Friday, April 22, 2011

Cardio Advice

(Cardio) will not give you the body of your dreams. Excessive cardio coupled with a lack of weight training, will either make you fatter, or will make you a smaller and flabbier version of your current self. Are there people who do excessive amounts of cardio and neglect weight training and still have nice bodies? Of course. But they are anomalies who look good in spite of their training, not because of it. So, is cardio bad? Of course not. The correct types of cardio done at the correct times can help you shed fat and show off the muscles that weight training has helped you build! High intensity interval training (HIIT) is incredible for fat loss, but some people experience too much muscle loss or hindered strength/muscle gains when they perform HIIT too often. Low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio is great when you are trying to preserve strength and mass, but it takes longer and doesn’t burn as many calories during or after as HIIT does. Most of you will have to experiment with different types of cardio to find the right combination to help you reach your goals. For example, if you are trying very hard to gain lean mass, a couple of short LISS sessions a week might be perfect. If you are looking to gain strength, 1-2 super short HIIT sessions right after you lift and 1-2 LISS sessions on off days might be just perfect to get your cardio in while allowing you to recover properly. If fat loss is your main goal, you might focus on doing more HIIT sessions. I personally prefer high intensity intervals a couple of times a week to shed fat and low intensity activities such as light sled pulling or walking with a weighted vest to speed up recovery while burning a few extra calories.
This is becoming a very common viewpoint, and this lady expresses it well.  I still doubt that these workouts are helping her deal with fat, as it's equally likely that they just make her hungry.  Still, coupling these types of HIIT and LISS sessions with strength training is a good, if much less potent than CrossFit) alternative to GPP. 

However, I think she's missing on some of the details:
The cool thing about HIIT is (remember TABATA is a form of HIIT), when you are finished your body releases fatty acids into your bloodstream. By resting a little while and then doing some low intensity cardio, you are allowing your body to release the fatty acids during the rest, and then they are the most readily available source of energy for your body to use during the low intensity cardio…so your body gobbles them up! This is discussed (much more in-depth and much more eloquently) in Lyle McDonald’s book, Stubborn Fat Solution, which I highly recommend if you are pretty lean but looking to shed the last bit of stubborn fat. He is a very smart man and has some pretty cool protocols for shedding fat. So, back to the above protocol…not only do you get the EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) and metabolic disturbance from the TABATA (which can burn calories for over 24 hours after it’s completed), but you also get the benefit of using previously stored fatty acids for fuel during your low intensity cardio.  What could be better than that?
If you eat correctly, meaning without excess carbohydrate, fatty acids are continuously circulating into and out of adipose tissue.  There's not much significance to the statement that "fatty acids are released" following high intensity exercise.  What is significant is that HIIT protocols trigger the liver, your glycogen battery, to release a big dose of glycogen - this has been observed to boost my blood glucose levels from the mid-80s to 125 right after a CF WOD.  Within an hour, this glucose is sucked up by the muscles from which I burned out the glucose during the workout.  My guess is were you to execute a LISS after a WOD, you would actually be burning up that post-HIIT glucose.  A significant result of that would be a delay in refueling of HIIT taxed muscles.  That might be good or bad, but I don't think it is necessary to be achieve health and fitness.  Keep in mind, this lady's expertise is most focused on looking good; what might make a difference when you want to look good in a bikini is not necessarily of significance for those of us chasing performance, activity longevity, and a life of abundant health.

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