Everyone wants to get ripped and peeled, but usually only a few ever make it. With the hot months on the horizon, everyone at the gym starts talking about their upcoming diet and how excited they are to get the ball rolling.
A common scene really, but it’s uncommon that someone’s efforts actually payoff the way they originally intended. Within a month most guys find themselves pretty frustrated. They are halfway done cutting at best, and feel like they are running through quicksand. As a competitive bodybuilder and contest coach, I get to hear my fair share of rants from these guys and it’s the same issues over and over. Landmines placed in the exact same spot as last year get stumbled upon the following year. In this article we will name a few of the most common traps that slow down, discourage, often leave cutting phases unfinished, and with results that leave so much more to be desired.
“What’s your body fat dude?”
“What’s my body fat at?”
“So what bodyfat should I get to?”
This has got to go!!
Be it if you are trying to compete in a bodybuilding show, gain the notoriety from the opposite sex, or just look good for your upcoming vacation. Nobody is going to look at you, point and say “WOW! Check out his 5.62934% bodyfat!” Truth is you are either in shape or not, and aiming for bodyfat percentages is a waste of time, a distraction at best. When I start dieting for bodybuilding shows I will get that question quite a bit. “So what bodyfat are you going to cut down to?” Truth is I just keep losing weight until I have achieved the look I desire. While your goal might not be striated glutes, I am sure you have a look in mind. What if you get callipered at the 8% you were aiming for, but don’t quite look the way you anticipated? Do you end your diet there? Which brings me to my next point: bodyfat testing in general is pretty hit or miss, at least all the affordable ways are. This is why I never have my clients send me bodyfat percentages in their weekly reports to me. I want weight (which tells us how many lbs. of bodyfat we have lost) and pictures which of course you can’t argue with. You are either ripped or not, and it’s that simple. Yes numbers are sexy, and being able to quantify things is something people just like to do in general, but “ripped” you either are or you aren’t.
Let the mirror decide, not some plastic calipers. Much like the judges don’t get on stage and caliper myself and the other competitors, neither will that young lady at the beach. Shredded doesn’t need a number, it just is.
Fat loss and carbs just don’t go together in the eyes of most people looking to get into shape. Dieting is synonymous with low carb, and even no carb diets. While you will have to cut out some of your carbs when you start your mission towards getting lean, usually the amounts that are cut are too extreme. I will get asked often “so how man carbs should I take when dieting?” The answer is simple: as many as you can while still losing fat at the desired pace. Key words there being as many as YOU can!
Carb intakes can be one of the biggest variables when it comes to dieting.
Two guys with similar training programs, ages, and weights will often require two different approaches nutritionally. Some people might need to diet on 100 grams of carbs, others might require double or triple that amount. One thing is for sure, most folks low ball their carbohydrate threshold and diet on too little food. When you diet on less carbs than you require you will see the following occur: You will come out flying at the start, and then it will drastically slow down, and from there you will likely have to apply more aggressive protocols. Either dropping food lower or adding ungodly amounts of cardio will be required. You will then plateau to where nothing seems to work and progress will simply stall. This is where most guys end up a few weeks into their diet plan.
Use as many carbs as you can, as they will help power through your workouts in the gym, keep your metabolic rate healthy so you can lose fat longer and more efficiently and not just make progress the first month.
Well if it worked for him than it should work for everyone else? If it were only that simple, how wonderful would it be. It would be great because I would no longer need weeks and weeks to get a feel for a client’s metabolic rate. Actually it would not be a good thing because there would be a “secret diet’ that would be applicable to everyone, and in turn I would be out of business. All joking aside, there is enough variation from individual to individual that one diet plan simply can’t fit all.
So while it’s cool, and I am always intrigued as to what other guys have done to get into magnificent shape, my interest has nothing to do with me wanting to mimic their approaches. I enjoy reading these protocols because it confirms the notion that we are each very unique and a wide array of approaches do work.
Some guys need to get in 3-4 hard cardio sessions a week, and others can count the number of cardio sessions they do during their whole diet on one hand. Varying protein intakes, caloric requirements, training guidelines etc. However as intriguing as these protocols are, what most likely makes these athletes successful is trial and error over the year, attention to detail, and being consistent. Good genetics usually help too, which in most cases these individuals happen to possess. For these guys almost anything will work, and let’s be blunt for a moment, if you were genetically predisposed to being muscular and lean you would likely not be reading this article.
Hard work and persistence is going to really make a big difference, the other half will come from using more sound physiological approaches, and not some copy and paste job.
Abs & Cardio
I am talking about the guys that go to the gym and spend 30-40 minutes working out abs. Not only is it a waste of time, but there could be better things you can spend fluff time at the gym on. For example prehab work, foam rolling, as in all the things that will help keep you healthy and progressing for a long time. Quite often I will get curious inquiries from clients about dedicating a whole workout to abs in an effort to tighten up the mid-section. Which still leaves me in awe since we can’t spot target fat loss, and why would a bicep grow when you use it, but the torso muscle shrink and tighten up? Truth is a little goes a long way since abs are involved in some of the bigger movements we do in the gym, and also what works best for other muscles works best for your ab development. Weighted ab exercises in the 5-12 rep range, at about 3-4 sets twice a week is more than enough. Real definition and true sculpting is going to come via fat loss, but like any other muscle in your body it can be very well developed, but if you are not lean enough it won’t show.
As the old saying goes: “abs are made in the kitchen”, not on the 400th rep of some weird ab crunch variation that is synchronized to some horrible techno music.
There are, of course, more Tips. That is why we share with you 4 more (part 2) COMING SOON!!!
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I believe you may be a lifter. I also guess that deadlifts and bicep curls make
most of your days and not the half marathons. Who has time for cardio anyway? Don’t
you think it gonna chew your hard-earned muscle gain? Yes and no… it will only
depend on how you do it.
So, does cardio burn muscle mass?
Though cardio is quite popular,
one thing it never does is to burn muscles. And this is not in the sense of a
regular boxing and/or running sessions. To say, ultra-marathons and extreme
endurance sports move along their own leagues and uniqueness. And in fact, your
habitual cardio might bless you with a dozen of pros if you are a lifter. For
example, your insulin sensitivity will increase, you will have a nicer blood
flow and may be you will have developed stamina as a result of enhanced
endurance and performance.
- Better blood flow
Cardio increases the
capillaries number of your body. This essentially means that you will be
developing a more efficient blood flow system. And the effect of these extra
capillaries are to facilitate a further transportation of nutrients and oxygen.
This way, minerals will access more organs where they are needed for a main
In addition, cardio also
improves recovery and DOMs simply by guiding blood to the needy and specific
muscles. For example, you have just hopped off that finishing set of squats and
are now engaged on some stretches. Then it turns out that it would have been
better to take a steady walk on the cross-trainer firstly. If you have more
power for your legs, your heart will have to make sure that it pumps the oxygenated
blood to your legs. This pumped nutrient dense blood will aid your damaged
muscles with a quick recovery, and result to less DOMs.
- Increased performance
You always have to encounter
and deal with increased performance. The cardiovascular training will equip you
with efficiency and therefore you can better handle endurance activities and
lead you to stamina boosts. With your aerobic and anaerobic base growing, you
will also be improving the workload to muster.
Therefore, whenever you want to
rep out on any long and deep sets, then you are able to handle it. If you lack
this fitness base that’s built with cardio, then fifteen reps might be a quick
and much of a burn. The same also applies to the anaerobic athletes who basically
ought to recover in between bouts of extreme exertion, for example football
players, CrossFit fanatics and boxers.
- Lower insulin sensitivity
A slightly regular cardio is
also associated with improvement in blood sugar. Recent research found that the
physical activities (inclusive of cardio) helps to reduce the insulin
resistance, the type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. And what does it mean
for your muscles? It means improvement in insulin sensitivity which allows your
body to process carbohydrates better.
In addition, improved insulin
sensitivity aids your muscles in absorption of nutrients in much easier way.
Therefore, your body can translate these improvements to count in for overall recovery,
performance, and growth.
Is cardio a muscle builder?
Yes. It is very possible to
build muscle with cardio – it’s legit. There are many studies out here to prove
One conspicuous study published in the 2014 issue of Exercise Sports Science Review had Konopka et al verifying that they and others had demonstrated that aerobics exercise attributed to acute and chronical alteration of protein metabolism, and that induces hypertrophy of the skeletal muscle. Or, cardio influenced the size gains in short.
The researchers proved also
that for an effective aerobic exercise, for purposes of muscle building, you
will need to do a required effort. The growth magic number laid ranges between
70 and 80% – a high intensity. It gets obvious thinking about high-intensity
and hypertrophy, right? Do you know any sprinter? Pay a look at his or her
legs. They are jacked, right?
Cardio enhances muscle building
A Mid Sweden University research notes that striding out to the track may also attribute to your size gains. Their study had ten men of age range, 25-30, who went on a 5-week training protocol. With their objective being ‘to understand how cardio affected muscle growth’, these men did 45-minutes of cycling with a single leg before performing seven reps knee extensions. It was strictly the other leg used for knee extensions, and not the cycling leg.
Then, the research team took an MRI scan of each leg after it was all done, that is, the 5-week plan. They found out that both legs depicted an increase in size gains. However, the cycling leg had increased in volume by 14-17% while the non-cycling leg had only grown by 8-9%.
The official statement stated
that the results had suggested that the increased aerobic capacity by AE+RE was
associated with a more robust increase in muscle size as compared with RE,
where RE meant resistance exercise – better gains.
Can you do too much cardio?
Before going and tanking on the
treadmill for 3 straight hours, we will need to backtrack. Yes, you can do too
much cardio and it’s easy to do it. Many people’s perception linger on more
performance and the better you get. So, they will either keep performing
further every session of an exercise or retire earlier to a dormant life and
end regretting. Or they might also topple over to overuse and succumb to injury.
One of the studies confirmed this through examining body composition of
ultra-marathon runners after a race.
Impact of endurance races on
One study found out that at the
end of a certain controlled race, athletes had lost 50% of visceral body fat averagely.
And on top of that, they had also reduced in the lean mass of their legs by 7%.
The RSI and Injury
Yet another muscle-wrecking risk
accompanying cardio, injuries have dominated much athlete’s performance. The
injuries are in form of repetitive strain injury (RSI) that commonly occur in
joints (ones experiencing the excessive repetitive movement).
What about overtraining the
Exerting too much of cardio
into the mix makes your body be in a constant fight of recovery. Before it
comes to a full circle, it will be back in the race to catch up with your every
day’s run. Overtraining sabotages your gains severely. The signs that indicates
an overtraining include strength loss, constant fatigue, lack of sleep, mass
muscle loss, mood swings and maybe a tanked testosterone.
To what extent can you go with
cardio without risks and yet gain muscles?
Cardio is greatly beneficial to
you and your gains. You just need a better or smart approach. Toning down your
cardio to 2 or 3 sessions per week can maintain your peak condition. Again, if
you hop between training sessions going for 20 to 40 minutes, it is also more
than enough. And one smart way to deal with this fear factor is by seeing
cardio as something new. It will programming and planning of your workouts much
Try setting different days for cardio
It is very smart to set your
cardio days different from strength days. For some aligning reasons, you will
find most gym goers hitting the air-dyne bike either before or after their
weight training days or sessions. However, this concurrent type of training is
not always constructive. It should only be done by weight-losing athletes, and
for short periods. The reason is because they run the risk of chronic
interference, especially when the body is overloaded by the needs of cardio and
If you go out amongst the gym
goers and ask if cardio burns muscle, they will tell you it does. We are always
in two camps of either a cardio crusade or a barbell brigade. However, one get stereotypically
yoked while the other is supposedly weak and stringy. If both helps, why can’t
we do both of them? Science acknowledges this, but why can’t we embrace it? Evidently,
if we adopt a sensible amount of cardio, it is very efficient for our gains.