T Nation

Running Without Catabolizing


I recently asked a question about caloric intake and got some great feedback, thought I'd give it another go:
I'm 31, 6'1 182 pounds 16.5% bf. I just started lifting a couple weeks ago and I'm interested in getting a good program going. I've got some books and read a lot here to get me started for the next few months for the actual workouts. My main goal is to slim down first to around 10 or 12% but add, or at least not lose, muscle.
My question is about cardio. I've been running for a few months and lowered my body fat from around 22%--but unfortunately lost some muscle in the process. I don't want to lose any more muscle but I want to keep running.
What I'm thinking of doing is this: Lifting Monday Wednesday and Friday and warming up with a mile beforehand (pretty slow, like 7.0 mph, or 8 1/2 minutes). From the helpful advice I got here, I won't do any other cardio on lifting days if eight minutes or so even counts as cardio. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday I want to run. Two of those days (probably Thursday and Saturday) I'd like to do about 4 miles--right now about thirty minutes for me. Tuesday I'd like to do a longer run from 5 to 7 miles, anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Sunday I'll take off completely. Basically 3 days of running and 3 lifting.
My question is, what should I do specifically to make sure I'm not catabolizing my lean mass? Will a grow bar and/or a couple scoops of original Grow! an hour before my four mile days be OK and a couple scoops of Low-Carb Grow! after? Should I have Surge before or after on the long run day or at all? Is running for suckers? I used to hate it, but I've grown to really like it--sometimes. Also, although ladies aren't very impressed by a big throbbing heart muscle, I figure it is a muscle and I should condition it regularly.
I'm currently eating well (as per T-Nation nutritional guidelines) five or so meals a day, 2700 calories (35/40/25) or about 500 below active maintenance with carbs coming from oatmeal, whole grains and vegetables and protein coming from fish, meat, cottage cheese and low-carb Grow! I'm also eating fish and flax oil until my Udo's comes in. I'm supplementing with Max-Strength HOT-ROX (6 per day) and I'm gonna order some Alpha Male, ZMA and maybe Methoxy-7 if I find some more money between the couch cushions. A lot of money.
Thanks for any and all feedback.


I did not read your entire post, but it looks like you may be suffering from analysis paralysis. Anyway the best way to do cardio and minnimise muscle loss is either sprints or low intesity longer duration sessions of walking, preferably in a fasted state.


The pros of including running in your routine far outweighs the cons. As you mentioned, not only does it burn fat, it keeps your heart healthy. Since your goals
aren't to become a mass monster, what catabolic effect it has is not going to be
determental to your goals.

You hit the nail on the head as far as nutrition. By buffering your runs before and after with carbs and protien, it will minimize muscle wasting. Some say running (and cardio in general) first thing in the morning on an empty stomach burns the most fat. If you do this, try some amino acids first.

If you enjoy running distance and longer times, keep it up. Yes, it may burn some muscle tissue, but I wouldn't worry about it. If you are only running long one day a week, it won't kill you.
I might suggest that you find an alternative to pre lifting running. Maybe an excercise bike, fast walking, or something else with less impact. My experience is running more than three days a week is hell on my knees. If you find you knees and legs hurting, consider rotating swimming in there.

Also, consider alternating sprint intervals with your standard runs. This will tax a different system then slow runs, and it will help with your overall speed.

Keep it up. Running is a natural and effective excercise. It is healthy. And not much replaces the mind cleansing effect of a five mile run.


Energy system work should be performed "preferably in a fasted state" in order to minimize muscle loss?


No analysis paralysis (although that is a catchy phrase), I've been working out five times a week, I just want to make sure my plans coincide with my goals. I've read that about walking in a fasted state, I'm just too bored by the idea. I think I'll incorporate some sprints into my routine though, so thanks for that.

I really appreciate your feedback,particularly running only three days a week and the sprinting advise. I had ACL knee surgery due to a motorcycle accident a couple years ago so I'm extra concerned about the longevity of my knees.
I agree that the feeling from a five mile run is mind cleansing--nothing beats one of those great running days when you sprint the last half mile of a five mile run and have energy to spare (rare but fun).

I've never incorporated sprinting into my workout and I just wanted to ask a couple questions. How long should I sprint for? I think I read one or two minutes, and then walk? How long for the intervals? I usually run in my neighborhood or on the treadmill, but I think for sprinting I'll go down to the track. Is running the long length of the track field (I guess about 1/12 mile or 45 seconds or so) and walking the other two thirds around good, or should I break longer?

Thanks for the time. I'm not a big swimmer and I can't stand the exercise bike (I know I'm limiting it here) but I think I might hop on my mountain bike in the morning a couple times a week to spare the old knees. Thanks again.


There are countless ways to sprint, so play around and find what works best/what you enjoy most. Search the articles archives for "The Running Man", that is a pretty good article.

Personally, I do what I call 'Step Intervals'. After about five to ten minutes of warming up walking and jogging, I begin. I go for 4 five minute
intervals. The first minute is a slow jog, second minute a little faster, third faster, fourth I'm running hard, the fifth minute is all out. That is a step. Then I go back to a slow jog for a minute...

I find by timing it, I can focus more on giving my all for a minute. When I feel like I'm almost on empty, I look at my watch and know I can push it for 12 more seconds. This also allows for breaks to recover.

I don't like walking between intervals
(unless you have to to go on), as I feel it harms my distance runs.

Hope this helps. Take care of those knees. Drop me a PM if you'd like, and I will be happy to answer what questions I can.


WOW!!!! Try the opposite In a NOT fasted state other wise the body will turn STRAIGHT to muscle break down protein to create glycogen


Thanks for the info--I'll play around with some different times to see what works. I do like the step idea though--sounds like exhausting fun.


I've heard a lot of people do cardio in the morning on an empty stomach and I never understood why that would burn more fat than muscle compared to any other time of the day when there aren't adequate carb reserves.

I've even tried running empty but even with the Power Drive I don't like it. The Power Drive takes care of any mental fogginess but my bpm goes too high too fast. I prefer to workout under optimum conditions for the sake of feeling good as well as being able to track progress. Thanks again Phill!


Well actually I LOVE and am a HUGE fan of pre breakfast cardio for fat loss or kee[ping fat at bay while bulking. BUT not running. HELL NO. I have made that mistake. If doing this make it low intensity as LL states "non panting" cardio. Just a brisk walk.

It works. The body has no choice but to draw upon itself to fuel the work and by keeping it VERY low intensity with the lack of fuel it draws on fat. rasie the intensity and you start to tap into the FASTER fuel source glycogen which in the fasted stae in NON-exsistant so protein from muscle is orn down to create the glycogen.

Also the benefit of even Low intensity cardio along side with a weight lifting program can be HUGE for the benfit of the heart.

In short Dont totally sell it off it just MUST be respected and used properly.

No prob on the help, Hope you can find a nice middle road that fits all your goals.


I'm glad you cleared that up that for me. Walking hungry good, running hungry bad. I'm slooowly learning all this physiology which is new to me but very interesting when a piece of the puzzle fits in--instead of jamming it into the wrong place and heading for McDonalds. Glycogen, LBM, protein synthesis oh my! I was a business major in school...
Enough typing, off to the gym for legs, arggggh.


Monomer of Glycogen= Glucose
Glucose=monosaccharide, Carbohydrate
Monomer of Protein= Amino acid
How exactly does one change lickety split one monomer into another?


Screw cardio. Warm up and lift weights or run sprints. 40's, 60's, 100's, 150's & 200's.

Yeah, I'm a track guy.

Try the longer sprints once a week and short sprints once a week.


Just make sure you're using some weight when you lift. Keeping up your strength is a good sign you're not burning off too much muscle.

I like this article by CT to illustrate my point:


When I increase running volume, I actually decrease my lifting volume but increase loading using more singles and doubles.


Whoa guys, i said he should do sprints for fat loss cardio OR walking on an empty stomach for about 45-60 min.

I did not mean for him to do sprnts on an empty stomach. Also nowhere did i mention any energy system work, which i take to mean sprints in a fasted state.


I used "energy system work" as an umbrella term for activities along the whole spectrum, from short sprints, plyo and conditioning circuits to low intensity jogging or biking.

Anyway, after your clarification, your post makes more sense. I guess you could consume some coffee with a scoop of protein powder before walking (as LL recommends) to further minimize muscle wasting, as the time period immediately after getting up tends to be crucial in this regard.


L-Glutamine actually participates in a series of reactions that results in it being converted into glucose. I don't think that's what he meant, though, probably was referring to proteins being used in aerobic metabolism through deamination etc.

To the original poster - I would strongly discourage running if you want to keep your knees healthy with a damaged ACL. There's a HUGE possibility that your gait is already flawed and that it will get progressively worse over the next few years, effectively boning any chance of being pain free in the next 10.

If you genuinely enjoy it, use sparingly, but remember that it is completely unnecessary for heart health. Using a higher volume weight training routine that's well designed (reasonably high intensity, shortish rest periods, etc) will produce favorable heart adaptations as well. Tabata method squats (or maybe jump-chins, or squat thrusts, whatever you like) would be a better alternative barring preferences.

Or sprints, though the method recommended by combat medic isn't actually sprinting. Not a bad method of running, but not the best.

If you want to run for distance once in a while, running first thing before eating is musculature suicide, running after eating a few meals is better, and running after eating a few meals and putting a glucose/BCAA mixture in your water bottle is best. Surge would work okay too, but wouldn't be the best option.

If you're truly interested in keeping that knee healthy, periodic evaluations by someone with a pretty advanced understanding of biomechanics would be a good idea. Chiro, someone with an advanced degree in kinesiology, physical therapist, whatever's convenient.



I've done long distance (up to 6 miles) and sprints (up to 800m), and I've found that anything above 400m with any frequency is catabolic. You can dabble with 800's, but don't make them a cornerstone of your enery system work. I've tried the "fasted state" thing, but refuse to do so these days. At a minimum, I take 10g of BCAA's along with something like HOT-ROX to keep the catabolism at bay. If you go that route make sure you haul your ass back to your car once you're finished working out and slam some Surge immediately!!! Ideally, start sipping your Surge on the way to the track! One last thing---any more than 3 sessions of energy system work per week and you're going to lose LBM. At least for me, that's proven to be a cardinal rule. The only times I've successfully lost bodyfat and maintained LBM, I kept my sprint sessions to no more than 30min and was taking HOT-ROX and Surge. Good luck.


Thanks for all the feedback everyone!
That 'Running Man' article is gold--I'm definitely going to borrow from it for my program--probably some 400's and play around with the interval running. I figure I'll just run one distance run per week (keeping it down to 5 to 7 miles for a while) just to keep the progress I've made and for the sake of the knees.

All in all I'm going from about 25 miles a week down to 12 or so--including all the sprints and the one long distance day. I'm stepping up the walking and bike riding and whatever else. On lifting days (3 a week) I'm going to use any fitness energy just for lifting. I'm on a reduced calorie diet (about 500 below maintenance) so I really want to maintain what mass I have until I can start massive eating and going for some gains--which I can't wait to do. I figure that will be in 2 or 3 months.

btw conorh, that Lifting For Fat Loss article was awesome. Just when I think I've read all the top articles. Definitely a ton of information to incorporate into my program.


Jeff--you must have written this just before I posted. Maybe I just have to cut out all the distance stuff until I start massive eating in a couple months--you got me thinking.

I'm taking Maximum Strength HOT-ROX now--3 in the morning and three in the afternoon and, along with my good diet, they're working wonders. I also drink Surge before during and after lifting.

Do you think 2 scoops of Surge before and after a 6 mile run is enough to avoid catabolizing? Then a good meal a couple hours afterwards?
What's BCAA?