Cardi…oh…no

March 3, 2013

I’m no cardio bunny, with a particular aversion to the long duration stuff.  Regardless of the arguments for and against different types, intensities and durations, I’d rather be lifting heavy stuff and doing the ‘meathead’ thing.  That said, I’ve always included some form of cardio training in my programme, because a) I believe it to be good for me, and b) the right type at the right time works well for keeping body fat levels in check (especially when you’re someone who is erring on the side on endomorphic).

Much to some people’s surprise (it still surprises me that they’re surprised), I don’t programme much cardio for fat loss.  Why?  Resistance training complimented with a decent nutritional programme will take people a long way for fat loss.  Beyond that I’ll add one or two high intensity interval sessions per week once we need them.  It’s rare, that I’ll suggest long steady state stuff.  The closest I’d come might be a brisk walk two or three times per week atop of the gym stuff.

That said, I’m currently running in excess of 50km per week (half of this with a 10kg backpack on) and doing two lengthy bike sessions, with only two very short resistance training sessions.  Why?  I’m training for an endurance event which requires it – http://www.4deserts.com/gobimarch.  Looks like fun hey?  God only knows.  Don’t worry, you’ll be getting a request for sponsorship shortly.

My training schedule this coming week looks like this:

Monday – Deadlift 5/3/1 + assistance work, 12km run

Tuesday – 2hr bike session. 2min flat, 1min climb.

Weds – Soft tissue work

Thurs – Military Press 5/3/1 + assistance work, 12km run

Friday – 32-34km run.

Saturday – 2hr bike session.

Sunday – Soft tissue work

The last few weeks have been similar, albeit I’ve been progressively increasing the training volume since I started this nonsense in January.

So why is this of any interest to anyone but me? (and my brother, who’s in for it too).  Well…..

I started my GOBI training in January.  The first time a went for a treadmill run (yes, I did just write that) I put the speed up to 10km and lasted for 20mins before I had to get off and get a drink.  I got back on for ten mins until I’d done 5km total and I was done.  Fast forward eight weeks and 10kph over a 10km distance feels easy and I managed 32km last week with a 10kg backpack on.  A pretty solid improvement in ‘fitness’ I think you’ll agree.

However, and here’s the interesting bit for fat loss fanatics…..

Despite doing all of this cardio, resulting in a pretty appreciable improvement in my fitness, it’s done relatively little for my body composition.  In other words, I’ve lost close to sod all body fat.  In fact, scores on the doors after eight weeks of hard training are:

Skeletal muscle mass = the same as it was at the start, and

Fat mass = -1.2kg.

So, I’ve lost no muscle mass and only lost just over 1kg of body fat.

Now, losing more than 1kg of body fat whilst maintain muscle mass is good news.  But, if I’d been after fat loss and had employed resistance training with little or no cardio, I would have had much more impressive results in eight weeks.  As a comparison, I wrote a training and nutrition programme for a guy six weeks ago and, training four times per week, for less than an hour each time, he has lost 4kg of fat, whilst adding 2.5kg of lean mass.

So thats four times as much fat lost and significant muscle added, achieved in a fraction of the training time.  And he looks much better for it than I do.  Note: he can’t run as far though, which I’m sure is a problem for him.  I’m also stiff as a board, particularly calves, glutes and thoracic, whilst he’s moving better and squatting more deeply than he was when he started.  Oh, and I’m generally a bit tired, craving carbs most of the time and don’t look forward to training with the same enthusiasm that is my norm!

The point of this ramble: resistance training trumps cardio every time for fat loss.    

NOTE: the fact that I’ve lost no muscle mass has surprised me.  I’ve been pretty diligent with my nutrition, but it’s still asking questions of my long held belief that cardio is the devil when it comes to maintaining lean mass.  It will be interesting to see where I’m at come mid June.