Ask The Trainer #23 – Mixing Cardio & Weightlifting

Ask The Trainer #23 - Mixing Cardio & Weightlifting

QUESTION:

I appreciate any info you can give. I work out 4 days a week, my workouts are 20 minutes of running before lifting weights which can be a couple weeks of heavy lifting or a couple weeks of high reps lower weight. Either scenario, I don’t lose the puffiness nor do I get really strong. My weight stays the same, 190 lbs. I take EFX Kre-Alkalyn twice a day along with a BCAA supplement. I don’t get too sore and my gains are not going up fast. There are improvements but not substantial.

I eat 2 pop tarts for breakfast before the gym, right after the gym I usually eat a steak patty over lettuce. Dinner can be anything, I occasionally overeat once a week. Calorie count is close to 2000 a day. I have half a can of soda for dinners at home and I do not really eat desserts. I’m not a fruit and veggie eater, and I usually have a granola bar as a snack before dinner.

Thanks for your time! -Erik


ANSWER:

Hi, Erik.

You definitely seem to pretty dedicated to your workouts. Now, based on what you’ve described, I understand why your workouts haven’t been giving you the results you are after. I’ll address these issues in the order which you’ve described them.

Issue #1: 20 Minutes of Running Prior To Lifting Weights

I think performing 5 minutes of some type of light aerobic activity prior to lifting is a good idea. This helps increase your core body temperature, wake up your central nervous system, and warm up your muscles and joints to prepare for high-intensity weight training.

However, running 20 minutes just before weightlifting is actually counterproductive to your weight lifting! When you engage in that 20-minute run, your body is utilizing a significant amount of its glycogen (glucose) stores as energy. Your body will utilize some fatty acids for energy as well. However, the majority of what fuels your 20-minute run will be glycogen. Especially if you run hard!

Also, the harder you run, the more anaerobic the activity will be. This means the energy demands are so immediate, the body does not have time to receive enough oxygen to utilize fatty acids as an energy source. It can only burn glycogen.

That being said, weightlifting is also anaerobic. So your body’s preferred fuel source is also going to be glycogen when you hoist the iron. What you’re doing now is depleting your body’s glycogen stores right before you lift weights. This is what limits your progress.

Chad ShawYou optimistically go to engage in some intense weight lifting, hoping to hit some new PRs. But, after your first set, your energy levels flatline. Your muscles reach for glucose as their primary weapon against that heavy iron, but that weapon is not available, so your muscles lose the battle!

It’s like going into a battle with a limited supply of ammunition and firing it all off, then immediately going into a full war with a bunch of empty magazine clips. Since your muscles don’t have sufficient fuel when you lift weights, they aren’t able to cope with enough resistance to trigger the adaptive response necessary to actualize any significant amount of muscle growth. Make sense?

Additionally, by combining weightlifting and cardio together in the same workout, you run the risk of driving your cortisol levels up too high. This is one of the main reasons I have my clients perform cardio and weightlifting on opposite days.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, cortisol is a catabolic (breaking down) hormone. When your cortisol levels become too high, it can reduce your muscle tissue via incomplete protein turnover, decrease testosterone levels, and decrease growth hormone levels. You can expect this to occur if your training sessions last much over an hour.

Remember, just because you switch from one form of exercise to another within the same session, your ‘cortisol gauge’ doesn’t reset itself. It will simply continue to rise as time elapses. Likewise, your body does not have one pool of biochemical resources to recover from aerobic exercise and a second pool to recover from anaerobic exercise.

The fact is your body has only one limited pool of biochemical resources it can use for recovery, PERIOD!

Issue #2: Your Diet

Listen, I’ll be very blunt here. Pop-Tarts, soda, and granola bars are absolutely HORRIBLE for your physique! These foods are typically made with sugar, fructose, corn syrup solids, or, even worse, high fructose corn syrup! All of these are known for hammering testosterone levels via overloading the liver. Not to mention, too much sugar causes a negative reaction with insulin and blood sugar levels, pushing you a step closer to becoming a Type 2 Diabetic.

Furthermore, sugar is made of empty calories devoid of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fiber. Instead of having 2 Pop-Tarts for breakfast, try a couple of cage-free eggs, some sliced red potatoes fried in a pan with a little extra virgin olive oil, chopped onions, Himalayan pink salt and a dash of pepper. Then, include a half cup of blueberries on the side. Not only do these all taste great, but your body will thank you when you workout!


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I know you said you’re not a fruit and veggie eater. However, keep in mind fruits and veggies contain some extremely valuable compounds that will help your body create a much more favorable hormone profile for building muscle and losing fat. Not to mention, many of these same compounds have also been proven to help prevent many serious diseases, like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

The Bottom Line

If you’re really serious about taking your physique to the next level, you must focus on covering all your nutritional bases. A balanced meal is not a steak patty on lettuce. But, throw in a sweet potato and some broccoli or asparagus… now you have a truly balanced, muscle-building meal!

Finally, try to consume at least 3 of these well-balanced meals per day. If you take my suggestions to heart and keep taking your BCAA and Kre-Alkalyn, I can all but guarantee you will see some awesome changes!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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