The first is cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone secreted in response to stress (in our case exercise). Cortisol's main objective is to liberate energy from tissues for use during these periods of stress . It doesn't have a preference on what tissue it gets it from, but it does seem to favor muscle tissue rather heavily . The amount of cortisol released is directly related to the intensity or degree of the stress. It seems that after about 20 minutes of high intensity work, cortisol levels shoot through the roof. With that said, for high intensity (85-90% VO2 max) cardio to have the most benefit in its muscle building/fat burning properties, sessions should be kept under 20 min.
This is where so many go wrong. As I stated in the previous article, cardio creates the same anabolic state and window of opportunity as heavy weight training. Sucking back a few grams of glutamine just won't cut it. To make this as effective as possible, a pre & post work out supplementation protocol should be followed, very much in the same fashion as most do for weight training sessions.
First and fore most is our good friend, insulin. Keeping insulin up in the period surrounding a cardio session is critical. Having Insulin and carbohydrates present before and during a cardio session seems to slow the muscle destroying action of cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. This aspect single handedly slows the start of Gluconeogenesis. Gluco = sugar/blood sugar, neo = new, genesis = formation or creation. It means the formation of blood glucose from non - carbohydrate sources, or in most cases, muscle protein. This is exactly what we don't want.
Secondly, protein should be added to the mix. High intensity cardio uses a lot of muscle groups and makes use of a lot of the type II fibers. The same ones we use during weight training. This action alone will be drawing the glucose and amino acids directly to every last one of them. Cardio accelerates the rate of protein synthesis and break down. If you don't address which protein is added, its going to hurt you in the long run (6,7). This is what most bodybuilders attributes as "burning up muscle".
Creatine should also be included into the mixture as well. Although the exact reasons aren't fully understood, creatine has the unique ability to preserve and even accelerate muscle growth in times of caloric restriction and a negative nitrogen balance . I would be lead to believe its has much to do with its cell volumizing properties which leads to greater protein synthesis. If you are one who uses creating before and after weight training an does cardio in the evening, I would recommend that a small 2g dose before and after should be enough. Or 5g only to the post work out supplementation.
Glutamine is another supplement I suggest to add in at this time. Aside from its anti-catabolic properties and its ability to accelerate protein synthesis, an 8g dose replenishes glycogen stores with out added carbohydrates. And is even more effective when carbohydrates are included . So, we have dextrose, whey protein, creatine, and glutamine so far. This is very similar to the supplement composition that not only minimizes cortisol secretion and lactic acid build-up over continual training, but it also maximizes the Anabolic hormones.
Namely, we are taking advantage of insulin, IGF-I and Growth hormone 7. I think that it's very important to get these nutrients in at this critical time and as soon as possible. Secondly I think its important that the protein and carbohydrates be liquid in nature. Solid foods simply take longer to digest in the stomach. The longer we need to wait for the nutrients to be delivered to the small intestine for absorption, the more tissue breakdown can occur.
More over, after intense training, the rate that material is actually dumped into the small intestine from the stomach is much slower. So liquid supplements are highly sought after at this time. I would also recommend taking some anti-oxidants after cardio as well, like vitamin C, E, beta-carotene, alpha lipoic acid, NAC, etc. Most free radicals are nothing more than un-paired Oxygen molecules. So I think it is safe to say aerobic exercise will create more of them than resistance training.
You're probably thinking a meal replacement that would fit the bill at this time, but there is only one problem. Most MRP's are comprised mainly of casein, which takes a very long time to digest. Whey hydrolysates, isolates and concentrates, in order of preference, are what should be taken in the period immediately after any work out. The longer it takes the nutrient to get into the blood, the more muscle breakdown can occur. Whey is a much faster "acting" protein than casein.
First and foremost is the protein issue. As the work load increases, so does the need for proteins. Both strength and endurance athletes are instructed to intake amounts of protein well above normal requirements. When you combine the two, the demand is even higher. Throughout the data I have read there was one common occurrence. The people who did both cardio and weight training seemed to gain more muscle and loose more fat, but they were in a negative nitrogen balance (6,7). Don't skip on the protein folks, simply adding calories from fat and carbs will not, I repeat, will not increase gains in muscle (6,8). Imagine how much muscle these people would have put on if they had consumed enough!
The second, and maybe the most important part, is the composition of the rest of your diet. More specifically, how to use the glycemic index in the correct manner to maximize your results. There are a number of articles on this web site on the GI. My advice is to read them, know them and love them! But, I can direct you to one of the most complete lists I have ever seen at http://www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm.
Most of us understand the importance of carbohydrates that are High on the GI after a work out. But many don't realize just how important foods low on the GI are during the rest of the day. Just simply by adjusting your food intake to Low GI foods outside of the 3 window of opportunity, you will have not only greatly reduced muscle tissue break down, but also increased fat oxidation. And a diet with a large amount of low GI foods increases nitrogen retention even during periods of restricted carbohydrate intake (18).
As I talked about in Part I, fat oxidation is already accelerated from the high intensity cardio . But combining that with low GI foods and you are basically throwing napalm on the metabolic fires. This is an example of what a Bodybuilders "Food Guide Pyramid" should look like. We keep the refined and high GI foods up and the top of the pyramid because they are only for those critical times around workouts.
Next on the list is mod GI carbs and starches such as, oatmeal, pastas, some certain forms of rice, barely, etc. I like to include these in the end of the 3-hour window. Next comes the protein and supplement portion. Milk, meats, poultry and of course Whey. Don't exclude milk. I'll have to refer you back to Big Cat's article on milk. But I have also found that milk raises the level of circulating IGF-I and helps to prevent some forms of cancer. So drink up.
Click here to see the GI of the foods you are eating
I know many people like to use whey only for post workouts because its assimilated so fast and leaves you hanging. But, if taken WITH meals and not as a meal replacement its extremely effective. By taking whey with meals, it ensures the presence of insulin and puts you in an absorptive state. Doing so almost guarantees that the why will be channeled to muscle tissue rather than oxidized as an energy source. I also include other supplements in the category. Things like creatine, glutamine, CLA, fat burners, and so on are very beneficial and are a bigger part of the overall diet than people realize.
Last on the list are Low GI foods. Vegetables in their many forms are very low on the list and should be used often. And you can virtually eat as much as you want. In fact, many of them have a negative caloric value. Meaning it will take your body more energy to digest them than is actually in the food. This is kind of a way to trick your body into thinking its getting more calories than it actually is.
However, lets get one thing straight. We aren't trying to overly restrict calories here. In fact that could be detrimental to the entire process. The data shows with out a shadow of a doubt, that people who participate in high intensity weight training and cardio, use the GI properly are leaner and have more muscle when they ate their normal healthy diets (6,7,18)! ?Even leaner than people who "diet" in the true sense by limiting calories (20). I've included MRPs to the bottom rung of the latter because they are a staple in a sound diet and are very effective in fat loss endeavors.
They are also low on the GI. I know maltodextrin is common in most and is regarded as being HI on the list. However, I took it upon my self to test it out personally. I have a little blood glucose meter and took some test readings. My fasting level is about 85mg/dl. A single MRP raises it to about 125 mg/dl. On the other hand eating potatoes or rice will elevate it close to 190mg/dl. So I think they are a much safer bet.
THE TESTOSTERONE ISSUE
Single bouts of high intensity have been known to elevate testosterone levels post exercise. However, as we continue to train day after day, levels drop off continually with every session (7). So it's our job to fix the problem with our diet. This is why I've included essential fats/oils to the bottom rung of the pyramid. The amount of testosterone is directly correlated to the amount of saturated and monounsaturated fat in our diet. Polyunsaturated fats seem to have a negative impact . And saturated fat really has no function other than storage, so there's no need to try to include it in your diet. So keep the olive oil, nuts, and flax seeds handy. But I would include CLA and maybe an EFA supplement as well.
SO NOW WHAT?
In the last article I show that it is in fact possible to loose body fat while gaining muscle mass. The biggest obstacle is to forget what the numbers on the scale say. The goal of a "bulking" phase is go gain the maximum amount of muscle in the shortest amount of time. This article gives you an idea of how to manipulate your diet to do just that. And you now have more reason to do cardio during you bulking phase than not. No I'll give a couple examples of how to go about pulling all of this information together.
|Three Day Split Routine||Train Every Day / Twice A Day.|
|6:30am - High GI breakfast (commercial breakfast cereal), whey & milk.||6:30am - High GI breakfast 1(commercial breakfast cereal), whey & milk.|
|8am - Pre-work out (weights or cardio). Dextrose, Whey, Creatine, Glutamine (drink this during warm up sets).||8am - Pre-work out. Dextrose, Whey, Creatine, Glutamine (drink this during warm up sets).|
|9am - Post work out. Same as Pre + anti-oxidants.||9am - Post work out. Same as Pre + anti-oxidants.|
|9:30 - Solid food meal +High GI starches.||9:30 - Solid food meal +High GI starches.|
|10:30 - MRP.||10:30 - MRP.|
|12:00 - Moderate GI foods + Whey protein.||12:00 - Moderate GI foods+ Whey protein.|
|Low GI meals for the rest of the day.||Low GI meals.|
|Night Time - Follow my first article "Building Muscle 24-7"||4:30 - 13 min Hi intensity cardio.|
|4:45 - Dextrose (optional), creatine, glutamine, whey + anti-oxidants.|
|5pm - Low GI Meals.|
|* On a 3 day split, you might lift Mon, Wed, Fri. And do Cardio Tues, Thur, and Sat (if you are ambitious). The main idea is to employ this method for every work out cardio or weight training.||Night time - Follow the strategy I outlined in my first article "Building Muscle 24-7"|
Also "cycling" the amount of cardio you do, in volume and intensity, seems to further stimulate the fast twitch (the big ones) muscle fibers to grow . So it may be a good idea to not only include a wide variety of cardio machines and activities to hit all the muscle groups, but to also take a break every so often. If you are doing 3 sessions regularly, near the end of your training blocks, cut back to 2 for a week. The next week cut back to 1, then the last week just do 1 moderate/ low intensity session, then take an entire week off of training all together.
One final suggestion is to keep the meals in the hours after your first training session very low in fat to keep things moving smoothly and quickly. A light sprinkle of crushed flax seeds on your solid food meals should rally be enough at this time.
Of course, these are just samples and suggestions. You can modify, as you'd like. But this illustrates the type of timing that is involved in making it all work. This approach to training and diet produces an internal environment conductive for maximum muscle growth. I know that the idea of cardio building muscle probably goes against everything you know. But there's to much evidence to deny it. I know it may be even harder to believe that doing as little a 13-15 min of it is going to benefit you in your fat burning and muscle building efforts. I think the biggest mental obstacle is the fact that everyone misses the big picture.
It is true that we are not going to use fat as a primary fuel source during high intensity cardio. However, for the next 24 or more hours fat will be oxidized at a much higher rate. This "after-effect" simply doesn't happen with normal cardio. So now you need to ask yourself, "would I rather burn fat for 30-45min, or burn fat for the next 24 hours?"
DEFINING INTENSE CARDIO
I've stressed the point of 85% to almost 95% of VO2 max, but that's something that is very hard to determine. What I think is a better concept is the "Comfort Zone". This is what normal cardio feels like, you know you can keep it up for 40 min or more if you really wanted to. Intense cardio leaves the comfort zone in the dust. The health industry refers to it as an oxygen deficit. You're lungs start burning and your body feels like its on fire. You have to stumble your way back to the car when your done. Much like John described in his response. Not everyone like that feeling and its something you need to get used to.
As bodybuilders, wear not endurance athletes, thee is no reason to do the lower intensity, long and drawn out cardio work anymore. This is very similar to lactic threshold work, in fact you will probably cross that point at one time or another and have to stop briefly. But that's what it should be like. You've probably lived by the "No pain, no gain" adage for a long time, you might as well apply it to cardio.
REAL WORLD RESULTS
So, all the science mumbo-jumbo doesn't float with you? You want to see how it works with some "real" people? Well. Before writing this article, I had advised a number of people to construct their diets and work out plans in such a manner. Here is a sample of the responses I received:
Zach - 3yrs. Previous training: "I used to eat a ton of meat and the cheapest whey protein I could find, with as little carbs as possible and a lot of fat (came with the red meats). My daily caloric intake had been about 2400 to 2800 per day. I have in the past year switched my meat intake to only white lean meats (chicken breast, turkey beast, etc....). My protein supplementation, which had previously been all cheap brands of whey protein, has been switched to hydrolyzed whey protein isolate. I have added a great deal of carbohydrates, low GI except right after working out at which point I opt for higher GI carbs. I have cut out almost all fats and have supplemented with CLA. My current daily caloric intake is about 1600-200..."
I used to lift Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Each workout would last me about 1 and 1/2 hours. Each body part was worked twice per week. I also used to aim for positive failure at about 8-12 reps, stressing perfect form not allowing my body to move like it wanted to. I used to always perform a great deal of isolation exercises for muscles like my biceps and triceps. I have since switched to training each body part once per week, lifting 6 days a week, with short 1/2 hour sessions...
Cardio has been the biggest change. I used to perform 3 super long cardio sessions on the days I didn't lift. Generally distance runs of anywhere from 10-20 miles. I have since switched my cardio to 6 days a week, all the days I lift, and do about 20 minute sessions of the highest intensity I can maintain in that time frame...
Prior to making the switches I have listed above, despite my efforts I was soft looking, albeit fairly strong. I had a good deal of body fat, blaming "genetics" for not being able to achieve a six-pack. Despite my young age, I had been unable to pack on the muscle like many of my peers who at this age could seemingly train any way they wanted and get results. I stayed with about 18 percent body fat for what seemed like forever.
After the switches I gradually made over time, I went from 18 percent body fat to and 9 percent body fat, gained 5lbs in total weight while achieving the six-pack that I thought "genetics" had been denying me. I went from envying the guys my age who seemed like they could do everything wrong and make progress, to the guy that they came to for training advice... (that's a 20lb increase in lean body mass for those of you with out a calculator).
Comments: The most important things I have learned is that genetic limitations do not really exist. The basics that are so widely accepted amongst bodybuilders are the true limiting factors that have been so inappropriately dubbed "genetics". Training right gets you results, if your not getting results fast, or not getting them at all, your not training right, it is that simple...
The second greatest discovery I have found is that I haven't any need to go through a uncomfortable bulking phase in which I stuff myself, and a horrible cutting phase where I starve and lose 1/2 of my hard earned muscle!! Bodybuilding is about gaining muscle and losing the fat, why not do both at once!!! Even eastern philosophy believes that nothing in extremes is lasting, moderation is everything. Why go for super high cal diets and super low cal diets when a moderate to slightly low cal diet is so much kinder on your stomach and mood."
Jim with over 20 years of training had to say: "This past Dec. I was disgusted with myself. I weighed 235 and size 38 pants were getting tight."
Background: From age 18 to 35 I trained 4 to 6 days (reps as high as 20 but mostly 8 to 10) a week and was in very good shape. Then I got married, had a kid and let myself go. About two years ago I had a serious back injury from training to hard too fast and not stretching enough. A year ago I tried doing cardio more than weights and lost 20 pounds. At 217 I was lighter than I had been in many years, But when I looked in the mirror I just didn't look that great.
Back to December, I knew there had to be a way for a busy person like myself to get results fast. I searched on the internet and found this site and you. I have been training 4 days a week with the 4-6 rep range. I have had tremendous strength gains. When I started I couldn't to the 90 lb dumbells once and now I can do the 100 lb for 6 (I have out grown the dumbbells in my gym will have to use barbell). I know you advise against doing cardio (rowing, interval running/walking on treadmill, stairmaster) after lifting but I do it any way and it has been effective for me.
As far as supplementing, I use whey protein and creatine and that is it. Diet is better than it has ever been. No junk food. Eat every 3 hours and immediately after waking up.
Current statistics: I am 40 years old, 6' 2" and I now weigh 230lb and can fit in size 34 pants although my legs are too big most of the time for that waist size. I look better at 230 than I did at 217. My wife loves the changes I have made in my body. She has just ordered a personalize license plate for me." - 1BUFDAD.
Name: Brad Year training: 2
Background: "Well, I started to gradually gain a significant amount of weight every year. During the course of my freshman year I realized I wanted to lose weight and sadly went at it the every wrong way. I would not eat a healthy breakfast, fasted at school, and basically stuffed my self when I got home. I did not loose any weight through out the whole year."
June 2001 - September 2001: I committed myself to lose weight at all costs. And again without proper guidance I slipped into my bad habits. I hardly ate anything, did endless sit-ups, and ran around my block religiously. In the end after the damage was done. I was 5'9", lost over 30lbs and 4 inches in my waist. Needless to say I lost a significant amount of fat and muscle mass due to this escapade. I was a walking skeleton. I was so thin I could see my ribs through my chest and back for the first time.
Oct. 2001- Present: After finding this Message board I decided to start bodybuilding. I started to eat healthy for the first time in my life. 6 small meals a day. Low glycemic meals throughout the day and high GI meals after working out. With the help of a friend I started to love working out for the first time in my life. Everyday I would visit this message board(@home≻hool) and read your posts.
I took all the information you contributed on this board and basically based my life around it. Everything from high intensity cardio( 10-13 minutes of pure fun :), the time I eat( every 2-3 hours), how much I eat( 198g carbs, 280g protein), when I lift (3:00pm), how I lift(4-6rep range, 5 days a week training 2 muscle groups a day), to just plain out how I look at my self.
I have been supplementing with creatine, hydrolyzed whey isolate and glutamine (bracketing method), Nytro-Pro40 meal replacements, & Dymetadrine Xtreme. My gains within these few months have been Phenomenal!! My arms gained 1.5 in. at least. And I gained 40lbs+ to my max bench so far!
Current: I've put on over 20lbs of lean mass and kept a 32in waist!!! I am really excited about the progression in the years to come. Thanks Eric for showing me the way to my new passion in life."
John, Age: 26
"I think the biggest thing I've taken away from you is the intensity principle and a true understanding of failure. Unfortunately, I can't tolerate the short, intense cardio sessions you recommend - they just tear my insides apart, and I feel like I want to double over and die half-way through; and not in a good way either - but at least after trying a couple sessions, I know I can push myself a little harder on the longer, less intense sessions."
As far as lifting goes, I've been able to break through a few slumps by lifting more intensely. I can make size and strength gains again when it comes to biceps. I've been increasing weight every session for squats and forearm curls - I'm still waiting to reach the true weight I can work with for these exercises, but I need to give my back a chance to adjust for squats, and my wrists a chance to adjust for forearm curls to the increased weight. Though I'm still waiting for these weakest links to catch up, I have been pushing my self with more intensity to reach failure so that the exercises are still effective for the muscles they're supposed to work.
"I've been able to push myself harder and force myself to really work for true failure - except flat bench, for some reason this has gone from being one of my favorite exercises to one of my least favorite; I think I've just allowed the fear of dropping it on myself to creep into my subconscious, and I need to drive it out somehow. I'm still relatively new at this, so in some aspects, I'm still fumbling around; but I have picked up a lot of information from you to continue experimenting and fine-tuning with my plan."
So there is a little sample of what just a few months of application of my theory can accomplish. If you are truly committed to building the most amount of muscle, high intensity cardio work seems to be surfacing as the as a factor just as influential as nutrition. Now with all of that said, you can no longer you a bulking phase to exclude cardio from your training. If you are going to exclude it, at least be honest and say you're just too lazy.
The one thing that came up in all of the responses and more so in the last one, was the one thing I feel is vital to success in any training style. And that is the mindset and mental approach you take in everything you do. In my next couple of articles, I would like to share so of the mental strategies I shared with these people that have given them the ability to enjoy every aspect of their training and life. And for a bodybuilder to say he honestly does cardio for fun is something to take notice of! So take this article as a plan of attack in your bodybuilding journey. Its time to abandon some of the old school principles and see what your body is really capable of. And as I always like to say, when its all said and done, you'll have "Cuts To The Bone".
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