The Complete Physique Alteration Series Part 2
Consistently applying the principles and guidelines found in this series of articles is a constantly proven and guaranteed method for success in changing your physique. The pace at which you will achieve your goals directly correlates to how much you deviate from “the plan” set forth in front of you. Once again, a wealth of information is at your fingertips. All it takes now is application and consistency!
We would like any confused or frustrated readers not to hesitate stopping by the store to ask whatever questions they may have. We hope by now all our readers/customers realize that All Pro Nutrition is about way more than just selling you a product. We want you to feel fully confident in your ability to achieve your goals after a visit to our store. We want you to leave with the right product for your goals and the education on the necessary diet and training to compliment your efforts. We are certain that if we here at All Pro Nutrition continue to put forth these efforts with each customer we will continue to grow and get the wonderful feedback we hear every single day!
The Complete Physique Alteration Series: Getting Lean
Part 2: Crash Course on Cardio
One of the most important things to consider when waging war against body fat is the weapons we have to fight it. The ONLY weapons in our arsenal are diet, cardio, and supplements. It is very important to not go “all out” with each of these from day 1 as we will most certainly see results from the most subtle of adjustments to each in the beginning. Last month we set up a diet plan to follow. What we must realize is that the personalized plan we set up will only yield results for so long. The key to continued progress is making the right adjustments to our diet, cardio, and supplement regiment. The body will adapt to any set combination of these three over time. For this reason, making an adjustment to ONE of the three every 2-3 weeks is 100% necessary. When considering the adjustment to make it is best to know the changes we have made in our body composition. How much fat mass was lost vs. lean body mass? This is of utmost importance as we want to retain lean body mass as much as possible and lose as much body fat as we can. With all the variables considered we have but 4 choices. One, make no adjustment and see how long the current plan will yield results. Two, adjust the fat loss supplements we are or are not taking. Three, adjust cardio duration or frequency. Four, adjust carbohydrate intake and in some cases protein or fat intake (overall calories). The full details of making the appropriate changes to our personalized plan as our bodies change will be the key topic for a future article.
Now let us discuss how to recruit the appropriate cardio routine and supplements to assist our diet in our declaration of war against body fat!
Very simply there is only ONE form of cardio that will mobilize fat stores and use them for fuel. This type of cardio is called Low intensity steady state cardio. Most people should be pleased to hear they will not have to sprint like an Olympic track athlete in order to burn fat, as this cardio will be performed at only 65-70% of our maximum heart rate! In most cases this can be achieved by walking at a relatively moderate pace on an incline treadmill to give an example. Whatever cardio equipment you have at your disposal with a heart rate monitor will do. For those looking to tighten up the glutes and hamstrings, the stair stepper is a great choice. Some who do not have access to cardio equipment have simply purchased a heart rate monitor and gone for a morning walk instead. The cardio equipment you use simply does not matter, however the timing of this cardio, just as the timing of our diet that we discussed in last month’s article, is of the utmost importance.
Burning Fat vs. Glycogen
The only time that low intensity steady state cardio will recruit fat for fuel is when our bodies are in a glycogen depleted state. Glycogen is what our bodies form from the carbohydrates that we eat and it is stored in skeletal muscle tissue, the liver, and brain. Carbohydrates are to glycogen as oil is to gasoline. Very simply, glycogen is a readily available energy source, the stored form of carbohydrates.
Now as long as there is glycogen available for fuel the body will not mobilize and recruit fat stores. This is why we must perform our cardio in a glycogen depleted state. The most likely time to find ourselves glycogen depleted is first thing in the morning (or whenever you wake) on an empty stomach. Assuming we are following the diet we presented last month, we would not have consumed any carbohydrates with our last meal of the day and often many meals before that as well. After sleeping for 6-9 hours on top of that, we can feel confident that our morning cardio session will burn body fat.
The one other time of day that we may find that our bodies are somewhat glycogen depleted is after a workout on days where we did not consume large amounts of carbohydrates. This would not be our leg training or back training days, maybe even chest as well, as these days require a relatively large amount of carbohydrates. The days to consider post workout cardio would be arm, shoulder, or ancillary muscle training days where we consumed low to moderate carbohydrates. Towards the end of our diet as we near our goal, we will have more low to moderate carbohydrate days that we can perform post workout cardio. For now however we will stick to morning cardio and the carbohydrate intake we have outlined in last months article.
Why Low Intensity?
There are many people that are big advocates of high intensity interval cardio. This is where you would sprint for a short time then walk for a slightly longer period in between each sprint or high intensity portion. This cardio has its place in a fat loss plan, however it should be used sparingly. 1-3 days per week at the most. However, those that have restricted carbohydrates to get lean as our diet plan suggests run a very large risk of burning muscle tissue during this type of training so it is important to treat this type of cardio as you would a weight training session, thereby consuming carbs before and after any HIT cardio session.
Just to review, when carbohydrates are restricted we store less glycogen. Not to mention the many times where we are nearly glycogen depleted from morning cardio and weight training. That means our bodies will have but two options to fuel a high intensity cardio session, body fat or muscle tissue. Fat will never be used for this type of cardio.
Fat is a very dense nutrient source and energy source in comparison to carbohydrates and protein. For example, some may know that 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories whereas 1 gram of protein or carbohydrates contains 4 calories. So fat is more than TWICE as nutrient dense as carbs or protein!
For this reason, fat cannot be processed at a very fast rate. This is true for digestion of fats as well as mobilizing them for energy purposes. When considering the rate at which our bodies are requiring energy to fuel a high intensity cardio session, fat stores simply cannot be mobilized into the blood stream as free fatty acids (ffa) fast enough. This leaves but one option for fuel, muscle tissue. If the science described here does little in the way of understanding or believing this, simply take a look at any endurance athlete. Runners and other athletes that perform with a heart rate elevated above 70% of their max carry very little muscle mass for this reason. Now sprinters on the other hand may carry a decent amount of muscle mass. However, these athletes are not doing their interval sprints on a low carbohydrate diet by any stretch of the imagination. This means they have plenty of stored glycogen for energy and are not in jeopardy of burning muscle tissue.
The one mentionable benefit of high intensity cardio, interval or not, is the effect it has of increasing your resting metabolic rate. However, this effect is easily and more efficiently achieved by following the diet plan we have discussed in the previous article. By consuming meals as frequent as we have outlined, we are directly instructing our bodies to operate at a faster pace. This means increased thyroid production and in turn an elevated metabolic rate without the risk of burning muscle tissue. So say goodbye to high intensity cardio and hello to the much more comfortable and appropriate low intensity cardio!!
Putting it all together
The cardio plan we will start with to accompany our new diet will consist of four morning cardio sessions on an empty stomach 4-5 days a week for 30 minutes at a rate of 65-70% of our maximum heart rate. The days we will perform this cardio will be all of our off days (low carb and no weight training) and arm, shoulder, or ancillary muscle training days where we would be consuming a moderate amount of carbohydrates. If you wish you may include an HIT cardio session on your off days in the evening, with carbs before and after, or after leg or back training when you have pretty full glycogen stores compared to other low carb days. As the diet progresses and our bodies change and adapt we will increase the duration and frequency of these cardio sessions, eventually adding in a few post-workout sessions. Those eager to do this now should be warned that too much too fast run the risk of losing muscle mass. Not to mention the inability to progress the diet and training for further results. We don’t want to pour all the fuel on the fire at once, it would burn out too soon.
The easiest way to determine your maximum heart rate is 220 – age. Multiply this number by .65 and that is 65%. Multiply it by .70 and that is 70%. We want to stay between these two numbers for the entire duration of our cardio session. Any athlete over the age of 42 will want to keep their heart rate between 115bpm and 125bpm.
*it is important to remember that these are suggestions only, based on general principles and proven results from men and woman of all ages. However what is not accounted for is any pre-existing conditions or medications that these suggestions could affect. For this reason it is always best to consult your primary care physician before beginning any regimented diet and training program such as this.
Well that’s it for this month folks! There is a wealth of information at your fingertips. All it takes is application and consistency. The change you want to see in the mirror is now within reach and we are here to help you every step of the way!
From all of us here at All Pro Nutrition, we would like to wish you the best of luck with your physique alteration endeavors and hope to see you very soon!