Here's what you need to know...
• If you're an athlete or a lifter trying to gain muscle and get strong, then you need carbs.
• Fat people have poor nutrient partitioning abilities. The carbs they eat are more likely to be stored as fat.
• If you're relatively lean, your carb intake can be higher because leaner people have better nutrient partitioning abilities.
• People cling to the diets that initially gave them good results. Bad idea. Your metabolic condition changes.
• Lower-carb diets may be the best approach for improving body composition. Shoot for 100-125 grams per day.
• Serious lifters and athletes need 1-3 grams of carbs per pound.
The Carb War
The carb war has been raging in gyms, kitchens, classrooms, and nutrition conferences for decades, and will continue to do so in perpetuity.
There's religious-like passion and cult-like followings on both the low-carb and high-carb sides of the fence. The pendulum of popularity seems to swing back and forth between the two.
Regardless, both sides of the battle can be right. Both approaches can work. The answer lies in this simple recommendation:
Match your carbohydrate intake to your individual activity levels, metabolic condition, and physique or performance goals.
It seems simple and logical enough, but it's surprising how often that advice gets ignored when it's applied to real-life diets, even when it comes to intelligent athletes and coaches.
So how do you decide whether you should be following the food pyramid, the fitness freaks, or the paleo geeks? How about you stop following any dogmatic and inflexible system, and have the balls to find what works for you.
There are four variables you should consider in your quest to customize your carb intake.
Variable #1: High Intensity Activity Levels
Carbs are the primary fuel for high-intensity activity. While the body can use fatty acids as fuel during rest, and even those who train only in the aerobic zone can become "fat adapted," high intensity activity requires glucose.
If you perform strength-training sessions on a regular basis, or compete in intermittent sprint sports, then you need carbohydrates. Perhaps you need a lot of carbohydrates. Those carbs will be used to optimally fuel your body and help you recover from your training sessions.
This of course isn't true for the sedentary individual. Muscle-energy reserves fuel muscular activity. If you're not depleting muscle energy reserves through activity, you don't need to refill them, thus you don't need to consume a lot of carbs.
The Car Analogy
If your car has been sitting in the garage, it doesn't need gas. Loading up on carbs is like trying to fill up a full tank. It just spills over the side.
In the human body, that overspill equates to sugar backing up in the bloodstream (high blood glucose). This in turn leads to body fat storage and a host of other negative effects like elevated triglycerides and cholesterol, insulin resistance, and type II diabetes.
However, if you drive your car around every day, sometimes for long mileage, you have to fill it up often. If you don't, you'll run out of gas.
An empty tank in the human body equates with fatigue, depression, lethargy, impaired performance, muscle loss, stubborn fat, insomnia, low testosterone, impaired thyroid production and resting metabolic rate, foul mood, and frustration over your body not changing despite dieting and training.
No diet is worth developing a lifeless noodle or its female equivalent, the dusty papaya, and then being an ass to everyone around you because of it. So give your body the fuel it needs when it needs it and you'll be good to go.
Variable #2: Current Shape
We all have different physiological responses to food based on our individual metabolic condition, which is a combination of a couple of things.
The first is just the general shape you're in. If you're overweight or are someone trying to go from out of shape to decent shape, your carbohydrate intake should lean towards the lower side.
That's because, in general, overweight individuals have poor nutrient partitioning abilities, meaning the carbs they eat are more likely to be stored as fat. At the very least, they have a damaged capacity to burn fat.
If you're normal weight, relatively leaner, or trying to go from good shape to great shape, your carb intake can be higher, or at least moderate, even in dieting phases because leaner individuals have better nutrient partitioning abilities. That means the carbs they eat are more likely to be stored as glycogen and less likely to be stored as fat.
Variable #3: State of Insulin Sensitivity/Insulin Resistance
The second side of the metabolic condition coin is your state of insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance. This is basically a term that describes how easy or difficult it is for your body to properly store nutrients (particularly carbs) in its cells.
In an otherwise healthy person, your insulin sensitivity is related to the physical shape you're in. Leaner individuals tend to have good insulin sensitivity. This means insulin can efficiently do its job of transporting carbs into muscle cells. If you can properly use and store carbohydrates, you can include more of them in your diet.
Overweight individuals tend to have lower insulin sensitivity or some degree of insulin resistance. This means insulin has a harder time of doing its job of getting carbohydrates into the muscle cell.
Sugar can back up in the bloodstream, which wreaks havoc on the body. Higher and higher levels of insulin are released to try to get it where it should be going. This downward spiral is what ultimately leads to type II diabetes.
Since insulin resistance and type II diabetes are essentially diseases involving the inability to properly use and store carbohydrates, it makes sense that those on this side of the metabolic condition equation respond best to lower carb diets.
The Carb Club
Think of your muscle cell as a popular nightclub. If a group of hot girls walk to the front of the line, the bouncers let them walk right in the door (good insulin sensitivity).
If a group of dudes that look like hobos try to get in, the bouncer makes them wait in the back of the line for hours, and when they get to the door, he says the club is full. They're sent back into the streets. Angry and frustrated, they wreak havoc on the city (bad insulin sensitivity, poor blood sugar control).
Variable #4: Changes in Metabolic Condition
Your metabolic condition can change over time, which means the diet plan that's optimal for you can change over time, too.
Let's say someone starts out sedentary, overweight, and somewhat insulin resistant. He sets out to improve his health and lose some weight by following a low-carb diet. It works great.
He loses weight, his insulin sensitivity improves, and his energy goes through the roof. He starts exercising, which helps him lose some more fat, as well as build some lean muscle mass. Now he's really into it, and the frequency and intensity of his training increases.
This individual is now at a healthy weight or relatively lean, is exercising regularly, and has better insulin sensitivity. He's a completely different person, metabolically speaking, than when he started.
But the problem is that he's no longer properly fueling his body and recovering from his intense training sessions (which were once non-existent).
He's starting to feel tired and fatigued in the gym, is always in a bad mood, is holding on to stubborn body fat, can't sleep at night, gets sick all of the time, and is maybe having some sexual performance and hormonal issues.
His diet no longer matches his new activity levels and current metabolic condition, because they've completely changed over time. If this person objectively looked at his situation and progress and listened to his own body's biofeedback, he'd consider some dietary adjustments. A moderate-to-higher carb intake might be a better fit.
The problem is that people tend to cling to a diet that initially gave them good results. It got them from Point A to Point B and they assume it'll then get them from Point B to Point C. I've been there myself. Part of it is initial experience, part of it is the influence of marketing material, and part of it is pure emotion.
Practical Applications for Low-Carb Diets
1. Lower carb diets may be the best approach for improving body composition and biomarkers of health for severely overweight, insulin resistant, and sedentary populations.
2. Give your body just enough carbs to support liver glycogen stores and fuel the brain and central nervous system at rest, have good cognitive function, energy, and mood, etc., without overshooting your daily energy needs and gaining fat.
3. Shoot for 100-125 grams of carbohydrates per day.
4. The balance of your calorie requirements should be made up of protein and healthy fats.
Practical Applications For Moderate-To-Higher Carb Diets
1. There's a wide range of appropriate carbohydrate intakes for performance athletes, strength trainers, and bodybuilders.
2. A good ballpark starting point would be in the range of 1-3 grams of carbohydrate per pound (2-7 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram).
3. Those with good insulin sensitivity or on the higher end of training intensity or volume who want to maximize performance or gain muscle mass would lean towards the higher carbohydrate range.
4. Those with poor insulin sensitivity or on the lower end of training intensity or volume and/or looking to lose fat would lean towards the lower end.
5. Test, assess, and refine until you find your sweet spot in the carbohydrate continuum.
Make small adjustments during the assessment period (10-20%) rather than extreme changes. For example, if you start with 250 daily grams of carbs, increase or decrease by 25-50 grams, depending on the goal, rather than cutting to 50 grams or ramping up to 500 grams.
Miyaki, N. (2015 January 01). How Many Carbs Do You Need?
Retrieved from http://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/how-many-carbs-do-you-need/
Here's what you need to know...
• This four-stage plan takes care of the big dietary issues first, then narrows things down according to the athlete's needs and goals.
• The first step is removing the obvious junk getting in your way.
• "Pretend health foods" make fat loss harder in spite of their health claims.
• Although controversial, the vast majority of people lose body fat when they remove wheat, milk and fruit juice from their diets and replace them with better choices.
• Choose foundational supplements that improve your workout performance and help you recover faster. Everything else is based on filling individual gaps and needs.
• Losing fat and fueling hardcore workouts doesn't have to involve counting calories. Keep it simple and fine-tune as needed.
NFL athletes are awesome to work with. They're used to being coached and perform at their best in that environment. They do what you tell them to do, they get results, and they say thank you.
These guys don't want to be inundated with science and complex plans. They want something that works, they don't want it to be a pain in the ass, and they want results.
Come to think of it, that's what most people want.
There's a time and a place for more extreme or complex diet plans, but the majority of lifters can shift their nutrition to focus on building muscle or losing fat without the process taking up half their lives.
Recently, while helping an NFL athlete who needed to lose fat, I realized that most of my advice for him would work for just about everyone. Here's the plan I laid out for him.
The 4 Stage Diet
These stages can be used by anyone who needs to clean up and re-focus his or her diet:
Stage #1: Drop the obvious crap.
You don't need anyone to tell you that candy, cookies, sodas, junk food, fast food and excess booze are wrecking your body or at least hampering your progress.
Actually, maybe you do.
That's because there are a lot of hucksters and spineless pleasers out there telling you that this shit is okay "in moderation."
They also like to say "there's no such thing as a bad food" because apparently they define "food" as anything you can swallow that won't kill you immediately.
Well, they're wrong.
Every time an overweight person consumes what we'll classify here as "obvious crap" they're either taking a step backward or temporarily halting their progress. And since many of these foods have addictive properties, moderation goes into the trash faster than junk mail.
If your goal is to lose fat, keep it off for good, and boost performance, cheat foods have to be set aside. Yes, there are a lot of plans out there that encourage cheat foods, but those people-pleasing plans have about the same long-term success rate as Weight Watchers did for your fat aunt.
Maybe it's time to grow up and stop feeling so entitled to a food reward every time you do your workout. Sure, a few skinny young dudes and heavy steroid users can get away with eating junk for a while, but try staying lean after the age of 30 or 40 when you eat like a spoiled chubby kid every weekend.
Like a good strength and conditioning coach, a diet coach must first fill the cracks in the foundation, then build up a strong structure. This is easy, because usually the athlete knows damn well what he's eating that he shouldn't be. And you do too.
Oddly, it's human nature to keep making those obvious mistakes until someone tells you to cut it out. So here it is: cut it out.
Stage #2: Get rid of the less obvious crap.
With the obvious crap removed, it's time to narrow things down. What is "less obvious crap?" These are foods often considered to be healthy that, well, really aren't.
Sometimes these are "better bad" choices: things that are still hampering your progress but not as badly as the obvious-crap foods were before. These are also the types of foods that cause much debate in the field of nutrition.
I call many of them pretend health foods. They proclaim their health benefits right on the package: low fat, fat free, low carb, gluten free, high fiber, organic, whole grain, etc.
But low-carb foods can be calorically dense and filled with the worst type of dietary fats, and fat-free foods are often sugar bombs or brimming with processed flour. Sugar is gluten-free. Kid's breakfast cereal is "high fiber." And all of them will still make you fat.
You know this, but often when fat loss is the goal, the IQ drops before the body fat percentage does.
But let's move beyond the not-so-common common sense stuff. Here's what I have my NFL guys drop from their diets that may surprise you:
• Fruit juice
The wheat issue is controversial, but not to those who just want results and simple rules. So, a simple guideline is to ditch wheat-containing foods or greatly reduce your intake.
The anti-wheat doctors and paleo advocates will bore you to death with studies showing that wheat polypeptides bind to the brain's morphine receptor, the same receptor to which opiate drugs bind, meaning that you get cravings, overeat, and disrupt your natural appetite signaling mechanisms.
They go on to list dozens of other nasty-sounding effects, some of which seem to be spot-on and some of which may be a bit exaggerated.
But this much is true: the health benefits of this particular grain are largely nonexistent, you don't need it, and it's probably doing you more harm than good, for whatever reason.
Maybe it's more related to FODMAPs, or maybe it's just that most wheat-containing foods are also full of the same stuff that can lead to something called toxic hunger. Doesn't matter. The simple rule is the same: Does it contain wheat? Then don't put it in your mouth.
Besides, adopting a gluten-free diet even if you're not a celiac tends to get rid of most of the stuff that made you get chubby in the first place, as long as you don't fall for those pretend-healthy food scams.
If your body fat is stubborn, or you feel out of control around food and you haven't eliminated wheat yet, give it a shot. Same for milk, same for fruit juice.
It can take anywhere from 5 to 28 days to drop the "addiction" to these foods. Food scientists and behavioral psychologists refer to this as the "don't be a pussy" stage and suggest three servings of "suck it up, princess" until bad habits wane and unnatural cravings subside.
Out here in the real world, it works for 90% of people. Let the geeks fling their studies like monkeys fling poo. We'll just focus on simplicity and results.
Stage #3: Replace all the above crap with better stuff.
Replace your breads, cereals, and pastas with rice, potatoes, quinoa, oatmeal, buckwheat, and starchy vegetables.
Replace your milk with unsweetened almond, coconut, or cashew milk because you're not a newborn cow. Replace your juice with water because you're not 7 years old.
Replace the pretend health foods with foods you cook yourself. Don't follow a Paleo diet, but eat your meats, veggies, eggs, and coconut oil.
Stage #4: Supplement to enhance performance and fill gaps.
Much like food choices, supplement prescriptions have three phases.
1. Drop the Kid Supplements
If your supplement choices resemble those of a teenager's after hitting the supplement store at the mall, they probably suck.
If you're spending mainly on things that contain the letters "NO" or your pre-workout is nothing but stimulants that make you feel tingly, you're doing it wrong. If your favorite brand is a multi-level marketing operation, you can't be helped.
Get rid of the things that really don't work or that do very little and focus on the big-bang supplements that every hard lifter benefits from.
2. Build the Foundation
The foundation is workout nutrition. To guarantee the greatest gains from training, fuel, protect, and reload muscle immediately prior to, during, and after workouts.
3. Fill the Gaps
The point here is to fill the nutritional gaps or take care of individual needs. You may only need one or two additional supplements, or none at all.
Bonus: Easy Food Prep for AthletesHere's a simple way to have healthy meals ready to go.
First, go buy a big slow cooker (Crock Pot). Slow cookers come in small, medium, and big-ass. Go for big-ass because you're going to make multiple meals in one pot. You'll want one with a timer so it'll stop cooking when you're away and switch over to the warm setting.
1. Get a giant hunk of animal flesh: beef roast, a dozen chicken breasts, a turkey breast, a couple of pork tenderloins, etc. If it had to die for your dietary needs, it's good to go. Salt, pepper, toss it in.
2. Vegetables. Get some. Chop them up. Throw them in. Frozen veggies work too.
3. Dice up some potatoes and add them to the pot.
4. Add liquid. I suggest stock, any kind: beef, chicken, or vegetable.
5. Herbage. Use whatever is handy. Dried stuff is fine. Or slather the meat with tomato paste.
6. Now, in the morning, turn your cooker on low for 7-8 hours. Now go do those things that you do: work, school, smashing heads to protect an oblong pigskin, whatever.
7. Come home and it'll be ready. Store the leftovers for later.
1. Before you go to bed, toss a cup or two of steel cut oats in the slow cooker. For every cup of oats, add three cups of water.
2. If you want, add a couple of bananas, apples, or a bag of frozen berries or peaches.
3. Using the low setting, set the timer for around 7 hours. Go to bed.
4. Wake up, mix a scoop or two of protein with your hot and ready-to-eat oats. Save the leftovers because you just made breakfast for the next several days.
There's no calorie counting or macro micromanaging here. For most hard-training people, there doesn't need to be. Just follow the basic guidelines and you'll figure out how to fine-tune things as you go along.
It works for the best in the NFL and it'll work for you.
Shugart, C. (2015 February 03). The Simple diet for Athletes.
Retrieved from http://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/simple-diet-for-athletes/
Here's what you need to know...
• A small amount of cardio is okay if you enjoy it, but it's really not necessary for fat loss.
• At its worst, excess cardio "eats" lean muscle and creates a destructive pattern of slow metabolic rate and a yo-yo'ing body weight.
• Excess cardio leads to muscle loss with inhibits natural hormone production. Aerobic workouts also elevate cortisol levels.
• Strength training raises the metabolic rate for longer periods of time than aerobic work.
• Walking has many of the benefits and none of the drawbacks of traditional cardio. With the right diet and weight training, walking is all you need to lose fat.
Cardio Isn't That Important
There are only two types of people I hate in the fitness world: 1) people who are intolerant of other people's exercise choices, and 2) runners!
I should qualify that second part. I dislike people who dogmatically insist that any form of long duration, sustained cardio activity is the best and only way to lose fat and change a physique.
Anyone who's been in this game long enough will tell you that the hierarchy of body composition transformation goes something like this: nutrition is by far the most important, weight training is next, and cardio is a distant third.
Traditional cardio is at best a minor importance in the physique enhancement game. And under many circumstances, it becomes the worst form of exercise a relatively fit person could do for further body composition enhancement.
Reasons People Run
If you chose to run, make sure you understand the real reasons why you're running. You're running for performance enhancement, sport specific training, stress relief, general health, an endorphin rush, to prove something to yourself, or just because you like to do it. That's fine.
But if you're running to drop body fat, remove that last little layer of flab from around your midsection, or look good at the beach, you're doing it for the wrong reasons.
Cardio in the Real World
Most lifters have heard the ol' sprinter vs. marathon runner comparison. You know the drill. Marathon runners that engage in primarily low intensity, aerobic activity are usually skinny-fat, jiggle when they wiggle, and are riddled with injuries. Sprinters that engage in primarily high intensity, anaerobic work are more lean and muscular.
It's amazing how many intelligent people understand this on a conceptual level, but don't practically apply it within their training protocols. "Yeah, marathon runners are losers." Then that same allegedly intelligent person will go out and do frequent cardio to try and reach single-digit body fat percentages.
No physique athlete has any business spending two hours on a stationary bike. The fittest "looking" people in the world, and the smartest coaches in the world, base their exercise programs around strength training.
They all lift weights – both the men and the women. Cardio may be a part of the plan, but it's not the foundation.
And on a side note, most physique athletes do cardio out of tradition rather than necessity. Diet and strength training are what changes physical appearance. Cardio is supplemental at its very best.
The Dark Side of Cardio
Traditional cardio sucks for fat loss, period. I'll save you the long dissertation and give you the cliff notes version of the science behind why the majority of your training should be anaerobic (strength training/interval cardio) vs. aerobic (traditional cardio) in nature:
• The physique transformation process is more complicated than the simple calories in vs. calories out theory. The real keys are to use your diet and exercise protocols to elevate your resting metabolic rate and manipulate your anabolic, lipolytic hormones and enzymes.
Strength training has a much more powerful effect on these processes than aerobic training.
• Many who focus on just calories and the "slash and dash" mentality end up with destructive patterns – extreme calorie cuts and/or excessive aerobics. This sets off an alarm state in the body where the body sheds muscle tissue to lessen energy demands and stores/hoards body fat as a survival response.
Once this physiological state is reached, it becomes impossible to lose any more fat no matter how many calories you cut or how much aerobic work you try and add. What you end up with is someone who is on starvation level calories and performing excessive exercise, yet is still flabby.
• Muscle loss due to excessive aerobics drastically lowers the resting metabolic rate and inhibits natural hormone production.
When this type of person goes back to even just normal, healthy calorie and exercise levels, they gain all of the weight back plus a few extra. This generally results in a vicious cycle of huge swings in body weight and appearance.
Whether it's housewives following fad diets or bodybuilders alternating between competition shape and off-season obesity is irrelevant – it's still yo-yo'ing. Sometimes the damage to the metabolism and hormones becomes so great over time that it's irreversible without medical intervention.
The calories burned during an exercise session are relatively small compared to the amount burned the other 23 hours of the day during the recovery process (at rest).
Most fat oxidation occurs between training sessions, not during. As such your exercise sessions should primarily be geared towards building muscle and boosting the metabolism, not "burning fat."
• Upon cessation of an exercise session, strength training raises the metabolic rate (the after-burn effect) for longer periods of time than aerobic work – up to 48 hours.
This is because all of the steps involved in the recovery process from strength training (satellite cell activation, tissue repair, protein synthesis, etc.) require energy/calories.
• Aerobic workouts elevate cortisol levels. Long sessions can lead to excessively high levels, and too frequent sessions can lead to chronically elevated levels, neither of which is good for body composition enhancement.
Cortisol can force the body to break down its own muscle tissue, convert it to glucose (gluconeogenesis), and use it as fuel. It also leads to increased fat accumulation, especially around the midsection.
• Strength training raises cortisol levels, but it also raises testosterone and growth hormone – potent muscle building/fat burning hormones that offset cortisol. The net hormonal effect (assuming proper dietary support) is protein synthesis/lean muscle gain.
• The body burns predominantly fat during aerobic work. As a result, the body adapts by up-regulating the enzymes that store body fat.
The body burns predominantly glucose/glycogen during strength training. As a result, the body adapts by up-regulating the enzymes that store muscle glycogen.
• Strength training has more powerful, positive nutrient partitioning effects than cardio, meaning nutrients are diverted more towards muscle cells (where they can be used to build or maintain lean muscle tissue) and away from fat cells (where they can be stored).
• There are certain "intermediate" muscle fibers that can take on the properties of either slow-twitch or fast-twitch muscle fibers, depending on different modes of exercise. Endurance-based training leads to the conversion of those fibers into slow twitch fibers.
Strength training leads to the conversion of those fibers into fast twitch fibers. The latter is the more desirable result for physique enhancement because fast twitch fibers have the greatest potential for hypertrophy. This process is what firms and shapes the body, boosts metabolic rate, and leads to increased fat burning even at rest.
Cavemen and the Lost Art of Walking
We can even look at our evolutionary past for clues. In terms of "formal activity" or exercise, our bodies were designed to be anaerobic in nature. Yes, for most of the day we performed sub-maximal (and what could technically be termed aerobic) activities.
We walked around, gathered food, tracked prey, cooked, cleaned, etc. But we didn't run to keep the heart rate up or reach some type of fat burning/aerobic zone. None of what we did was formal exercise; we just completed the necessary tasks of the day, whatever that may be.
In fact, we used as little energy as possible during most of the day in order to conserve energy for when it was absolutely necessary for survival.
When it was time to move, we frickin' moved, baby. We sprinted away from predators or towards prey. We climbed trees, hoisted objects, swung weapons, and clubbed stuff to death with maximal exertion.
These are all predominantly anaerobic activities. We're not meant to reach arbitrary fat burning zones for arbitrary amounts of time. We're meant to alternate periods of kicking back with periods of kicking ass. That's how you efficiently build an attractive, functional body.
So we can take two things away from our cavemen brethren:
1. The majority of our formal exercise sessions should be anaerobic in nature.
2. Walking is one of the most underrated forms of activity around.
And that doesn't mean walking on a treadmill or anything "exercise" specific. It just means real, outdoor walking as an informal activity. Remember, that's what we did in our evolutionary past. We didn't sit at a computer all day eating M&M's.
Walking gives us many of the same benefits as traditional aerobic activity: calorie burning, lowered blood pressure, lowered resting heart rate, lowered cholesterol, increased cardiac output, increased capillary density, increased nutrient/oxygen delivery, etc.
Walking does not have the drawbacks of traditional cardio: musculoskeletal injury, joint wear and tear, elevated cortisol, muscle loss, or lowered metabolic rate. Simply put, it's the aerobic activity we were meant to do.
Everyone can benefit from a little more walking in their lives. This covers the entire spectrum, from the severely overweight and deconditioned beginner to the advanced physique athlete looking to peak.
Let's apply this information to your own situation and training protocol:
Fat people: Over 20% body fat.
First, you need to start being honest with yourself. You're not bulking up or retaining water or using the extra mass to your advantage in a sport (unless it's sumo wrestling). You're fat, plain and simple.
2. Diet has and always will be the biggest factor in the fat loss equation. You need to get your ass on a targeted nutrition plan. This is where most fat loss comes from, and amazing fat loss results can be achieved with diet alone.
3. Walk 30-60 minutes a day, 5 days a week. This will help you burn some calories and get some of the fat burning hormones and enzymes going (hormone sensitive lipase, catecholamines).
Go first thing in the morning, at lunch, after work, or after weight training, whenever you have the time. And if you can't fit it in, then (a) you're either lazy or (b) you really don't give a shit.
4. If you're fat, you're probably putting a lot of extra weight on your joints, are out of alignment, and are suffering from some type of chronic pain. Check out the mobility articles here on T Nation.
Fit People: 10%-20% body fat.
Train 5 days a week. All of your training should be anaerobic in nature.
2. If you're a cardio-junkie, that's cool too. You can do a mix of strength training and interval-based cardio.
3. So 5 days of strength training, 4 days of strength training plus 1 day of interval cardio, or 3 days of strength training plus 2 days of interval cardio. Do a minimum of 3 days a week of strength training. Remember all of the metabolic and hormonal benefits of strength training?
4. Interval cardio essentially means alternating periods of sprinting/maximal exertion with periods of recovery. You go hard for something like 30-60 seconds, then back off for 60-120 seconds, and then repeat. Do a 5-minute warm-up, 20-40 minutes of intervals, and a 5-minute cool down.
5. If you have more fat to lose, then walk, not as a formal exercise session, but simply to increase non-exercise induced thermogenesis. This will help you burn off a few extra calories without catabolizing muscle tissue.
This is an individual-thing, so add in as much walking as it takes to reach the desired body fat result. What's worked best is 4-5 days of strength training coupled with 2-3 45-minute walks per week.
6. This article is more about getting you to back off on traditional cardio than it is about specific strength training protocols. But you do need a plan designed by experts to get results. Luckily, you're on T Nation and just a click away from tons of great plans.
Competitive Physique Athletes: Less than 10% body fat.
Don't take advice from anyone who hasn't gone through the process themselves. What looks good on paper doesn't always work in the real world.
At the same time, just because someone competes or is ripped doesn't mean they have any clue about the physique transformation process. Learn from people who have both a scientific background and practical experience.
2. Again, diet is still the most important factor to get to low single-digit body fat percentages. So take care of it.
3. Ditch cardio work completely, even interval work. At this point you don't have a lot of body fat left to burn, and are more susceptible to tapping into muscle tissue as a reserve fuel, which results in a loss of muscle and a soft, flat appearance.
4. You should be strength training 4-6 days a week. Focus on building, preserving, and maintaining your muscle mass with your training. Let your diet "burn off" the body fat.
5. If you have more fat to lose, then walk, not as a formal exercise session, but simply to increase non-exercise induced thermogenesis. This will help you burn off a few extra calories without catabolizing muscle.
This is an individual-thing, so add in as much walking as it takes to reach the desired body fat result. What typically works best is 4-5 days of strength training coupled with two or three 45-minute walks per week.
Heading to the gym tonight? You better be heading towards the gym floor and not the stationary bike!
Miyaki, N. (2010 October 10). The Best Damn Cardio Article - Period.
Retrieved from http://www.t-nation.com/training/the-best-damn-cardio-article-period/