Tag Archives: cardio

Resistance Training is better than Aerobic Training for Weight Loss. Or is it?

 

By Dr. Deepak Hiwale. Leave it to the social media PhDs to pontificate on and on about the superiority of resistance training for weight loss. I recently saw a pyramid that touted sleep management over doing actual exercise (i.e., cardio) as better for you regarding fat loss. Now that’s a first. Thus,  we know resistance training is superior to aerobic training (aka cardio, endurance training, etc). And most fitness experts seem to agree. But is it really?500488709

Delve a bit deeper into science and you realise that evidence for RT being a better weight-loss tool, is not all that strong and AET (and in some individuals, high-intensity, interval training – HIIT) may be better! Interesting to note here that while RT may have its own set of metabolic benefits, AET may still be better than RT at reducing risks of metabolic disorders too.

Why are you told that resistance training will cause weight loss?

It is a common (and, somewhat dogmatic) belief amongst exercisers, exercise-fitness professionals and clinicians that resistance or strength training (ST), in addition to improving your lean body mass (LBM), is the best way to burn more calories and therefore, lose weight as well.

And, this is how – they’ll tell ya – it (apparently) works:

  • RT or ST has the potential to increase your LBM, also called fat-free mass (FFM), including muscle mass – there is enough evidence to support this 1–4
  • Skeletal muscle is the most metabolically active tissue in the body – well, no! Its more complicated than that (see below)
  • Increase in muscle mass translates into more calories burned throughout the day, even when resting – evidence equivocal (see below)
  • Therefore, more muscle you carry, more is your resting metabolic rate (RMR) and more calories you burn throughout the day (increase in total daily energy expenditure (TDEE)
  • Increase in TDEE (with or without a nutritional calorific deficit) leads to weight loss

What’s wrong with what they tell you?

While all that sounds good in theory, everything isn’t as cut and dry as they make it out to be:

  1. Skeletal muscle isn’t the most metabolically active of the tissues in the body – heart and the kidneys are! These organs have the highest metabolic rates, 2x those of the liver and the brain and a whopping 35x that of the skeletal muscle! 5Having said that though, of all the tissues, skeletal muscle may indeed contribute significantly towards energy expended during the day. This is so because skeletal muscle wins on account of sheer mass – it weighs much more than all these other organs mentioned.Sprinter Schippers 400 x 400
  2. Increased muscle mass does not bump up your metabolism to the point that it will burn additional calories which will translate into weight loss:
  • Previous studies examining the effects of RT on RMR have reported mixed results – both in men and women 2,3,6–15
  • Only older men (and not older women or younger men and women) show an elevated RMR in response to RT; most studies support this finding 2,3,6,10,11,13
  • In younger men & women and in older women, there seems to be a consistent lack of change in RMR in response to RT; the association between RT and rise in RMR all but disappears 7,8,12,14,15
  • Recent studies have shown mixed results too – with some showing an increase in RMR in response to RT; 16,17others, a no change. 18,19 Interestingly, one study showed a fall in RMR in response to ‘dieting’, which could not be stopped by resistance training 20
  • A rare study that compared the effects of RT on RMR across various age groups, reported no changes in RMR in either young or older individuals! 12
  • A study by Lemmer et al. 17reported some curious findings:
  1. RMR in response to RT is more affected by gender than age; men are more likely to benefit from RT than women
  2. When younger and older men were pooled together, a significant increase in RMR with RT was shown
  3. Younger and older women showed no effect on RMR in response to RT

In a nutshell, RT does not alter energy expenditure significantly outside of the exercise session and especially in younger men or in women across all age groups.

Weight / fat loss with resistance training

Misinterpretation of current ACSM and other guidelines 21–23 have led to the dogmatic belief amongst exercise-fitness professionals that RT has conclusively been proven to reduce body weight. In reality, a closer look at existing literature suggests that the evidence for RT as an effective tool for weight-loss remains equivocal, at best. 24–29

  • The ACSM guidelines on ‘strategies for weight loss and prevention of weight regain in adults’ states that, ‘research evidence does not support RT as effective for weight loss’ and points HMB chickout that ‘the effects of RT for prevention of weight gain (after initial weight loss) are largely unknown’ 21
  • While few studies have observed some reduction in body fat with RT,30–32others have found no effect on body fat % even when the intervention was continued for 12-52 weeks 33–35
  • Interestingly, one study found a gender-based differential effect of RT on body fat – reduction in body fat was observed in the group containing younger and older men pooled together but not in women. 17This finding is not dissimilar to the findings from other studies that RT enhances RMR only in older men 7,8,12,14,15

There is, however, a need to mention here that although RT does not seem to contribute significantly to calorie expenditure outside of the exercise session or fat loss, it is associated with numerous health benefits – increased lean mass, improved work capacity and decreased chronic disease risk factors (sarcopenia), to name a few. 36,37

High-intensity, Interval Training

HIIT, they will tell you, will not only burn calories during the workout but also increase your calorie expenditure through the rest of the day (through increased excess post-exercise oxygen consumption – EPOC – a fancy term the whole town and his wife seems to be using these days!). And, that will translate into weight loss!

EPOC or oxygen debt, as it used to be called previously, is the mechanism by which the body makes up for the oxygen deficit created during an exercise session by increasing oxygen consumption well after cessation of exercise – breathlessness you experience for a few minutes after you’ve climbed to the top of the stairs is an example.rowing

In reality, increase in EPOC after an HIIT session is modest (only 6-15% of total energy expenditure). EPOC alone, therefore, may be insignificant for causing weight loss. 38

Having said that, a study published in 2002 in the European Journal of Applied Physiology utilising circuit type of resistance training with relatively heavy weights and short rest periods generated EPOC which increased resting metabolic rate by 21% and 19% for 24 and 48 hours post- workout. As the authors content, if these numbers are applied to a typical 180-pound individual, it would amount to 773 calories expended over 2 days after cessation of the exercise session! 39 So, HIIT does seem to have benefits.

However, whereas in overweight-obese / untrained individuals, it is difficult to achieve the high-intensity and the duration required to elicit a high enough EPOC to be of any consequence for weight loss. And, prescription of such complex methods of training – needing highly skilled HIIT1movements – is likely to reduce exercise enjoyment and long-term adherence in novice and out-of-shape individuals, in seasoned exercisers, HIIT and EPOC may be an effective way to bump up calorie burning and improve body composition.

Aerobic endurance training

Also called ‘low-intensity, steady state’ (LISS) cardio or ‘long, slow distance’ (LSD) training, aerobic endurance training (AET) may just be the best tool out there, for most people when it comes to losing weight.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, conducted a study comparing RT with AET in young women 40. The results will come as a surprise (for most)! Apparently, not only is AET better than RT at reducing body fat % but it also wins hands down when it comes to:

  • improving cardiorespiratory fitness
  • improving insulin sensitivity
  • reducing visceral adipose tissue (fat surrounding organs)
  • reducing abdominal fat, and
  • reducing inter-muscular (within muscle) fat

Other studies have also supported the idea that AET may be better at reducing visceral and Cycling_20-2abdominal fat, not to mention, the overall body fat%.

  • A study published in Dec, 2012 reported that while AET and combined AET/RT exercise programs caused more weight loss than RT alone, AET/RT and RT resulted in increased lean mass. However, although requiring a double time commitment over AET alone, a combined AET/RT exercise program did not result in ‘significantly more weight loss over AET alone’ 41
  • Another study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism concluded that AET caused significant reductions in:
    1. Whole body fat including subcutaneous abdominal fat, visceral adipose tissue (VAT – fat around the organs) and liver fat content
    2. plasma liver enzymes, esp. alanine aminotransferase (enzyme reflecting the amount of liver damage), and
    3. HOMA (Homeostasis Model Assessment – a measure of the level of your steady state pancreatic beta cell function (%B) and insulin sensitivity (%S)

Resistance training, on the other hand, failed to significantly affect these variable 42

  • Owing to results like these, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that AET is recommended to be central to exercise programs for reducing VAT and its metabolic adverse effects – obesity and other metabolic disorders 43
  • Even in the absence of significant weight loss, AET may improve metabolic disease parameters, esp. in patients of type 2 diabetes 44

Women and aerobic endurance training

Why do women prefer conventional AET?

As if the results of the studies mentioned above didn’t come as shocking enough for you, here’s something that is even more thought-provoking – something that might answer your question of why women tend to favour treadmills over free-weights!

It appears that AET is more effective in (overweight and obese, both young and older) women than in men 40. Furthermore, there is some evidence to suggest that women enjoy AET more than RT 45; the opposite seems to be true with young men – they seem to enjoy RT more (now 6a013488ee9d3e970c01543533d8ce970ccome on, do we even need any proof of that?!).

My hunch is that is that women find AET more enjoyable because it is more effective for them! Not surprisingly then – call it nature or subconscious minds at work – there seems to be a very valid reason why you see more women heading to the treadmill rather than the ‘free-weights section’!

RT or AET and Metabolic Disease

Abdominal obesity is a prominent risk factor for metabolic disease (type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.). 46 Results from the STRRIDE study suggest that AET was associated with significant reductions in VAT, a measure of abdominal obesity. 47,48

Although in comparison to AET, RT does not cause much difference in measures of fat tissue, it does cause a significant reduction in CRP (a parameter, high levels of which, suggests a low-grade, chronic systemic inflammation with the potential to develop into cardiovascular disease and diabetes type II). 49 Important to note here that an inverse association seems to exist between aerobic fitness and chronic systemic inflammation.50,51  Sedentariness increases inflammatory markers. 49

Conflicting data exists over the superiority of AET over RT for the reduction of metabolic disease risk parameters (HbA1c, blood lipids including triglycerides and LDL particle size). Having said, regular and long-term, moderate intensity exercise seems to increase HDL and lower triglycerides, even in the absence of weight loss. 52

Although RT has benefits of its own, a combination of AET and RT exercise regimen – although more effective at reducing the risk of metabolic disease than RT alone – were not significantly different from AET alone 53. This effectively suggests that the RT component may be contributing precious little (if at all) to the disease prevention effect of an AET-RT exercise program.

A NEAT solution to the problem

Of all the components of human daily energy expenditure (BMR, thermic energy of food, exercise-related activity thermogenesis (EAT) and non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)), NEAT is the most modifiable parameter and is capable of significantly pushing up your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) than exercise sessions (!), even in intense exercisers 54. Even very low-level physical activities like mastication (chewing) and fidgeting can increase energy girlsprintexpenditure by 20-40% above your resting metabolic rate! NEAT includes energy expenditure of walking, talking, going for your job, sitting, toe-tapping, shopping, dancing, etc. It should be apparent that this component (i.e., NEAT) has zero resemblance to resistance training.

Comment

It is likely that AET (treadmill runs) may be more effective than RT – especially in overweight women – for reducing body fat and preventing metabolic diseases. Also,

  • RT seems to contribute very little to weight-loss
  • RT doesn’t seem to contribute towards (metabolic) disease prevention-management as much as AET does
  • Combination of RT and AET does not seem to afford any more benefits over AET alone when weight loss or metabolic disease management is the prime goal

Conclusion

Looking at much of the evidence, the question that begs to be answered is: ‘what if we were all wrong about our weight-loss exercise strategies and indeed, about our obsession with the fat-burning abilities of resistance training? And, what if those women on treadmills were right all along?!

I reckon, it’s time we stopped ridiculing (or even downright laughing at) those men / women who hit the treadmill every single time they’re at the gym.

Take home message

  • Resistance training may be contributing precious little towards calorie burning outside of exercise sessions and eventual weight loss! Furthermore, gains in RMR subsequent to gains in lean body mass are miniscule.
  • HIIT in overweight – obese and untrained individuals HIIT may not be ideal; in seasoned exercisers, may lead to significant calorie expenditure both in and outside of the exercise sessions
  • Aerobic Endurance training seems to be the best tool for total body weight and fat reduction – needs to a be an integral part of almost every weight-loss program
  • Aerobic Endurance training wins hands down for metabolic disease management
  • Women do not seem to respond as well to resistance training, aerobic endurance training and HIIT may be better options
  • NEAT can contribute significantly to total daily energy expenditure – staying active through the day can really bump your calorific expenditure (probably more so than RT or AET)

About the Author: Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/pg/drdeepakhiwale/about/?ref=page_internal

‘Conditioning Clinic’ is a brain child of Dr Deepak S Hiwale. Better known internationally as ‘The Fitness Doc, Dr Hiwale prefers and recommends a preventive approach to deal with metabolic diseases. He specializes in disease reversal – obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, you name it! He is also a strength and conditioning consultant and currently has club and elite cricketers as his clients!

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Cardio Lowers RMR – A Fairy Tale

 

by Jose Antonio PhD FNSCA FISSN. Today’s story is entitled “Cardio lowers RMR – A Fairy Tale.”

Key Points to Remember

  • There is a plethora of scientific evidence, which demonstrates that regular aerobic training has no effect on RMR. Some studies actually find an increase.
  • Resting energy expenditure is largely a function of body weight and FFM.[1, 2]
  • Cardio has become the “carbs of the fitness world.” – Shawn Arent PhD, Rutgers University
  • If you like doing cardio, don’t let some fitness guru talk you out of it.
  • If you hate doing cardio, then for Pete’s sake, don’t bitch about those who do it.
  • If you want to elevate your RMR, gain weight, especially skeletal muscle weight.
  • RMR is by itself a meaningless measure for the performance sports.
  • If you compete in football, baseball, basketball, cycling, volleyball, rowing, surfing, paddling, gymnastics, soccer, hockey, track and field (pick one) or frickin’ tiddlywinks, measuring RMR is about as useful as selling bikinis to Russian women in Siberia.

Social Media Silliness

So what is it about aerobic training (i.e., ‘cardio’) that has gotten the ire of so many fitness professionals? Cardio makes you fat? Yep. And there really is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. For my take on the ’cardio makes you fat’ baloney, read this piece from the ISSN Scoop: http://www.theissnscoop.com/cardio-makes-you-fat-and-apples-will-rise/

Supposedly cardio, especially the lower intensity variety, will lower your resting metabolic rate Beach walking(RMR) faster than a New Yorker can flip you the birdie. So I guess if you go for a walk on the beach after pigging out on beer and chicken wings, your metabolic rate will magically drop?

Let’s say you and your significant other visited the Sunshine State (that’s Florida for those who flunked 7th grade geography). Every morning for a week, you walk hand-in-hand up and down the beach. Sometimes you’d walk for more than an hour. Would your RMR drop because of this dreaded low intensity cardio? Are all these beach walkers killing their RMR? To quote the former #1 tennis player and part-time brat on the court John McEnroe, “You can NOT be serious!”

johnnymac_zps31f826d7Easy enough. So what does the science say on cardio and RMR? Below are a series of abstracts that I’ve shortened and added my pithy comments. It’ll give you a snapshot of the literature as it relates to exercise training and RMR. I’ve highlighted the parts that are of interest to those of you with the attention span of a mosquito.

Study #1 – This study examined resting metabolic rate (RMR) and thermic effect of a meal (TEM) among athletes who had participated in long-term anaerobic or aerobic exercise. Nine collegiate wrestlers were matched for age, weight, and fat-free weight with 9 collegiate swimmers. RMR adjusted for fat-free weight was not significantly different between groups. Thus, it doesn’t matter if you engage in long-term aerobic and anaerobic exercise training; resting energy expenditure is not different between these college athletes.[3] So whether you want to swim in chlorinated water or wrestle someone who smells like dirty socks soaked in vinegar, it don’t matter. RMR won’t be adversely affected.

Study #2 – Eight moderately obese women took part in an 11-week training program, including 5 hours of aerobic exercise per week performed at a mean intensity of about 50 percent VO2 max. Now that my friends is frickin’ low intensity. Fifty percent max VO2 is like a walk in the park. So what happened? Oddly enough, the results showed that exercise-training induced a significant rise in RMR. In fact, this study showed an elevated RMR per unit of fat free mass in both lean and moderately obese individuals.[4]running

Study #3 – Thirty-one women (mean age 35 yr) who were overweight were matched and randomly placed into a control group (CON), a diet-only group (D), a diet+aerobic endurance exercise training group (DE), or a diet+aerobic endurance exercise training+strength training group (DES). Can you keep track of that? That’s a lot of groups. So after 12 weeks, the three dietary groups demonstrated a significant loss in body mass, % body fat, and fat mass. No differences were observed in the magnitude of loss among groups, in fat-free mass, or in resting metabolic rate.[5] So even though aerobic training plus diet resulted in a loss of weight and fat mass, there was no change in RMR. Hmmm.

Study #4 – The effects of either 12-wk of high-intensity endurance or resistance training on resting metabolic rate (RMR) were investigated in 47 males aged 18-35 years. Subjects were randomly assigned to either a control (C), resistance-trained (RT) or endurance-trained (ET) group. After training both exercise groups showed significant declines in relative body fat either by reducing their total fat weight and maintaining fat-free weight (ET) or by reducing their total fat weight and increasing fat-free weight (RT). RMR did not significantly change after either training regimen. These results suggest that both endurance and resistance training may help to prevent an attenuation in RMR normally observed during extended periods of negative energy balance (energy intake less than expenditure) by either preserving or increasing a person’s fat-free weight.[6]

Study #5 – Investigators determined the effects of aerobic exercise training and resistance exercise training and the incremental effect of combined aerobic and resistance exercise training on resting metabolic rate (RMR) in previously sedentary individuals with type 2 Cycling_20-2diabetes. One hundred and three participants were randomly assigned to four groups for 22 weeks: aerobic training, resistance training, combined aerobic and resistance exercise training, or waiting-list control. Exercise training was performed three times per week at community-based gym facilities. RMR did not change significantly in any group after accounting for multiple comparisons despite significant improvements in peak oxygen consumption and muscular strength in the exercising groups. Adjusting RMR for age, sex, fat mass, and fat-free mass in various combinations did not alter these results. These results suggest that RMR was not significantly changed after a 6-month exercise program, regardless of modality, in this sample of adults with type 2 diabetes.[7] Geez. Is there a pattern here? Isn’t cardio supposed to make you fat? Ooops, I mean lower RMR?

Study #6 – Sixty-five healthy, weight-stable women, aged 21-35 or 50-72 years, were studied: 12 premenopausal and 15 postmenopausal sedentary women, 13 premenopausal and 15 postmenopausal distance runners, and 10 endurance-trained postmenopausal swimmers. RMR was measured by indirect calorimetry (ventilated hood system) after an overnight fast, and values were adjusted for fat mass and fat-free mass. Our results are consistent with the concept that the age-related decline in RMR in sedentary women is not observed in women who regularly perform endurance exercise. The elevated level of RMR observed in middle-aged and older exercising women may play a role in their lower levels of body weight and fatness compared to those in sedentary women.[8] Wait, did I read that correctly? Women who performed dreaded cardio actually were able to fight the age-related drop in RMR.

Study #7 – This study investigated the effects of 12 weeks of aerobic exercise plus voluntary food restriction on the body composition, resting metabolic rate (RMR) and aerobic fitness of mildly obese middle-aged women. The exercise/diet group participated in an aerobic training rowingprogram, 45-60 minutes daily at 50%-60% of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), 3-4 days per week, and also adopted a self-regulated energy deficit relative to predicted energy requirements. After the regimen had been followed for 12 weeks, the body mass of the subjects had decreased by an average of 4.5 kg, due mainly to fat loss, with little change of fat free mass (mff). The absolute RMR did not change, but the experimental group showed significant increases in the RMR per unit of body mass (10%) and the RMR per unit of mff (4%). The increase in RMR/mff was not correlated with any increase in VO2max/mff. The resting heat production per unit of essential body mass increased by an average of 21%, but the resting heat production rate per unit of fat tissue mass remained unchanged. We concluded that aerobic exercise enhances the effect of moderate dietary restriction by augmenting the metabolic activity of lean tissue.[9] Huh? Regular aerobic exercise increases RMR per unit body weight. Get on that treadmill! Ok, not really. Treadmill running is as much fun as wrestling a porcupine.

This pic has nothing to do with cardio. Just thought you'd like it. :-)

This pic has nothing to do with cardio. Just thought you’d like it. :-)

Study #8 – Scientists examined the effect of a 12-wk endurance exercise training program on RMR and 2) to provide insight into the mechanisms responsible for alterations in RMR that may occur after exercise training. Male participants (19-32 years) in an exercise group (EX) performed jogging and/or running 3-4 days per week, 25-40 min per session, at 60%-80% VO2max, whereas subjects in a control group (CON) maintained their normal activity patterns. Body composition, VO2max, RMR, epinephrine, norepinephrine, total thyroxine, free thyroxine, insulin, free fatty acids, and glucose were measured before and after the intervention.Training resulted in a significant increase in VO2max in EX. Absolute and relative values for RMR did not significantly change in EX (endurance training group) after training. Mean values for epinephrine, norepinephrine, total thyroxine, insulin, and glucose did not significantly change in either group; however, free thyroxine decreased significantly after training in EX. Oddly enough, RMR in CON decreased significantly when expressed as an absolute value and relative to body weight, fat-free mass, and fat mass. The mechanism for the decrease in CON is unknown, but it may be related to seasonal variations in RMR. Training may have prevented a similar decline in RMR in EX and may be related to a training-induced increase in fat oxidation.[10]

Study #9 – We tested the hypothesis that resting metabolic rate (RMR) declines with age in physically active men (endurance exercise > or = 3 times/wk) and that this decline is related to weekly exercise volume (h/wk) and/or daily energy intake. Accordingly, scientists studied 137 suzy_favor_hamilton4-getty_1356117573_540x540healthy adult men who had been weight stable for 6 months or longer. What they found was fascinating: 1) RMR, per unit FFM, declines with age in highly physically active men; and 2) this decline is related to age-associated reductions in exercise volume and energy intake; 3) this does not occur in men who maintain exercise volume and/or energy intake at a level similar to that of young physically active men.[11] So that’s the secret. Exercise a lot (even cardio is good) and eat a lot. My kind of program!

Study #10Is a 1-year study long enough for you? Let’s find out. Seventeen sedentary participants completed a 12 months jogging/walking program, 3 days/week for 45 min/session at a constant heart rate (HR) prescription of 60% HR-reserve. That’s pretty easy cardio if you ask me! After 12 months of training, body weight remained unchanged; however, body fat was significantly reduced by 3.4 %. Neither RMR nor substrate oxidation at rest changed significantly. In summary one year of recreational endurance training does NOT negatively impact RMR.[12] I know I know. Naysayers will say “that study isn’t long enough.” “We need a 10 year study to verify these results.” Blah blah blah.

Study #11 – Scientists determined whether chronic (9 months) moderate-intensity exercise training changes resting metabolic rate (RMR) and substrate oxidation in overweight young adults. Participants were randomly assigned to non-exercise control (CON, 18 women, 15 men) or exercise (EX, 25 women, 16 men) groups. EX performed supervised and verified exercise 3-5 d/week, 20-45 min/session, at 60-75% of heart-rate reserve. Here’s what happened. EX men had significant decreases from baseline to 9 months in body mass (94.6 to 89.2 kg) and percent fat outrigger-canoe(28.3 to 24.5). CON women had significant increases in body mass (80.2 to 83.2 kg) from baseline to 16 months. VO2max increased significantly from baseline to 9 months in the EX men and women. RMR increased from baseline to 9 months in EX men and women. So there you have it. Regular moderate-intensity exercise in healthy, previously sedentary overweight and obese adults increases RMR but does not alter resting substrate oxidation. Women tend to have higher RMR and greater fat oxidation, when expressed per kilogram fat-free mass, than men.[13] That’s interesting. Women have a greater RMR per kg FFM than men. Hmmm. So women have no excuse for packing on the lbs. 😛

Study #12 – Maybe it does decrease RMR? Scientists examined the effects of exercise training on resting metabolic rate (RMR) in moderately obese women. Nineteen previously sedentary, moderately obese women (age = 38.0 years, percent body fat = 37.5) trained for 20 weeks using either resistance training (RT) or a combination of resistance training and walking (RT/W). The high intensity resistance-training program was designed to increase strength and fat-free mass and the walking program to increase aerobic capacity. There was also a non-exercising control Helga paddling SUPgroup (C) of 9 subjects in this study. Fat-free mass was significantly increased in both the RT (+1.90 kg) and RT/W (+1.90 kg) groups as a result of the training program. So apparently adding walking to weight training does not negatively impact gains in LBM. No group showed significant changes in fat mass or relative body fat from pre- to post-training. This runs counter to the ubiquitous advice of weight training being a superior method of achieving fat loss. Furthermore, aerobic capacity was slightly, though significantly, increased in the RT/W group only. The RT group showed a significant increase (+44 kcal per day), while the RT/W group showed a significant decrease (-53 kcal per day in resting metabolic rate post-training. RT can potentiate an increase in RMR through an increase in fat-free mass, and the decrease in RMR in the RT/W group may have been a result of heat acclimation from the walk training.[14] This study shows a difference. Though I’d posit that the lower RMR is made up for by the extra walking in the resistance training plus walking group. Besides, isn’t weight training supposed to combat the effects of a lower RMR?

So in conclusion: The preponderance of the evidence clearly shows that regular aerobic training has little to no effect on RMR. So you can put the notion of ‘cardio lowering RMR’ in the trash bin where it’ll join the ‘cardio makes you fat’ dopiness. So if you love cardio, keep doing it. It’s not going to ‘ruin’ your metabolism. If you want to increase RMR, then lift weights and gain LBM. On the other hand, if you exercise too much, eat too little, and lose body weight and lean body mass, then your RMR will drop. But who in their right mind does that?

BIO – Jose Antonio PhD is the CEO of the ISSN, www.issn.net and faculty at Nova Southeastern University in Exercise and Sports Science. I’m not fond of doing cardio in a gym. Why anyone would run on an indoor treadmill, do that silly elliptical or ride a bike (oh..I mean do Spinning classes…haha) in a room full of stinky people at your local gym is as puzzling as watching a fat man order a diet coke with a slice of cheesecake. Go outside for chrissakes. It’s a helluva lot more fun.

Paddle in VA Beach 2016 edited

References

1.         Taguchi M, Ishikawa-Takata K, Tatsuta W, Katsuragi C, Usui C, Sakamoto S, Higuchi M: Resting energy expenditure can be assessed by fat-free mass in female athletes regardless of body size. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo) 2011, 57:22-29.

2.         Deriaz O, Fournier G, Tremblay A, Despres JP, Bouchard C: Lean-body-mass composition and resting energy expenditure before and after long-term overfeeding. Am J Clin Nutr 1992, 56:840-847.

3.         Schmidt WD, Hyner GC, Lyle RM, Corrigan D, Bottoms G, Melby CL: The effects of aerobic and anaerobic exercise conditioning on resting metabolic rate and the thermic effect of a meal. Int J Sport Nutr 1994, 4:335-346.

4.         Tremblay A, Fontaine E, Poehlman ET, Mitchell D, Perron L, Bouchard C: The effect of exercise-training on resting metabolic rate in lean and moderately obese individuals. Int J Obes 1986, 10:511-517.

5.         Kraemer WJ, Volek JS, Clark KL, Gordon SE, Incledon T, Puhl SM, Triplett-McBride NT, McBride JM, Putukian M, Sebastianelli WJ: Physiological adaptations to a weight-loss dietary regimen and exercise programs in women. J Appl Physiol (1985) 1997, 83:270-279.

6.         Broeder CE, Burrhus KA, Svanevik LS, Wilmore JH: The effects of either high-intensity resistance or endurance training on resting metabolic rate. Am J Clin Nutr 1992, 55:802-810.

7.         Jennings AE, Alberga A, Sigal RJ, Jay O, Boule NG, Kenny GP: The effect of exercise training on resting metabolic rate in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2009, 41:1558-1565.

8.         Van Pelt RE, Jones PP, Davy KP, Desouza CA, Tanaka H, Davy BM, Seals DR: Regular exercise and the age-related decline in resting metabolic rate in women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1997, 82:3208-3212.

9.         Shinkai S, Watanabe S, Kurokawa Y, Torii J, Asai H, Shephard RJ: Effects of 12 weeks of aerobic exercise plus dietary restriction on body composition, resting energy expenditure and aerobic fitness in mildly obese middle-aged women. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 1994, 68:258-265.

10.       Lee MG, Sedlock DA, Flynn MG, Kamimori GH: Resting metabolic rate after endurance exercise training. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2009, 41:1444-1451.

11.       van Pelt RE, Dinneno FA, Seals DR, Jones PP: Age-related decline in RMR in physically active men: relation to exercise volume and energy intake. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2001, 281:E633-639.

12.       Scharhag-Rosenberger F, Meyer T, Walitzek S, Kindermann W: Effects of one year aerobic endurance training on resting metabolic rate and exercise fat oxidation in previously untrained men and women. Metabolic endurance training adaptations. Int J Sports Med 2010, 31:498-504.

13.       Potteiger JA, Kirk EP, Jacobsen DJ, Donnelly JE: Changes in resting metabolic rate and substrate oxidation after 16 months of exercise training in overweight adults. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2008, 18:79-95.

14.       Byrne HK, Wilmore JH: The effects of a 20-week exercise training program on resting metabolic rate in previously sedentary, moderately obese women. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2001, 11:15-31.

 

Cardio Makes You Fat and Apples Will Rise

 

By Jose Antonio PhD FNSCA FISSN 

Key Points To Memorize for the ‘Cardio Makes You Fat’ Crowdsm_cardio-fat-banner

  • Longitudinal training studies of fat kids shows that aerobic training results in a loss of body fat.
  • Longitudinal training studies of fat adults shows that aerobic training results in a loss of body fat.
  • Those who do the most cardio over a 15- to 20-year period exhibit the lowest levels of body fat.
  • Athletes that are engaged in highly aerobic exercise have single digit body fat percentages.
  • Triathletes with a higher training volume have a lower % fat than those with a lower training volume.
  • Cardio does not make you fat.
  • Eating too much makes you fat.
  • Sitting on your ass all day makes you fat.
  • Your brain is comprised mainly of fat.  (This has nothing to do with the article but it is a fun fact).

After seeing another headline of “Does Cardio Make You Fat?” with the answer that ‘of course it does,’ I felt an urge to get off my couch, hit the pause button on “The Blacklist,” (awesome show BTW), and remind people that there is something called “science” that can actually answer that question. “I’m not sure why cardio has become the carb of the exercise world” says Rutgers professor Shawn Arent PhD.  And Dr. Arent hates cardio like rats hate cats, cats hate dogs, and dogs hate Michael Vick.

Pauline loves lifting heavy things, doing cardio and drinking coffee. She'll kick your ass too.  Ok maybe not.

Pauline loves lifting heavy things, doing cardio and eating Swedish meatballs. Ok. I made the meatball part up.

What the heck happened to folks actually reading the scientific literature? You know. Those studies in which scientists actually measure body fat. Instead folks fall hook, line and sinker for this pettifogging bullshit of how cardio affects your appetite, cortisol etc. If the claim is that ‘cardio makes you fat,’ the ONLY measure that matters is whether it makes you fat. Guess what? You need to measure body fat. It reminds me of these acute feeding studies that use whey, casein, amino acids etc. that try to extrapolate how much muscle you’d gain in the long run by looking at acute changes in muscle protein synthesis. I have a better idea. Why don’t you actually measure muscle or lean body mass after a treatment period that matters (ex. 8-12 weeks)? Getting back to my original point, imagine how boring the world would be without carbs or cardio?  You couldn’t eat donuts, take walks on the beach, or do both at the same time.

When did doing cardio suddenly become bad for fat loss?  The boneheads who write these articles should at least make a feeble attempt to read the literature. A simple search on Pubmed cross-referencing ‘aerobic’ with ‘body composition’ shows 517 publications.  There are umpteen other searches of key words you can perform. I’m certain there’s at least one study that’s looked at whether cardio turns you from a lean mean kale-eating machine to a fat slob who dreads the day that buffets are outlawed by Congress.

So what gives? Why has the ‘cardio makes you fat camp’ become so entrenched among a few vocal gurus in the fitness industry? Answer: I haven’t an f’in clue.

Anyhow, let’s harken back to when Ronald Reagan was the President of the USA; that’s the 1980s for those who flunked US History.  Twelve weeks of doing aerobic dance training (3 days per week for 45 min) resulted in “…significant increases in lean body mass and body density, together with decreases in percentage body fat and the sum of four skinfold thicknesses…”[1] Holy smokes did you read that?  They lost weight and fat doing aerobic dance no less. Hmmm.

Bill-Clinton-Jogging-for-Weight-Loss

President Clinton should have done more cardio and less McDonalds.

Let’s fast forward to when Bill Clinton was America’s Commander-in-Chief. In this particular study, 60 Japanese women (~51 years of age) participated in a 3-month weight-loss program consisting of two groups: aerobic dance group and jogging and/or cycling group. Guess what, whether you dance, jogged or cycled, you lost body weight and body fat.  The study’s authors stated “low impact aerobic dance is as useful as jogging or cycling in improving body composition and aerobic power for mildly obese middle-aged women.”  Whoa Nellie.  Isn’t cardio supposed to make you fat?[2]

What happens to fat kids who are put on an aerobic exercise program? Inquiring minds want to know. Scientists put 28 obese children (16 boys, 12 girls; aged 12-14 years) into an exercise group or control group. The exercise group participated in 16-week aerobic exercise program (four 60-min sessions per week at 70-85% of HRmax), in addition to the school’s physical education. So did the fat kids get fatter? Uh no. The kids who did aerobic exercise not only demonstrated a smaller waistline (time to buy new belts), but they also showed a significant drop in fat mass.[3]

Now let’s get a bunch of fat adults and see what happens? In this study, science nerds determined the effect of aerobic exercise, without energy restriction, on weight loss in sedentary overweight and obese men and women. The key words being ‘without energy restriction.’ Thus if cardio truly makes you a porky pig, then it would happen in this study.

Participants were randomized into a 400 calorie/session, a 600 calorie/session or to a non-exercise control. Exercise was supervised, 5 days/week, for 10 months.  Now if we use the sterling logic of the ‘cardio makes you fat’ crowd, then one would predict that the 600-calorie/session group would be the fattest at the end of the study, correct?  Well, good thing we have science to answer this question and not some voodoo-witch doctor-fitness guru bullshit.  What happened? “Significant changes in percent body fat over 10 months were observed in both the 400 (-2.9%) and 600 (-4.4%) kcal/session groups. Percent fat was unchanged in the control group (-0.6%). The reductions in body weight observed in both exercise groups were a result of decreased fat mass and preservation or increase in fat-free mass.”[4] Wait did I read that right? The group that did more aerobic exercise actually lost body weight and fat?  What’s going on here?  Why aren’t these cardio kings and queens getting fat?  Because exercising (no matter what type) doesn’t make you fat. And if you believe otherwise, then you may as well get into the business of unicorn breeding.guys-unicorns-mating_design

Are you bored yet? Does science have a way of beating the crap out of dogma? Anyone who claims that ‘cardio makes you fat’ has more hot air than the Hindenburg.

Here are a few more bite-sized bullets for you to remember:

  • A 10-week aerobic exercise program results in a small decrease in energy intake and an associated decrease in percentage of body fat in obese adolescents.[5]
  • Twelve weeks of regular aerobic exercise led to significant reductions in body weight, body fat percentage, and body mass index in the obese.[6]
  • Aerobic exercise training can reduce % body fat and enhance vascular compliance in obese male adolescents.[7]
  • “Aerobic training is the optimal mode of exercise for reducing fat mass and body mass, while a program including resistance training is needed for increasing lean mass in middle-aged, overweight/obese individuals.”[8]
  • In obese adolescent boys, both aerobic and weight-training exercises for a 3-month period resulted in a loss of total and visceral fat.[9]

What happens to athletes who train for years? This is where the story gets interesting. It should be as clear as the majestic blue water of the Caribbean that in untrained, fat, and/or average individuals, doing consistent aerobic exercise leads to a drop in body fat. The fact that I’m typing that sentence shows how silly the fitness industry has become. Perhaps in my next article, I’ll attempt to convince you that water is wet. But apparently some need convincing. Anyhow, there are several very cool studies on athletes. Do they get fat with all that aerobic exercise?

Check out my friend Arlene Semeco (left) with Dara Torres.  All that cardio (swimming) sure is making them fat, huh?

Check out my friend Arlene Semeco (left) with Dara Torres. All that swimming sure is making them fat, huh?

Steve Fleck PhD did a descriptive study back in 1983 showing the physical characteristics of elite American athletes.[10] (See Table 1) If cardio truly made you fat, then for chrissakes why are marathon runners so lean? I know I know. Genetics. Are they lean because they run?  Or do they run because they are lean? Or both? You might look at swimmers and say ‘hey, their body fat percentage tends to be higher than other elite athletes.’ And you’re correct. It has to do in part with thermoregulation (water is colder than ambient air temp), the buoyancy of fat (it floats), etc.  But to say ‘swimming makes you fat’ would make about as much sense as telling an Irishman to lay off the pint, feckin eh.’ You’ll notice that sports that are very anaerobic as well as highly aerobic in nature have athletes that demonstrate single digit body fat levels. Sports in which your body weight is supported tend to have higher body fat levels. So if your tutorial on science was from internet experts and the ‘science for dummies’ book, then you might conclude that having your body weight supported makes you fat. Watch. Some dipshit will post that as an internet meme.

Table 1. Body Composition of the Elite American Athletes[10]

Sport % Fat Male % Fat Female
Average College 15 25
Canoe/Kayak 13.0 22.2
Swimming 12.4 19.5
Boxing 6.9 n/a
Wrestling 7.9 n/a
Sprinters (100, 200, 400 m) 6.5 13.7
Marathon (26.2 miles) 6.4 n/a

A 1997 study from former QB Tim Tebow’s alma mater did a 20-year follow-up of track and field athletes.[11]  Six of these athletes ran the 800m, 17 did the 1500m distance or longer, and two were race walkers.  Athletes were divided into the follow three groups: high (remained elite), moderate (still performed frequent moderate to rigorous endurance training) and last but not least, low (greatly reduced training). So using the ‘cardio makes you fat’ logic, would not those who trained the most (i.e. high) exhibit the highest levels of fat?  See the answer in Table 2.

Table 2. 20-Year Follow Up of Track and Field Athletes

Athletic Level Baseline % Fat 20-years Later – % Fat
Low 15.7 21.8
Moderate 13.2 17.7
High 10.2 15.3

As you can see (and if you can’t, you need eyeglasses), those who train the most, have the lowest amount of fat.  This applies even as they age.  If anything, it should be clear that getting old results in higher body fat levels.  Yes.  In the battle of aging versus you doing everything right (i.e. exercise regularly and eating well), aging ALWAYS wins.

Distance Runners versus Bobsledders – In a classic comparison of endurance versus power athletes, Marti and Howald investigated the alterations in their physical characteristics over a 15-year period from 1973 to 1988.[12]  First let’s do a direct comparison of runners and bobsledders. (Table 3)Bob sledders

Table 3. 15-Year Follow-Up of Runners and Bobsledders

Group

% Fat in 1973 % Fat in 1988

Runners

8.0 12.5

Bobsledders

20.1 22.1

You’ll notice that runners are leaner than bobsledders at all time points. Wait a sec. I thought cardio makes you fat? Interestingly, bobsledders are quintessential power athletes. Shouldn’t they be leaner than distance runners? Now let’s just look at the distance runners and divide them into highly active (ran >90 km/wk), active (30-65 km/wk) and former runners (less than 30 km/wk).  (Table 4)

Table 4. 15-Year Follow-Up of Distance Runners Grouped By Distance Run/Week

Group

% Fat in 1973 % Fat in 1988
Highly Active 9.0 5.1
Active 6.5 8.6
Former 10.3 21.2
suzy_favor_hamilton4-getty_1356117573_540x540

Suzy Favor could run! We wrote a book about training and nutrition for distance running many moons ago. Check it out. It’s called “Fast Track.”

Well whaddya know.  Distance running (in general) keeps you pretty lean. Those who kept running (and did the most mileage per week) were the leanest. Those who did the least amount of that dreaded cardio, got fatter.[12]  In fact, triathletes that perform more aerobic training actually have lower % body fat levels than those who do less.[13] Why that is surprising to anyone baffles me. It’s like being surprised that kangaroos jump, eagles fly and Venezuela runs out of toilet paper.

Cardio and Muscle Mass – On the flip side, too much cardio may promote a loss of lean body mass.  But that’s NOT the same as saying ‘cardio makes you fat.’ Sometimes I feel like folks who post dopey stuff on social media need a class in ‘how to ask the right question.’  One particular study showed that in young women, doing aerobic exercise for 12 weeks promoted a loss of body weight, % body fat and BMI. But it also resulted in a loss of lean body mass.[14] On the other hand, aerobic exercise attenuated the loss of muscle mass during calorie restriction in adults with fat bellies.  Folks that dieted only lost fat and lean body mass.[15] So if you want to argue that aerobic training might result in a loss of muscle mass, you’ll have scientific support.  But it certainly isn’t universal.  Some might lose lean body mass, others not so.  Heck, some might actually gain lean body mass if they are initially very untrained.

Side Bar – Fasted versus Fed CardioIn an elegant study by Shoenfeld et al., they investigated changes in fat mass and fat-free mass following four weeks of volume-equated fasted versus fed aerobic exercise in young women on a lower calorie diet. Training consisted of 1 hour of steady-state aerobic exercise performed 3 days per week. Holy smokes!  Dr. Brad is going to make these girls fat.  How did he ever get this through the IRB and Human Subjects Review? What did they discover? Both groups showed a significant loss of weight and fat mass from baseline; however, there were no significant between-group differences. All that cardio made them fat said no scientist ever.

The moral of the story:

Pooks running

My pet dachshund “Pooks” hates cardio; she loves to sprint. But not as much as she loves to eat ground beef.

  • First of all, anyone who tells you that exercise x, y, and z (you fill in the blank) makes you fat, has about as much science training as my pet Dachshund.
  • We have a plethora longitudinal training studies as well as cross-sectional data which clearly show that performing cardio helps you lose body fat.
  • The preponderance of scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that aerobic or ‘cardio’ training results in a loss of fat.
  • If you prefer anecdotes as your ‘evidence,’ then I’d suggest you get your training/nutrition advice from Jenny McCarthy or the Food Babe.
  • If your goal is to lose body fat and look purrrty, why on god’s earth would you eliminate one form of exercise (i.e. aerobic exercise or ‘cardio’) entirely?
  • If your goal is to compete in an endurance event, then clearly you must do cardio.
  • If you’re a strength-power athlete (e.g. discus, shot put, Olympic weight lifter, powerlifter, high jump etc), you shouldn’t do any cardio.
  • If you like doing cardio, do it.
  • If you hate doing cardio, don’t do it.
  • But don’t be a fool and repeat the ‘cardio makes you fat’ mantra.
  • Getting fat is affected more by your kitchen habits than what you do in the gym/outdoors.
  • Goals determine strategies. Know your goal.

Take home message: Apples won’t rise, Pigs won’t fly, and Aerobic exercise won’t make you fat.applenewton1

Read This All You Cardio Haters

1.            Williams, L.D. and A.R. Morton, Changes in selected cardiorespiratory responses to exercise and in body composition following a 12-week aerobic dance programme. J Sports Sci, 1986. 4(3): p. 189-99.

2.            Shimamoto, H., et al., Low impact aerobic dance as a useful exercise mode for reducing body mass in mildly obese middle-aged women. Appl Human Sci, 1998. 17(3): p. 109-14.

3.            Regaieg, S., et al., The effects of an exercise training program on body composition and aerobic capacity parameters in Tunisian obese children. Indian J Endocrinol Metab, 2013. 17(6): p. 1040-5.

4.            Donnelly, J.E., et al., Aerobic exercise alone results in clinically significant weight loss for men and women: midwest exercise trial 2. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2013. 21(3): p. E219-28.

5.            Thivel, D., et al., Is energy intake altered by a 10-week aerobic exercise intervention in obese adolescents? Physiol Behav, 2014. 135: p. 130-4.

6.            Lee, S.S., et al., The Effects of 12 Weeks Regular Aerobic Exercise on Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor and Inflammatory Factors in Juvenile Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. J Phys Ther Sci, 2014. 26(8): p. 1199-204.

7.            Song, J.K., et al., Effects of 12 weeks of aerobic exercise on body composition and vascular compliance in obese boys. J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 2012. 52(5): p. 522-9.

8.            Willis, L.H., et al., Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults. J Appl Physiol (1985), 2012. 113(12): p. 1831-7.

9.            Lee, S., et al., Effects of aerobic versus resistance exercise without caloric restriction on abdominal fat, intrahepatic lipid, and insulin sensitivity in obese adolescent boys: a randomized, controlled trial. Diabetes, 2012. 61(11): p. 2787-95.

10.          Fleck, S.J., Body composition of elite American athletes. Am J Sports Med, 1983. 11(6): p. 398-403.

11.          Pollock, M.L., et al., Twenty-year follow-up of aerobic power and body composition of older track athletes. J Appl Physiol (1985), 1997. 82(5): p. 1508-16.

12.          Marti, B. and H. Howald, Long-term effects of physical training on aerobic capacity: controlled study of former elite athletes. J Appl Physiol (1985), 1990. 69(4): p. 1451-9.

13.          Knechtle, B., et al., A comparison of anthropometric and training characteristics of Ironman triathletes and Triple Iron ultra-triathletes. J Sports Sci, 2011. 29(13): p. 1373-80.

14.          Kostrzewa-Nowak, D., et al., Effect of 12-week-long aerobic training programme on body composition, aerobic capacity, complete blood count and blood lipid profile among young women. Biochem Med (Zagreb), 2015. 25(1): p. 103-13.

15.          Yoshimura, E., et al., Aerobic exercise attenuates the loss of skeletal muscle during energy restriction in adults with visceral adiposity. Obes Facts, 2014. 7(1): p. 26-35.

BIO – Jose Antonio PhD wishes he could run but he’s slower than a sloth on Xanax. He wishes he could swim but he looks like a drunk bulldog flappin’ in the water. Instead he Paddling race SUP Clermont March 2015paddles. The beach, sunshine, and a good sweat – you can’t beat that. :-)  If you want to buy me a beer or donate money to support my sushi habit, meet me in Austin Texas June 11-13, 2015 at the ISSN Conference and Expo.

HIIT vs LISS – A Better Way to Lose Fat?

by Jose Antonio PhD FISSN – First let’s get the acronyms out of the way.  HIIT stands for Helga paddling SUPhigh-intensity interval training; LISS stands for low intensity steady state cardio.  HIIT is sometimes abbreviated HIT.  One form of training is hard and painful (HIIT) but doesn’t last as long whereas the other is not quite so painful (depending on how long you do it) but takes a longer amount of time.  Is one better than the other for losing fat?

I’ve always found this question a bit odd.  It’s like asking which wheel of the bicycle is more important. The front or the back one?  Uhhhh…they’re both important.

Now before I give you the punch line, what’s the data say?  With so many HIIT fanatics out there, one would think that doing LISS is a total waste of time.  First of all, let’s change the definition for a second.  I instead would call it SSC (stands for steady-state cardio).  Why?  Because there is this misguided impression that SSC has to be low intensity.  Try training with a collegiate distance runner on their ‘easy’ days.  SSC in that case could be a sub-6 min per mile pace for several miles.  You think that’s easy?  Low intensity?  Bwwaaaaah….You’re a fool if you think that’s easy.

So part of the answering the debate of SSC (LISS) vs HIIT is one of redefining SSC.  SSC can be quite difficult and painful.  If it is not, then you’re a jolly jogger and not a runner.  Or a jolly biker, paddler, swimmer, etc. You get the picture. :-)

What’s the data say on SSC?

Let’s check out a few studies.   A long-term supervised aerobic exercise training program was administered to 41 obese children (21 boys, 20 girls; 11 years old). The 2-year training program was performed during the daily school life. Lean body mass increased throughout the 2 year study while the total body weight decreased; the weight loss is attributed to a ultraendurancedecrease in fat.(1)  What?  You can lose fat doing SSC? :-)

What if we directly compared high intensity interval training (HIIT) versus continuous aerobic exercise training (CONT)?  In 38 previously inactive overweight adults there was a significant reduction in android fat percentage in CONT but not HIIT. Wait.  I thought HIIT was soooo much better?  The authors stated that “HIIT may be advocated as a time-efficient strategy for eliciting comparable fitness benefits to traditional continuous exercise in inactive, overweight adults. However, in this population HIIT does not confer the same benefit to body fat levels as continuous exercise training.(2)”  Furthermore, aerobic exercise is an effective approach to reduce visceral fat besides in overweight male CKD patients.(3)

Certainly other studies confirm the benefits of traditional aerobic (i.e. SSC) training.  Two months of aerobic cycling training improves body composition in young women.(4)  Also, daily moderate intensity aerobic exercise is effective at reducing abdominal fat mass, while high intensity exercise improves cardiopulmonary function.(5)

HIIT better?HIIT1

First of all, let’s get one thing clear.  HIIT is not a new way of training.  You can go back 70 years ago and find that famed distance runner, Emil Zatopek, was one of the first to utilize the interval training method.  HIIT has been used by endurance athletes for decades.  I find it somewhat amusing that folks in the ‘fitness industry’ feel like they’ve discovered some novel form of training.  It’s the greatest thing ever some exclaim.  Better than sliced bread, the zipper, and penicillin combined!  So what’s the deal with HIIT?  Does it burn fat fast?

Uh yeah.

You can do both, darling.In a recent study, HIIT was found to be more effective than SSC.  The HIIT folks are saying “See, I told you so!”   In this study, 54 people with intellectual disabilities (not your typical sample) were trained via: sprint interval training (n = 17), continuous aerobic training (n = 15) or control (n = 14). “Compared with continuous aerobic training, sprint interval training seems to result in better outcome.(6)”  Also, short-term low-volume HIT is a time-efficient strategy to improve body composition and muscle oxidative capacity in overweight/obese women.(7)  In a fairly large study, 60 female university students were randomly assigned to either a HIIT group, the moderate intensity continuous training (MICT) group or a non-training control group.  After 12 weeks of training, both type of training produced significant improvements in the subjects’ body composition, left ventricular ejection fraction, heart rate at rest, maximal oxygen uptake and ventilatory threshold. However, the HIIT group achieved better results than those in the MICT group, as it was evaluated by the amount of the effect size.(8)

I think the HIIT vs SSC (or LISS) debate is somewhat misguided.  If your goal is losing body fat and you don’t really give a shit about anything else, then by all means, you should do both.  They BOTH work.  Very few if any studies are performed on highly trained individuals.  So what we are left with is a smattering of studies on fat and/or out-of-shape people.  Heck, in that population, pretty much anything will work.  But if you’re a fitness maniac, then it’s a bit more difficult to lose fat to begin with.

But honestly, changing your diet is probably as important (if not more important) then either.  Doing HIIT is a great time-efficient way to train.  Doing HIIT too often will likely result in some degree of overtraining.  Let’s face it; to do HIIT correctly requires a high pain threshold.  It should hurt.  It should hurt a lot in fact!  SSC is good in that you can do it quite frequently without too great a risk of injury and/or overtraining.

So how much of each can or should you do?

Dr. Stephen Seiler wrote a great article on interval training and long slow distance (SSC). http://www.sportsci.org/2009/ss.htm

Think of the 80:20 rule.  Elite endurance athletes perform 80% or more of their training as SSC (i.e. intensities below the lactate threshold) with the remaining 20% being interval training (i.e. HIIT).  It is intriguing in that when you look across a wide variety of endurance sports (i.e. cycling, running, rowing, cross-country skiing, etc), they all follow this distribution of training.  Coaches (and athletes) have somehow figured out that if HIIT exceeds more than 20% of your training volume, it would likely have a diminishing or detrimental effect.  Thus, if we were to borrow from the lessons of elite endurance athletes, I’d suggest that you limit your HIIT to no more than twice per week.  Any other cardio you do beyond that should be SSC.

main-paddle8

Also, keep in mind that ‘cardio’ (i.e. SSC) doesn’t have to be that boring shit you see at the gym.  Does anyone actually like riding a stationary bike for an hour?  Doing the stairstepper?  Get your butt outside and try some non-traditional ‘cardio’ work.  You’ll be having so much fun that you won’t think twice about the HIIT vs SSC (or LISS) debate.

References

1.            Sasaki J, Shindo M, Tanaka H, Ando M, Arakawa K. A long-term aerobic exercise program decreases the obesity index and increases the high density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration in obese children. Int J Obes 1987;11(4):339-45.

2.            Keating SE, Machan EA, O’Connor HT, Gerofi JA, Sainsbury A, Caterson ID, et al. Continuous exercise but not high intensity interval training improves fat distribution in overweight adults. J Obes 2014;2014:834865.

3.            Baria F, Kamimura MA, Aoike DT, Ammirati A, Leister Rocha M, de Mello MT, et al. Randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of aerobic exercise on visceral fat in overweight chronic kidney disease patients. Nephrol Dial Transplant 2014;29(4):857-64.

4.            Stasiulis A, Mockiene A, Vizbaraite D, Mockus P. Aerobic exercise-induced changes in body composition and blood lipids in young women. Medicina (Kaunas) 2010;46(2):129-34.

5.            Kwon HR, Min KW, Ahn HJ, Seok HG, Koo BK, Kim HC, et al. Effects of aerobic exercise on abdominal fat, thigh muscle mass and muscle strength in type 2 diabetic subject. Korean Diabetes J 2010;34(1):23-31.

6.            Boer PH, Meeus M, Terblanche E, Rombaut L, Wandele ID, Hermans L, et al. The influence of sprint interval training on body composition, physical and metabolic fitness in adolescents and young adults with intellectual disability: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Rehabil 2014;28(3):221-31.

7.            Gillen JB, Percival ME, Ludzki A, Tarnopolsky MA, Gibala MJ. Interval training in the fed or fasted state improves body composition and muscle oxidative capacity in overweight women. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2013;21(11):2249-55.

8.            Sijie T, Hainai Y, Fengying Y, Jianxiong W. High intensity interval exercise training in overweight young women. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2012;52(3):255-62.

 

Choosing the right “Cardio Modality” for pre and post workouts?

By Chris and Eric Martinez, CISSN, CPT, BA.  The lovely world of cardio, we have to love it right? Cardio has countless benefits for the human body, so it must be good for us, right? How else do you think all the celebrities stay so skinny and “toned?”cardio-on-empty-stomach1

How many times have you seen people get to the gym and hop on a cardio machine and just gas themselves, and not to mention go do some resistance training right after. Or what about when someone gets done from an intense lifting session, then goes off and does an intense cardio session?

We know you’ve seen this before and we are not going to get into the psychology of why people do this because that could be a whole other article itself. We are more focused on is it optimal to perform cardio pre and post workout? With a specific focus on which cardio modality (type of cardio you do) is the best to perform to avoid the interference effect of strength, power, and hypertrophy gains? But before we give you the answer, it’s vital that we always have to take people’s goals, activity level, overall health, and training experience into consideration before anything. So please read this with an open mind and a non-black and white answer, all or nothing approach.

What’s This Interference Effect Thing?

When we refer to the interference effect, we are talking about the interference of strength, power, and hypertrophy gains (muscle growth) when doing cardio pre or post workout. This topic of discussion has been floating around for quite some time now, whether concurrent training is optimal or not.

We all have our biased opinions, but what is the correct cardio modality to do pre and post workout and should we even be doing cardio pre or post workouts? That is the million dollar question that many of us would like to know.

Why continue to keep robbing your hard earned gains and progress if you don’t need to. Instead, why not continue to maximize your overall potential the correct way instead of shooting yourself in the foot? As always, we bring scientific based evidence to the table to get to the bottom of these popular topics, because the research doesn’t lie folks.

Before we delve into the research, we want to quote what Brad Schoenfeld said:

“There is no one cookie-cutter recommendation I can provide that will be ideal for everyone. People have varying responses to exercise programs. Large inter-individual differences are seen in any research protocol. Thus, in giving advice on a topic such as this, I can only provide general recommendations that must be individualized based on a variety of genetic and environmental factors. This is the essence of evidence-based practice, which should form the basis of every fitness professional’s decision making process.” (1)

We can’t agree more with this statement and we truly feel this statement is a legitimate and valid way of viewing such a topic like this one.

Cardio Modalities

We are certain we can all agree that there are numerous different cardio modalities out there today. To name a few modalities that have more ground-reaction force with higher impact are:

Pretty much all the badass cardio workouts that we look forward to doing.

Cardio modalities that minimize ground-reaction forces are:

  • Cycling bikes
  • Treadmillscardio-gym2
  • Ellipticals
  • Various machine based equipment

The stuff we like to watch TV on or read magazines 😉

These are all great choices whether you use them in the form of HIIT or LISS, but which modality is more optimal to prevent the interference effect and when should you do these you ask? Let’s delve into some research shall we.

Should you do cardio pre or post workout?

Layne Norton and Jacob Wilson claim that when you choose a cardio modality such as running or sprinting after a resistance training bout, the ground-reaction force (think sprints) and distance causes more muscle damage as opposed to a modality with less impact such as cycling instead. Cycling seems to be more similar to hip and knee flexion as opposed to running because it’s biomechanically interfering with squat and leg press patterns. This muscle damage seems to be coming from the eccentric components when running and sprinting (2).

Norton and Wilson make a valid point in the essence that if you are going to do cardio post workout, make sure you do it in the form of an opposing muscle group. Let’s say you did a grueling lower body workout, you would then want to do cardio in the form of using your upper body, something like rope slams because otherwise if you go and run or do sprints you are going to get a complete interference effect and possibly get injured.

After resistance training you have mTOR (cell growth) being ramped up and protein synthesis (making of new proteins) being turned on and when you do cardio after resistance training you get such high drastic rises in AMP kinase (signaling cascade for ATP production) that it ends up shutting off protein synthesis. In easier terms, cardio after weights interferes with the muscle growth phase and a good analogy is after training you turn the faucet on for muscle growth and when too much cardio is being done or after training, it shuts the faucet off.

As for pre workout cardio, this tends to be a little trickier than post workout cardio and we say this because it really depends on a lot of factors such as: What muscle groups are you training that day? What form of cardio are you doing pre workout (low, moderate, or high intensity)? What modality will you use? Are you in a low calorie and glycogen depleted state?

A Study in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise shows 30 minutes of jogging pre workout decreases volume of spinal discs and leads to a reduction in the amount of weight you can load on your back (3). For example, if you did a moderate-high intensity cardio bout such as jogging before squats it’s probably not a good idea because it will lead to decrements in strength and negatively affect your squats. Jogging shows to have a lot of muscle damage in the quads, hams, and glutes, so this will definitely affect your squat game.

A 2012 study in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition showed extended periods of moderate volume concurrent strength, power, and endurance training interferes with explosive strength development (4). This is not something you want if you’re trying to increase your 1 rep max on squats and deadlifts.

The data is pretty clear that performing moderate-high intensity cardio pre workout will lead to decrements in strength and power with your resistance training. Perhaps doing cardio earlier in the day and performing resistance training later in the day will not have a negative impact on either the performance or the measured markers of the exercise induced growth stimulus the resistance training session will have. However, we highly encourage doing resistance training and cardio on separate days as this would be the most optimal route to go.

Is there really an interference effect?

            In a study by Wilson et al. a large body of research indicates that combining aerobic and resistance exercise (concurrent training) has a negative effect on gains in muscular strength and size (5). There is credence to the underlying concept that catabolic processes predominate to a greater extent in aerobic training, and concurrent exercise therefore has the potential to impair muscular gains. There is even evidence that cardio can blunt the satellite cell response (helps with muscle growth) to a bout of resistance exercise and therefore potentially impair the protein-producing capacity of muscle (6). With that said, why are people still considering doing cardio pre or post workout if clearly the evidence indicates that it can potentially inhibit muscular gains, strength, and power?

What if you could avoid the interference effect?

            Burn more calories, increase muscle, and acutely increase your metabolic rate, sounds good, right? This is where the famous HIIT cardio would come into play. When you think of HIIT, high intensity and high stress should be taken into consideration. What we have to keep in mind is that stress has to be recovered from, just like the stress from weight training. Last time we checked HIIT cardio is done during the week along with resistance training. If you are still recovering from a HIIT cardio session to the point that it affects your ability to lift weights, then it can be detrimental to your gains. If there is a significant eccentric component (sprinting and running), or high level of impact, HIIT can cause problems in your overall training and potentially lead to chronic overuse injuries. You have to be cautious and smart when incorporating HIIT into your training protocol because it seems that the work to rest ratios in HIIT intervals are very similar to resistance training sets and your number one focus should be on progressive resistance training.

Here are some ways to avoid the interference effect.

  • Schedule your cardio around your resistance training, especially HIIT cardio
  • If your number one priority is resistance training, then perform cardio modalities that minimize ground-reaction forces
  • Perform a cardio modality that is opposite of the muscle group your training. For example, if you do train legs then do an upper body dominate form of cardio and vice versa
  • If you absolutely have to do cardio the same day as your resistance training and you can’t find a cardio modality opposite of the body part you trained then make sure to keep the intensity to low-moderate

Wrapping this up

We believe that the research is pretty clear here when it comes to this particular topic. Clearly there is no black and white answer, sorry to disappoint, but at least we have a great indication of what to do and when not to do it. It’s tough to predict that anyone can avoid any interference effect when it comes to aerobic or anaerobic training. Just like anything else you have to compensate something. We are not all built like machines and able to handle the same workload as others. Genetics always play a vital role in how someone responds to training. Other factors such as nutrition, stress, sleep, occupational activity, ect. All must be taken into account. Refer back to Brad Schoenfeld’s quote if needed, it pretty much tells you there are only general recommendations that can be given here. The best thing to do is choose the correct cardio modality that suits your training and goals. Always train hard, think logically, and but most importantly train smart.

References:

(1)  Schoenfeld, AARR Research Review. Cardio Roundtable Discussion. February and March 2013.

(2)  Norton, L & Wilson J. Muscle college radio with Dr. Layne Norton & Dr. Jake Wilson. http://www.rxmuscle.com/2013-01-11-01-57-36/muscle-college/7694-muscle-college-3-12-13.html

(3)   Kingsley, MI., et al., Moderate-Intensity Running Causes Intervertebral Disc Compression in young adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2012.

(4)  Mikkola, et al., Neuromuscular and cardiovascular adaptations during concurrent strength and endurance training in untrained men. Int J Sports Med. 2012.

(5)  Babcock, L, Escano, M, D’Lugos, A, Todd, K, Murach, K, and Luden, N. Concurrent aerobic exercise interferes with the satellite cell response to acute resistance exercise. Am. J. Physiol. Regul. Integr. Comp. Physiol. 302: 2012.

(6)  Wilson, J.M., et al., Concurrent Training: A Meta Analysis Examining Interference if Aerobic and Resistance Exercise. J Strength Cond Res, 2011.

About The Authors:

Chris and Eric Martinez, CISSN, CPT, BA, also known as the “Dynamic Duo” operate a world class personal training and online training business “Dynamic Duo Training,” They’re also fitness and nutrition writers, fitness models, and coaches that love helping people reach their goals. Their philosophy is “No excuses, only solutions.”

Visit them at:

Dynamic Duo Training

Blogsite

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6 HIIT Cardio Workouts

I-Heart-HIIT_thumb2By Chris Martinez CISSN and Eric Martinez CISSN.

These days cardio machines are everyone’s choice of conditioning. Why? Probably because you hardly break a sweat, feel no pain, and you’re able to read the latest Gossip Magazine or text message while you’re at it. Yet as much as we do advocate using cardio machines, the correct way that is, there are other effective conditioning workouts out there. We wanted to present to you 5 HIIT cardio workouts that will be fun, exhausting, true test of mental toughness, get you off the cardio machines, and most importantly beneficial to your health and body compositional changes.

Before we pop the bottles of champagne, we want to educate you on some of the energy systems that are going to be used during these workouts. There are three energy systems that you will use.

The first being the high energy phosphate system which provides energy for muscles in the initial 1 to 15 seconds of high intensity activity (1). ATP (quick burst of energy) will be activated during this system, which is great because that’s what causes the body to make metabolic changes.

The second being the Anaerobic Glycolytic System (aka the Lactic Acid energy system) which the body relies primarily on anaerobic metabolism for the energy required to perform intensive exercise of greater than 12-15 seconds and less than 3 minutes duration (2). This system will be another way to overload your muscles, as you will be firing those muscle fibers so fast, you are going to recruit the fast twitch fibers and evidently you’re going to cause muscle damage (a good thing).

The third system being the Aerobic Oxidative System  (aka the Oxygen system) which consists primarily of exercises that are performed at an intensity lower than that of the anaerobic threshold (3). Meaning that you will not get any lactic acid (burning sensation) production when you’re in this system and it will be mainly a brisk to fast pace walk or light jogs to keep your heart rate elevated.

So as you can see with all three of the energy systems above, they will all be used in these 5 workouts. Alright, enough with all this science mumbo jumbo, let’s HIIT it!

Car pushes

Yes! You heard us…Car pushes! If you have never tried car pushes then you are missing out on one of the best HIIT cardio car-pushesworkouts around. This is one of the best ways to improve cardio conditioning, leg drive and power, some upper body pressing power and build a great physique. We’ve found that our squats and leg pressing power have improved since doing these because of the overload the car puts on your legs and you have to use a tremendous amount of lower body strength, as well as upper body strength to move the car. Car pushing is very underrated for strength training and power in our opinion. The cool thing about car pushing is that there are literally hundreds of yards of empty space around somewhere near you, so all you have to do is put it in neutral, drop your head down, arms straight, get low and push with all you’ve got for 10-30 seconds. Now depending on if you’re a newbie or advanced trainee, choose the car you push wisely. If you weigh 100 pounds you probably don’t want to push a Hummer. If you’re 200 plus, you probably don’t want to push a slug bug. You get the point!

The protocol- 10 minute brisk walk or slow paced jog for warm up, 4 intervals of 10-30 second all out pushes and 3-4 minute brisk walk in between intervals, then 10 minute brisk walk to cool down.

Sled Drags

We’re sure some of you are saying what the hell are sled drags? Sled drags are very effective for the athlete, power lifter, or down-right bad ass that wants to get in tip top shape. Dragging a weighted sled by using a harness tied to your waist allows you to activate the core to work harder as well as your glutes and hams. The harness also forces you to keep a straight, stiff spine throughout the exercise, regardless of how tired you get. Rounding the back at anytime will immediately look and feel very awkward, giving instant feedback to straighten out or stop and rest. The great thing about sled dragging is it can have a carryover effect to many things, such as: Football, athletes learning how to explode when moving. Powerlifting, sled dragging strengthens your posterior chain and that can help with deadlifting. Track and field, overloading your waist and sprinting with weights can lead to more explosive movements when you train without them.  If you aren’t sled dragging, then you are missing out on superior strength gains and conditioning. If you decide to sled drag, a good rule of thumb is “you’ve got too much weight when you’re walking like you’re drunk.”-Louie Simmons

The Protocol- 10 minute brisk walk or slow paced jog for warm up, 5 intervals of 10-30 seconds all out sled dragging and 2-3 minute brisk walk in between intervals, then 10 minutes brisk walk to cool down.

Heavy Rope Training-

Heavy rope training was originally developed for specific combat sports such as football and Mixed Martial Arts; it is now becoming very popular for conditioning work and HIIT cardio. If you’re looking for a new twist to your fitness routine or if you’re one of those that complain about other HIIT cardio workouts being too demanding on your legs the day after a leg session, then this is what you’re looking for. Along with increasing your strength, power, and endurance, the constant motion of rope battling will give you a hell of a workout. Some common movements include waves, slams, throws, spirals, and whips.  All involve swinging your arms up and down (or side to side) for timed intervals. With each of these exercises, you want to create a solid base by planting your feet in a shoulder width stance and stabilizing your core, think of an athletic stance. You’ll quickly discover that these exercises engage not just your arms and shoulders, but your whole body.

The Protocol- 5 minute moderate jump rope for warm up, 3-5 sets of 10-30 second intervals (waves, slams, throws, spirals, whips) and 45-60 seconds of rest in between intervals, then 5 minutes of moderate jump rope to cool down.

Kettlebell Swings

Believe it or not but kettlebells are starting to be increasingly popular. Specifically kettlebell swings have become a great HIIT cardio workout to activate your glutes and hamstrings. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found as the movement progressed from the bottom of the swing to the top of the swing, back muscle activation peaked first at around 50% of MVC (maximal voluntary contraction), followed by abdominal/oblique activation at around 20-30% of MVC, followed by gluteal muscle activation at around 75% of MVC (4). As you can see kettlebell swings stimulate your glutes, strengthen your back muscles, engage your core muscles and help strengthen the hip and knees. Muscle activation ramps up during a half-second interval in the concentric phase (top of the swing) and then transitions to almost complete relaxation during much of the eccentric phase (coming down with the swing) (5).  So every time you are swinging that kettlebell you are firing muscle fibers and this could lead to overall muscle growth. If you’ve never tried kettlebells for HIIT then your booty and hamies are in for a long day! Make sure to be wise when you choose the weight, you aren’t going for a 1 rep max, pick a comfortable weight that you can swing and use good form to really activate all the muscles.

The Protocol- 5 minute moderate jump rope for warm up or 10 minute brisk walk/jog, 5 sets of 10-30 second intervals (all out swings) and 45-60 seconds of rest in between intervals, then 5 minutes of moderate jump rope or 10 minute brisk walk/jog to cool down.

Sprints

Last but not least how can we leave out good old sprints that have been tried and true for the longest time.  Just look at sprinters legs compared to a long distance runners legs. Obviously the sprinter has more muscle mass on their legs because they’re activating fast twitch muscle fibers and creating muscle damage which leads to muscle growth. If you don’t believe us, go do sprints and you’ll see how sore you are the next day, it’ll feel almost the same as if you did an intense leg workout and that’s because you activated and broke down those muscle fibers. A recent study by Metcalfe et al. shows if you perform what Metcalfe and colleagues call the “minimal amount of exercise for improving metabolic health” a 3x per week 10min exercise regimen with no more than two (yes, I said it only 2 times!) all-out sprints, everything you’ve got, you will make changes to your metabolic rate (6). This 6 week exercise program was compared to the results of a 10 month intervention program in subjects who exercised 3x a week for 40min (steady state). Metcalfe’s study goes to show that it’s a more efficient way to burn fat by doing 3x per week for 10 min with only 2 all out sprint intervals because the steady state endurance study was not only four times more time-consuming, but it also failed to improve the glucose tolerance test and produced no improvements in insulin sensitivity.

The Protocol- 10 minute brisk walk, 5 sets of 10-30 second intervals (all out, everything you’ve got) and 1-4 minutes of rest in between intervals, then 10 minute brisk walk to cool down.

Bonus Workout

Here’s a HIIT workout you can do after your boss was on your ass all day or if you have one of those days when you feel a big weight on your shoulders…Hit the heavy bag! Hitting a punching bag is a great upper body workout and tailors well for those that have lower body injuries or limitations. One recommendation we will make is to not do a heavy upper body workout following this workout or the day after. Make sure to have an off day or lower body day. Your shoulders and arms will feel like you got in a bar fight with Mike Tyson after this workout.

The Protocol- 10 jump rope for warm up, 5 rounds of 10-30 second all out, everything you’ve got, beating the crap out of that bag and 2-4 minutes of jump roping in between rounds, then 10 minute brisk walk to cool down.

Wrapping it up

Now don’t get all bent out of shape after this, but you must understand the pros and cons of doing HIIT cardio workouts. They should be used as a tool and not be overused. We wouldn’t recommend more than 3-4 HIIT cardio workouts a week and we would definitely not do them after a high intensity leg workout day. Also, you’re probably wondering why we keep saying 10-30 seconds of intervals and that’s because everyone’s AT (anaerobic threshold) is different. You have to build your tolerance and get conditioned for these types of workouts and the more you do it and push yourselves, the more your AT will improve. With that in mind, we are all different and respond differently to certain things. So experiment yourself and see what you like best and what works best for you. If you want to go by time or yards do whatever feels best for you. Start with 10 second intervals and see if you can eventually get to 30 seconds. Just don’t overdo it or take that risk of injuring yourself. Now that you have these 5 workouts in your gym bag of tricks… go HIIT it!

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Eric and Chris Martinez are identical twin brothers that are known as the Dynamic Duo. They are CISSN certified for nutrition consulting and AFFA certified for personal training, fitness and nutrition writers for SimplyShredded.com, BroScience.com, MachineMuscle.com & DirectlyFitness.com, fitness models, and founders of Dynamic Duo Training- an up and coming world class website that provides customized training protocols, customized nutrition plans, motivational coaching, educational programs, and a carved path to live a dynamic lifestyle

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