Phoenix Ignition Fitness Company

Too much cardio!!

by Ron Kennedy • October 03, 2016
There's no doubt about it: Cardio is a vital weapon in any fitness training program. During training, cardio helps to keep your body fat levels in check while maintaining your fitness levels, and in “cutting” or definition training focus it's essential for shredding fat, increasing calorie burn and boosting your metabolism. The main issue with cardiovascular conditioning is that it can be catabolic, meaning it breaks down muscle tissue. However, there are ways you can prevent muscle breakdown while still getting an effective cardio workout.

Exercise is often recommended as a way to increase the rate of fat loss in a weight loss program. Strength training is important for maintaining the lean mass, or muscle tissue that’s often lost by those who use only diet to lose weight. Endurance training, or cardiovascular training, is often encouraged as a way to increase the amount of fat energy used during the day, train the body to burn fat more efficiently, and help to increase the rate of fat loss.

The fact that longer-duration, lower-intensity activity burns predominately fat leads many people to believe that “more is better” when it comes to cardiovascular training. However, that may not be the case. A group of researchers, using a randomized, controlled trial looked at the effects of varying durations of cardiovascular exercise and the effect it had on fat loss for overweight men When people train at a high intensity or for a long duration, they tend to be far less active outside their exercise session than those who train at a lower intensity or for a shorter duration. If a workout wipes you out for the rest of the day, you’re more prone to being sedentary the rest of the day than if your workout left you feeling invigorated.

Studies also show that when people feel they can eat anything they want following exercise; they eat more when they exercise more. That would also hold people back from losing weight, though diet was monitored in this study. Another possible issue with the higher-intensity group could have been that they burned more energy from glucose than from fat. Their respiratory quotient, a measure of fat utilization, was not measured, or was not discussed in the paper, so it’s difficult to know if that could have played a part as well.
So how do you effectively implement cardiovascular training within a fitness regimen?

Perform high-intensity interval training rather than traditional moderate-intensity steady-state work. Intervals are a much better way to maintain and possibly even build muscle mass than long, slow-duration cardio. Endurance-type aerobic work can raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which breaks down muscle tissue. High-intensity cardio is far superior for losing fat while maintaining mass. Perform intervals on any piece of cardio equipment. Warm up for five minutes, then go at maximum intensity for 30 seconds, reduce your speed for 90 seconds and repeat this protocol eight to 10 times. This is an advanced technique and does require sufficient stamina and proper conditioning.

Add sprint style circuits into your routine. Sprints can be considered interval training too, but there is a wide variety of types of sprint you can do that will not only maintain, but also build muscle. Resisted sprints, where you run while pulling or pushing a weighted sled, wear a weight vest or run up steep hills (or my personal favorite... running stairs), are even more challenging than regular sprints. They also load your hamstrings, quads, glutes and calves differently than regular weight training.

Balance your calorie intake to prevent muscle loss. Nutrition is just as important as training when it comes to maintaining your muscle mass. Eating too few calories will lead to muscle breakdown, so ensure that your intake isn't too low. You only need a small deficit of around 500 calories per day to lose a pound of fat per week. Have a small meal consisting of protein and carbs before a cardio session to give you energy and fuel your muscles