points. I don’t think we are really that far off from each other in most respects.

Tim,

I can see the reasoning behind your points and understand what it is you are saying. I guess in this situation its going to be one of those cases where we agree to disagree! LOL!

I would like to make the point though and I believe you made the same point yourself, that at no time should strength training be used for weight loss purposes when a client /athlete seeks to maximise absolute or maximal strength. Keep things separate!

I believe that exercise that induces high levels of EPOC is more beneficial simply because the energetic cost of the activity is high and that ‘metabolism’ is enhanced considerably post exercise. For strength focused athletes I like complexes, kettlebell work, sprints sled work etc and manipulate the w:r ratio as neccessary

However nothing is absolute in fitness/athletic training. What works for one doesnt for another.

Dave, thanks for the discourse. Take care,
Tim

[quote]Tim Henriques wrote:
Well, not everyone will agree with this given some recent debates but I would recommend fasted cardio at a light to moderate pace. You said you can’t do much groundwork, I am assuming you are talking about running and not walking. So I would walk at an incline for 30-60 minutes. You can occasionally do other forms of cardio as long as they aren’t too hard. To me your situation is much like a bodybuilder dieting down for a contest, they are trying to keep muscle but lose fat, so they almost always do this type of cardio.

I was 202 lbs and needed to diet down to the 181 lb weight class but maintain my strength for PL. I had to lift heavy but I used this for method about 8 weeks and actually weighed in at 178 (was young and nervous I wouldn’t make it the night before). Still was as strong as I had been at 198. Have used it several times since all equally effective.

The keys to being successful with this are do cardio before you eat and keep the intensity only moderate. You should think that you can definitely do the activity for an hour and you should not be exhausted when you finish it. For most people that is walking 4-4.5 mph at about a 5% incline, if you are bigger it might be lower. Generally a heart rate of 130 or so works well. If you do intense cardio like HITT or anything like that I believe you will get lean but you will lose too much muscle and strength given you are already on a diet.

Hope whatever you choose works for you.

Tim[/quote]

Hi Tim,

I’m very interested in this piece you’ve written mainly because I am returning from a hamstring injury and have had a period of inactivity (4 weeks) where I have gained a fair bit weight.

I was thinking that this kind of cardio work would help me given that I can’t doing anything too hard on my hamstring for another 1-2 weeks. How many sessions would you think I could work up to a week? I’m thinking 3-4 sessions of 30-45 min sessions on non upperbody weight training days.

Also once I can start doing two leg sessions a week (1 sq/dl session and 1 assistance session) again do you think I can still do multiple lower duration sessions (say 30mins) without impacting recovery too much?

Any advice would be much appreciated.

thx
dheeel

Dheeel - see PM

Tim