Whether your Smart Goal includes muscle development, fat loss or both, you should always include some form of cardio as part of your training program. Unless you’re training for an high level endurance event, aerobics will not cause muscle loss, in fact it supports the pathways that help you build it!
I recently tested a client, using a simple 2 km walk test. He was a 22 year old male, he “looked” fit, normal weight range for his height, and his body fat percentage was eleven percent. In the pre-test interview he said that he had cut way down on his cardio in hopes that it would increase his muscle gains. He did do some circuit training, but only used cardio, “long steady distance” and or “high intensity interval training” sporadically. When the test was done he was in awe that his performance was “normal”, for A 65 YEAR OLD MAN..!
It’s a scientifically proven fact that muscle proteins are broken down and used for energy during aerobic exercise, but you are constantly breaking down and rebuilding muscle tissue anyway. Protein accretion is the balance between protein synthesis and protein degradation. More synthesis than breakdown indicates an anabolic state that builds lean tissues, more breakdown than synthesis indicates a catabolic state that burns lean tissues. Your body is constantly alternating back and forth between anabolic (building) and catabolic (breaking down) cycles. That’s just a normal part of life. Your Smart Goal should be simply to balance the scales slightly in favor of increasing the anabolic side and reducing the catabolic side just enough so you stay on the anabolic side gaining, or maintaining muscle according to your goal. This fact of human physiology has often been miss-used to scare people limiting cardiovascular exercise for fear of losing muscle. When you sleep at night you lose muscle as well, but that doesn’t mean you should stop sleeping!
Sure, it’s possible for you to lose muscle from doing too much cardio, but it’s highly unlikely. Staying away from cardio completely because you think you’ll lose muscle is a huge mistake. Only excessive amounts of cardio would cause you to lose muscle because over-training tips the scale towards the catabolic side. It’s difficult to say how much is too much, but I think it’s safe to say that just about anyone could do up to 30-45 minutes of cardio a day, 6 to 7 days a week without losing any muscle… as long as the proper nutritional support is provided. The positive effects that cardio adds to your program far outweighs the negative. Increased blood flow will promote a more efficient pathway for oxygen to reach your muscles; with an increased number of capillaries supplying these tissues, nutrients will reach the muscles quicker, and waste products will be carried away stimulating muscle growth.
Eat Clean..! Losing muscle has more to do with an inadequate toxic diet than with excessive aerobics. If you are losing muscle mass there are four likely causes:
1. You are not eating enough protein. Protein is the only nutrient that is actually used to build muscle. To stay anabolic you must eat five to six protein containing meals. Each meal should be spaced out approximately three hours apart. Research has proven that if you are physically active, you need a minimum of .8 grams to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
2. Your carb intake is too low. Low carb diets are often used for fat loss, but it is a mistake to cut your carbs too drastically. Carbohydrates are protein-sparing, so even if you are eating large amounts of protein, you can still lose muscle if you your carbs are too low.
3. You are not eating enough calories to support muscle growth. This is the most common cause of muscle loss. When your calories are too low, your body goes into “starvation mode.” Your metabolism slows down and your body actually burns muscle tissue to conserve energy. Muscle is metabolically active tissue, requiring a great deal of caloric energy just to maintain it. That’s why your body will shed muscle if it thinks you are starving.
4. You are not performing resistance training. The first Macro cycle should be to build strength and endurance. It is the resistance training that keeps you from losing muscle. The second Macro you begin to bring in the power aspect of your Smart Goal.
You are more likely to lose muscle from inadequate nutrition than you are from doing too much cardio. Enter the DIET mentality; many people believe they must “starve” the fat by drastically lowering calories. Some supplement a low calorie diet using protein powders, these are generally loaded with useless chemicals which inhibit the function of the organs increasing toxicity and decreasing performance. This approach can cause you to lose muscle along with the fat. The only way to maintain your lean mass while losing fat is to feed the muscles with plenty of nutritious CLEAN calories and at the same time, burn the fat off with cardio and or circuit training.
Train for Life! Bart Wagar
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