Anabolic Aerobics - Part 1
Over the years, there are certain laws and rules of bodybuilding that
have accumulated over the years. And they have amassed an un-written bible of
bodybuilding. Bulking 3:16 says, "Lift big, Eat big, and Get big". Certain
things like, eat more and grow; if you want to gain muscle, you are going to
have to gain some fat; and of course, never do cardio. Well, things change. We
get smarter and consequently we get bigger.
Every year, there are new techniques in training, diet and supplementation
that allow us to take our physiques to the next level. I think many of the "Old
School" laws have hung around much longer than they should have. We have to
learn to accept that there won't always be one best way to do something. You
don't eat your eggs raw anymore, do you? We now have whey protein and there's
really no need to do it anymore.
Cardio: Yea or Nay
Well there's one more thing that should go. And that's the law that says
cardio will kill your gains in muscle. Cardio should be a part of every program
whether your goal is maximum muscle or serious fat loss. In fact cardio, if
implemented intelligently, can even augment your effort in the weight room!
That's right, you don't need to be come a slob to put on muscle. You can stay
lean and even lose that spare tire in the process.
Is it really possible to build muscle with out 6,000 calories a day?? You bet
your sweet ass it is! And even more interesting, it happens in young, healthy
people who have been training for years. Its really a matter of how you go about
it and how you manipulate your diet to maximize you bodies internal workings.
This first article is going to focus on just how cardio can help grow muscle.
First we need to realize that simply increasing caloric intake does not lead
to muscle mass. We can all agree that the types of calories (ie. Protein, carbs,
fat) play a much bigger roll. Its also been widely accepted that keeping
glycogen stores high is a determining factor in the rate of growth. This is why
many bodybuilders find it necessary to consumer more carbohydrates than some
This is where cardio, and more specifically intense cardio comes into play. A
protein molecule called, GLUT4, transports glucose. It basically sits on the
surface of cells. The more you have the more glucose can be carried into muscle
cells. High intensity aerobic work greatly increases the amount of the
transporters. Intense aerobics also creates the same catabolic state and 3 hour
nutritional window of opportunity as does weight training. This is the first
down fall of many bodybuilders.
How many of you out there actually supplement a cardio session exactly the
same as weight training?? That's what I thought. And this response stays
elevated above normal resting conditions for literally days.
However, you can't get any glucose into a muscle cell with out the presence
of insulin, the king of anabolic hormones. If you don't control your insulin all
day, every day, you are basically shooting a hole in the boat you're sitting in
. Both aerobic and heavy weight training increase insulin sensitivity ,
so in the long run, less carbs are needed to reach optimal levels of glycogen
stores. There is also a strong correlation between the amount of insulin
secreted and the rate of protein synthesis [28,29]. And, surprise, surprise,
insulin responses are much higher to the initial dose of carbs after intense
However, the longer you are inactive, those high rates of synthesis drop off
quickly with ever hour that passes . So for those of you who lift on a 3-day
split, you may be wise to slip a short intense cardio session on those off days.
And if you are someone who goes to lift twice a day, it would also be wise to
make one of those times a cardio session instead of more weights. By lifting two
times a day, you are setting yourself up for disaster. It seems that with every
weight training session on a given day, the catabolic hormone response is
But overall cortical (the catabolic hormone) levels stay very low in people
who go once a day, every day . In fact, its been shown that people who
incorporate 3 days of weight and 3 days of cardio gain more lean mass, and even
with a negative nitrogen balance . As much as a 4% increase in dry muscle.
Not, fat free mass, not weight, not lean mass, pure stinking muscle. And a loss
of 5% body fat ta-boot .
Growth hormones and IGF-1
The most promising aspect of cardio work is its effect on the two remaining
hormones that are paramount in muscle growth, growth hormone and insulin-like
growth factor-I. Now, there has been some debate as to whether or not GH is
really anabolic and increases muscle mass. Well let's say for argument's sake
that it isn't. But one thing is for sure, its metabolic offspring, IGF-I sure as
hell is [2,3,8,9]!
We all know that stacking on the heavy weights increases these two hormones
rather effectively , but not many think of cardio doing that as well. In
fact, cardio is just as effective as the heavy weights [19,15,31]. GH whether or
not it is actually active in muscle growth is irrelevant when you know that it
is the hormone that stimulates the release of IGF-I . And it appears that as
the intensity of the cardio increases, so does the amount of GH .
And to top it all off, if for some unknown reason you decide to do more than
one cardio session a day, the release of GH is magnified with every time .
What exactly is "intense" cardio? Well roughly 85-90% or your VO2 max, or heart
rate . If you can go for more than 20 continuous minutes, it simply isn't
hard enough. The goal of intense cardio is to not so much burn off the 400
calories in the session, but to let your body do that as it tries to "fix" it
self after the ass whipping you just dished out.
The shorter your sessions, the less chance you run of hitting the catabolic
wall . However, the effects of IGF-I on muscle seem to be "local", meaning
it has to be produced by, or introduced into the muscle . And because
contracting muscle has an insulting-like action (you probably call it the
"pump"), all the extra movement from the cardio will be drawing more IGF-I in to
cells. So it would be wise to find some type of cardio that uses a lot of
different muscle groups.
So to bring this to a close, doing cardio during a "bulking" phase to stay lean
or lose some extra fat will only magnify your efforts in the gym. Cardio
increases your ability to store glycogen with less carbs and calories, it
conditions our body to suppers catabolic hormones for longer periods of time and
it not only sets the muscle building stage buy producing an abundance of
anabolic hormone, but it keeps
the process going at a high rate 24/7.
However, all of this means squat, unless you play your "nutritional timing"
cards right. And in the next article, I'll explain how to stack the deck in your
By: Eric Satterwhite
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