While cardiovascular training is important for burning calories and maintaining a healthy heart(maybe). The best training protocol is a combination of both weight resistance and cardio training. Studies in which subjects who participated only in endurance training displayed an actual transformation of type 2 muscle fibers into type 1 muscle fibers. This is a big deal when you consider type 2 muscle fibers are the fibers responsible for bigger muscles. Type 1 fibers are endurance fibers, which lack the ability to enlarge. Bigger muscles will translate to burning more calories. This is due to the fact that a certain portion of your calories are needed to maintain muscle mass. That muscle mass comes from training the entire body with weight resistance training in a rep range of 8-12. When using the prescribed rep range you enlarge type 2 muscle fibers. When only cardio is performed you are only training legs and only recruiting type 1 muscle fibers.
It’s also important to keep in mind that when cardio is at an elevated level (over 60% of max heart rate) it only burns glucose not fat. This depletes your glucose levels which results in your body finding other ways to make glucose (the only energy substrate used by muscles for force contraction). Fat (triglycerides) and protein (amino acids) can both be broken down to make glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis (making glucose from non carbohydrate sources). It’s not really known what will be broken down first, fat or protein; the body will use what ever is available at the time. The concern is when the body does decide to breakdown protein and use the amino acids for fuel; it comes from muscle tissue, which is never a good thing.
Again, I’m not against cardio as if it’s all evil, but weight resistance training should be a priority while cardio should be kept to a minimum. Bigger, stronger muscles are the key to a fitter you. Let’s say you only train cardio and reduce your calories. After 2 months you lose about 15 pounds. Most studies show that when weight loss is due to a reduction in calories at least 25% of the weight loss comes from muscle. Now when you stop dieting, you will gain the weight back, but this time it will be 100% of a fat gain. You have done nothing to build back up the lost muscle tissue, so it adds up as you having more fat on your body. Now let’s add weight resistance into the equation. You have lost 15 pounds but this time you have lost 15 pounds but actually gain 5 pounds in muscle that will ultimately lead to an increase in metabolism. So on paper you only lost 10 pounds but in reality you spared muscle loss and actually gained new muscle.
This is one of the reasons why some people get disappointed when weight training for the first time. The scale can be deceiving if you don’t under stand the physiology of weight resistance exercise and how it effects the body. I mentioned an increase in metabolism through weight training. Studies show that weight training in the 8-12 range can increase metabolism up to 36hrs after exercising. That means if you worked out Monday morning at 7 am you will still be burning calories at 5 pm after work on Tuesday. Cardio displays no such effects, it only increases metabolism during the actual exercise, not after. Here are some guidelines that will help you not over do it as the summer season is upon us:
· Limit cardio to no more than 1-3 times a week
· Cardio is best performed on non weight resistance training days, this prevents overtraining
· Sessions should not go past 45 minutes, anything longer and amino acids from muscle tissue might be used for fuel
· Cardio, dieting and calorie reduction without weight resistance training, spells a loss in muscle tissue which actually lowers metabolism
· If you enjoy cardio and want to do more, you must consume adequate amounts of calories from carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
My take, stick with strength training and use cardio as a way to break away from the normality of the weights…3x strength + 1x cardio weekly….
Things turn out best for those people who can make the best out of the way things turn out. It’s not the situation, it’s your response to the situation. The reality in your life may result from many outside factors, none of which you can control, or can you? Your attitude, however, reflects the ways in which you deal with what is happening to you. Life at any time can become difficult. Life at any time can become easy. It all depends upon how you adjust yourself to life. You cannot always control your circumstances. But, you can control your own thoughts. There is nothing neither good nor bad, only your thinking makes it so. -Shelley Taylor Smith,
First Published in 2008