How do you maintain muscle mass while following an intense cardio program?

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    May 03, 2009 5:57 PM GMT
    Are there any ways of preventing my muscles from being used as energy stores when I'm doing a lot of running and rowing? I want to be in a catabolic state to get the abs to show a bit more ;) but I'm noticing loss of mass in my chest and arms... any ideas?
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    May 03, 2009 7:12 PM GMT
    The trickiest balancing act there is! I'd cut back on cardio and lift more. Having larger muscles will burn fat more even while you're at rest(hence getting rid of belly fat). That's the good news. Unless you're just crazy about long bouts of cardio, I wouldn't do so much. Yes, you'll lose fat but also muscle. If muscle is important to you, I'd concentrate more on lifting. Look at all the big muscle heads that NEVER do cardio and have 0% bodyfat. Of course, steroids could be a factor but not always. Look at long-distance runners. No bodyfat but no muscle either. That's what hours and hours of cardio will do to you. There's been A LOT written on this subject here at realjock. I'd do a search. Most people agree that HIIT is the way to go when it comes to cardio. Looking at the physiques of sprinters vs. long distance runners, I'd have to agree.
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    May 03, 2009 7:37 PM GMT
    That was very helpful, Thank you!
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    May 03, 2009 7:55 PM GMT
    Read the post by YoungHungSFSD about halfway down this thread:

    I need to loss a couple fat lbs w/out losing muscle...advise please
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    May 03, 2009 7:56 PM GMT
    The best way to prevent muscle loss while being highly active is to eat. In your case, if you're doing lots of long term cardio, understanding that there's just about no way to keep from going catabolic and just about no way to keep your androgens from plummeting. This has been studied a bunch of times, and The Discovery Channel has a great series called The Human Machine that I encourage you to watch.

    However, if you exercise some smarts you can preserve you muscle mass, to a degree, by MCT (medium chain triglycerides), complex carbohydrates, and good fats from poly and mono sources. Avoid saturated fats, if possible, and certainly, avoid anything fried. Sugar is NOT bad, especially post workout. You need those fast carbs to refuel your glycogen stores in the golden hour or so post workout.

    You NEED calories in order to perform at a high level.

    If you're looking to be lean and AND muscular, it's critical to maintain your resistance training AND to eat enough calories 600+ for every hour you're being active. If you're wanting very muscular and lean, you need to forego long hours of cardio and do HIIT instead, which will not deplete your muslce, and it'll improve your cardiac threshold more than about anything else. Ever run up bleachers? That's HIIT. You CANNOT engage in HIIT without a high level of fitness happening very quickly. HIIT will also help you avoid impact, and repetitive motion injuries.

    When I compete, I bring my calories UP to support the increased activity level of my HIIT, and to allow my metabolism to kick into overdrive and to allow me to lean out. A fueled furnace burns hot.
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    May 03, 2009 8:04 PM GMT
    Thanks for the link and the other info. Great stuff!
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    May 03, 2009 8:19 PM GMT
    Chucky is right, as always when it comes to the technical stuff.

    in the end you have to make a decision: do I enjoy doing lots of cardio to the extent that it´s a higher priority than maintaining muscle mass? If so fine, but don´t delude yourself that the cardio is helping. You can do some stuff to counteract, but in the end large amounts of cardio eat some mass, as much as you try to counteract.

    Think sprinter and marathon runner.
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    May 03, 2009 8:34 PM GMT
    Just eat more lean meat, lift heavier, do more reps. Never ever cut out/decrease ur cardio.icon_eek.gif
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    May 03, 2009 8:39 PM GMT
    Endless hours of cardio are non-productive and can cause a long list of injuries as well as catabolizing muscle. Cardio in moderation is best unless you have a particular sport you're engaged in.

    HIIT is vastly more effective at fat loss AND developing cardiac threshold. Going up stairs takes 7 times more energy than just moving horizontally. It's way more overload and conditioning in a much shorter period of time.

    Do you research.

    Whether it's resistance training, cardio, or eating fat, it always good to leave the option of reduction in place.

    It's dumb to say never drop cardio, because you have no point of reference.

    Now that being said, low intensity cardio does burn fat. The trick is doing something that you enjoy.

    If you hate running, and I do, then stairs, or some other thing are better.

    The main thing is not to use your muscle tissue as fuel. So many folks think that being lean involves starvation. That's simply not true. If you're active, you NEED to eat to maintain that activity level.
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    May 03, 2009 11:16 PM GMT
    Lostboy said

    Think sprinter and marathon runner.


    Sprinters are more muscular than endurance runners. One of the reasons is that sprinting requires Type 2 muscle fibers ( fast twitch fibers). Endurance activities require Type 1 muscle fibers (slow twitch fibers). A Type 2 muscle fiber will hypertrophy more than a Type 1 muscle fiber when exercised. Resistance exercises like weight lifting requires Type 2 muscle fibers. Since sprinting and weightlifting require Type 2 muscle fibers for performance, they are similar. Both can be anaerobic. Long distance running is more aerobic.

    45 minutes of regular cardio a day is about the maximum time one can exercise before there is muscle breakdown. Over 45 minutes, cortisol levels begin to increase. Cortisol is catabolic and not anabolic.

    HIIT causes less muscle loss. I wonder if this might be because it is a fast activity like sprinting and requires more type 2 fibers than regular cardio.
    I have not been able to find a reference for this...
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    May 03, 2009 11:19 PM GMT
    Its not the long cardio sessions that I enjoy... its the sprinting! Every other day I do sets of sprints, both running, and on the rowing machine. I don't ever spend more than 45 minutes doing this stuff though. I think what my problem is, is that I cut my food intake down. I'm going to go back to eating like when I was mass building, but maintain my cardio stuff. I like to eat fairly healthy though, and its hard getting enough calories. The dietitian here at school gave me a bunch of ideas but I'm getting sick of sunbutter and olive oil >P
  • pelotudo87

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    May 03, 2009 11:34 PM GMT
    Chuckystud:

    How many times per week do u do HIIT? I've heard 3 times per week is the limit, but then I think I remembering reading your roommate (I think he is at least) saying when he wants to get really lean he will sometimes do HIIT twice a day..
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    May 03, 2009 11:44 PM GMT
    [quote][cite]kneedraggen said[/cit

    HIIT causes less muscle loss. I wonder if this might be because it is a fast activity requiring more type 2 fibers than would be required by regular cardio.
    I have not been able to find a reference for this...[/quote]

    Also you won´t do a HIIT session that is more than approx 30 mins. At least if you do it´s not HIIT. Mine, when i do them, are about 25 including warm up and cool down.
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    May 03, 2009 11:56 PM GMT
    stormwatcher saidIts not the long cardio sessions that I enjoy... its the sprinting! Every other day I do sets of sprints, both running, and on the rowing machine. I don't ever spend more than 45 minutes doing this stuff though. I think what my problem is, is that I cut my food intake down. I'm going to go back to eating like when I was mass building, but maintain my cardio stuff. I like to eat fairly healthy though, and its hard getting enough calories. The dietitian here at school gave me a bunch of ideas but I'm getting sick of sunbutter and olive oil >P


    Eat. Get yourself some almond butter, peanut butter, MCT oil, and few more complex carbs. Good food doesn't have to taste like crap.
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    May 03, 2009 11:57 PM GMT
    pelotudo87 saidChuckystud:

    How many times per week do u do HIIT? I've heard 3 times per week is the limit, but then I think I remembering reading your roommate (I think he is at least) saying when he wants to get really lean he will sometimes do HIIT twice a day..


    Depends how lazy, how busy, stressed out, tight on money I am. For contest time, 12 to 20 min in the morning, workout mid day, and 12-20 minutes in the evening. For non-contest time, probably 3 or 4 times a weak. E.g., last night I held my heart rate at 160 BPH for 11 minutes. Once I'm in the zone, I'll routinely hold my heart rate at 160 for 20 minutes. (Well above target for my age.)

    I'll often not do the evening HIIT, if I'm lean enough, and go for a walk along the lake, instead.
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    May 04, 2009 12:01 AM GMT
    I've been able drop body fat while gaining muscle mass combining HIIT and weight training. I do two HIIT sessions per week, 23 minutes each (including warmup and cooldown, just like lostboy mentioned above).

    Here's a website with good info on HIIT for anyone who's interested:

    http://healthhabits.wordpress.com/2008/06/09/4-steps-to-a-great-hiit-workout/
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    May 04, 2009 12:03 AM GMT
    HIIT works, but, the trick is keeping your calories up so you don't get to feeling like crap (lethargic).
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    May 04, 2009 3:50 AM GMT
    Sprinting will build the white muscles. The long distance training builds capillaries and the thinner highly defined red muscles. It sounds like you have a lot of fun and keeping in great shape. Sure eat more if you want but make sure it is a healthy diet. Your body looks quite sexy just the way it is.
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    Jul 27, 2009 9:58 PM GMT
    Just be careful of how much/how intense cardio you do if you are also trying to keep mass. It is definitely a balancing act.

    Do some interval training (cardio) or real light cardio. I was doing about 40-60 minutes/5 days a week my first month of my new program and realized I was losing weight while my bodyfat was staying the same - equaling lost muscle.

    I just cut back on the duration/intensity/frequency and saw great results. What your exact duration/intensity/frequency is all depends on where you are and what your overall goals are.

    Hope that helps.
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    Oct 15, 2009 3:17 AM GMT
    muscles4muscles saidThe trickiest balancing act there is! I'd cut back on cardio and lift more. Having larger muscles will burn fat more even while you're at rest(hence getting rid of belly fat). That's the good news. Unless you're just crazy about long bouts of cardio, I wouldn't do so much. Yes, you'll lose fat but also muscle. If muscle is important to you, I'd concentrate more on lifting. Look at all the big muscle heads that NEVER do cardio and have 0% bodyfat. Of course, steroids could be a factor but not always. Look at long-distance runners. No bodyfat but no muscle either. That's what hours and hours of cardio will do to you. There's been A LOT written on this subject here at realjock. I'd do a search. Most people agree that HIIT is the way to go when it comes to cardio. Looking at the physiques of sprinters vs. long distance runners, I'd have to agree.


    I am back on a cocktail of ephedra (MH extract) and aspirin with creatine, and it seems when I take the MH away, I dont get as defined. I stopped because of the mass health concerns of ephedra. Then I used ephedrine (Synthetic?) and it was good, but I didnt have same results. I run with ephedra and can drop 20 pounds in two weeks..if i take only 25 mgs, rather than 100 where the issues were with the athletes dying, do you think I can balance that with a good cardio workout and weights? or is that asking for a grave too soon?

    thanks