I have to say that every time someone comes to me for advice or even coaching their goals usually go something like this: “Yeah, I just want to get into better shape. Ya know? Like I want to lose fat but not any of my muscle. Actually, I want to put on more muscle and still lose fat.” I hear it all the time, and not many people actually really know the best way to achieve this. It’s crazy that for such a common goal people really have no understanding on how to go about accomplishing it. Well, here I am to guide you and have you on your way to shredding fat and gaining lean muscle.
I see and hear it every day. Want to cut fat? Well, you must do hours upon hours of cardio. Walking, slow and long distance jogs, every cardio machine you can imagine. Here is the first mistake. Yes, long bouts of cardio can be great for burning high numbers of calories. But, contrary to popular belief, steady state cardio does not elevate your heart rate to ideal levels for fat burning. In addition to this, long bouts of cardio that are performed in a lactic state (think of the burn you get when you run) are extremely detrimental to your secondary (well, actually other primary goal) of building lean muscle. Here is why. When you push yourself into cardio that does not allow glycogen stores to be replenished (glycogen is the main source of muscle energy during workouts, your body becomes catabolic (the opposite of anabolic which is ideal for muscle growth) and feeds off lean muscle for energy. So, while you “feel the burn,” and sweat a lot, you are
Now that you know this common cardio misconception, I can get into the nuts and bolts of fat loss for muscle retention. Firstly, interval based bouts of cardio are ideal. Secondly, sprint work and power intensive cardio can build muscle in areas such as the upper back, shoulders, and the obvious glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Why? Well, this musculature is in high demand during sprint and power related movements. So, to start, change up from your traditional cardio. Next, incorporate intervals into your training. You can achieve the ideal fat burning heart rate with your weight training by implementing interval work with your strength training. Super sets or even giant sets can be used to help turn a traditional strength training session into a dual purpose workout and help you torch unwanted fat
Essentially, the two biggest keys to losing fat and retaining muscle are proper cardio and interval training. One may even argue that if you are strapped for time you can kill two birds with one stone and perform your weight training in intervals and this alone will be enough. Regardless, stick to these basic tips and you will find yourself with the tools you need to achieve the most desired goal in fitness and strength training.
Gerry DeFilippo: ISSA CPT- CPPS, AAPS. Founder/Owner: Challenger Strength.