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Old 03.09.2011, 22:15
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I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

Ok, so we had this fun sports and fitness day where I live and one of the local gyms brought this machine that tests your body composition and all that jazz. So it told me some things I knew (muuuuch too fat, literally, 45 kgs of the stuff, tendency to store the stuff in the lower body) and one that surprised me, which is that I have more than average levels of muscle mass. Which explains why I don't look as though I weighed what I weigh. Aaaanyway, so the instructor tells me that I need to get rid of quite a bit of the fat (30 kg of it, to be exact) but that I should under no circumstance start training cardio, rather I should focus on doing weights. Doing cardio would destroy the precious muscle mass that I have, which would lower my metabolism which would make me gain weight if I'm not super careful with food, and so on.

Now while I know that weight training is important and I've always tried to include it in the workouts I do, the "avoid doing cardio as it will eat your muscles" is new to me.

Any insight on this? Also, I just joined a gym, precisely because I quite enjoy doing cardio training on a crosstrainer but also for a more structured weights programme. Any thoughts? I'll be getting my personal programme concocted tomorrow so that will probably be another opinion as well but I'd be interested to hear what the EF health and fitness gurus have to say...
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Old 03.09.2011, 22:22
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

Forgive my ignorance, but is "cardio" exercise that involves running and movement? If that is the case, it is odd that this should "eat away" at muscles...looking forward to what the exercise gurus have to say....
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Old 03.09.2011, 22:23
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

Cardio = stuff that ups your heart rate, so yes, running, cycling, rope skipping, etc.
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Old 03.09.2011, 22:43
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

I am not fitness guru but my father-in-law runs a fitness center, and we often talked about the perfect fitness program and stuff.

What your instructor told you is weird... Doing cardio never destroys muscle mass, the lack of weights workout does. And you will never loose fat only by doing weights. Only cardio can take the fat away... And you are so right doing both.

Maybe others EFers will confirm that, and I would suggest to have another opinion with another instructor from another club (too many another in that sentence, sorry !). This one sounds like he doesn't know what he is talking about to me....

Good luck with the workout anyway !
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Old 03.09.2011, 22:48
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

No, you need a balance. He is correct in a sense but perhaps he didnt explain it all correctly.

Your arteries are the main valves of your blood stream, which carries oxygen to your muscles. When you ride the bike or run you do push lots of blood through your arteries at a fast pace and that does help to burn calories (and fat after you start to use up your ATP).

But what lifting weights does is increase your muscle mass. And when you increase your muscle mass what your doing in making your arteries wider.

In other words your body can now bring 1.5 to 2x as much oxygen to your muscles. That in turn makes your body need more oxygen. And thats what increases your metabolism.

Normally the best way for women to burn fat and get slimmer/stronger is for them to warm up with light cardio for 20mn to 40mn. Stretch out well. Then lift..... After an hour of lifting (or what ever time you spend) you then get back on your cardio workout. Thats what will typically optimize your caloric burn. Unless things have changed since I was at University?


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Ok, so we had this fun sports and fitness day where I live and one of the local gyms brought this machine that tests your body composition and all that jazz. So it told me some things I knew (muuuuch too fat, literally, 45 kgs of the stuff, tendency to store the stuff in the lower body) and one that surprised me, which is that I have more than average levels of muscle mass. Which explains why I don't look as though I weighed what I weigh. Aaaanyway, so the instructor tells me that I need to get rid of quite a bit of the fat (30 kg of it, to be exact) but that I should under no circumstance start training cardio, rather I should focus on doing weights. Doing cardio would destroy the precious muscle mass that I have, which would lower my metabolism which would make me gain weight if I'm not super careful with food, and so on.

Now while I know that weight training is important and I've always tried to include it in the workouts I do, the "avoid doing cardio as it will eat your muscles" is new to me.

Any insight on this? Also, I just joined a gym, precisely because I quite enjoy doing cardio training on a crosstrainer but also for a more structured weights programme. Any thoughts? I'll be getting my personal programme concocted tomorrow so that will probably be another opinion as well but I'd be interested to hear what the EF health and fitness gurus have to say...
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Old 03.09.2011, 22:50
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I remember doing cardio on machines that checked my heart rate, and it's true that above a certain rate, it was bad because I would start burning muscle. When I first started working out, I had to really be careful to go slowly so I wouldn't go into this 'red zone' as I wasn't fit and my heart rate would rise quickly. Maybe that's what your coach was getting at.
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Old 03.09.2011, 23:20
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

In short: muscle eats fat...
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Old 03.09.2011, 23:21
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

Basically...

heavy weight training + little cardio = large muscle mass
cardio training + light weight training = toned muscle mass

Do you want to be big and beefy or do you want to be thin and lean?

Make sure your trainer knows what you want to be. A lot of them think that everyone wants to be big and beefy but this isn't necessarily the case.

Plus cardio is fitness for your heart. You can be big and beefy all you want but your heart still has to be in tip-top condition, too.
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Old 03.09.2011, 23:31
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

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Basically...

heavy weight training + little cardio = large muscle mass
cardio training + light weight training = toned muscle mass

Do you want to be big and beefy or do you want to be thin and lean?

Make sure your trainer knows what you want to be. A lot of them think that everyone wants to be big and beefy but this isn't necessarily the case.

Plus cardio is fitness for your heart. You can be big and beefy all you want but your heart still has to be in tip-top condition, too.
No natural woman can ever obtain large muscle mass.

Most males struggle to do that.

It's true - cardio eats muscle - but only if you do tons and at the wrong time of the day - 20 mins per day at 100 - 120 beats per min first thing in the morning will strip the fat off your body without consuming too much muscle. Do this 3-4X per week.


Lean off the carbs throughout the day - no carbs at all after 6pm.

"Heavy" lifting 2-3 week on non cardio days and you'll be all set.
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Old 03.09.2011, 23:36
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

Ok I am by NO MEANS an exercise expert but I thought that actually too much high impact cardio such as running for instance can ruin your knees especially when someone is overweight but eat the muscles? I remember what my trainer told me was to not do weight lifting everyday but rather do cardio more...weird...
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Old 03.09.2011, 23:53
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

Very few endurance athletes train with weights during the competitive season. The high volume of aerobic work marathon runners and cyclists do does not eat their muscles.
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Old 03.09.2011, 23:57
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

I think it's going to be a case of three different instructors, three different opinions. Maybe he was talking about not wanting to lose the 34 kg of muscle mass I already have? He also said I should forget about the total weight on the scales, the point was that I should focus on losing the fat as this is a health issue - that I already knew, just a bit apprehensive about this notion that I could train off my muscles. Sure, if I starved myself or exercised intensely on an empty stomach, then the body would demand the glycogen as payment. But with a normal diet with sufficient protein, that shouldn't happen, right? Also - isn't just lugging around my 100 kgs (keep it nice or I will sit on you - and not in a good way) a strength bearing exercise in itself?

Regarding the what I want thing, well, I want to fit into normal clothes from normal shops, be able to go hiking with my mates without almost collapsing with effort; be strong and healthy. I'm not built for lean, so curvy athletic is what we're shooting for.

Last edited by Kittster; 04.09.2011 at 11:32. Reason: Got my my glucagon confused with my glycogen
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Old 04.09.2011, 01:04
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

I'm not sure what glukagon is in English either, but glucagon comes from the pancreas and raises blood sugar levels when they are low. It leads to the release of glucose from the liver. Diabetics sometimes use it to counteract a hypo. So it either isn't the same as glukagon, or there's some confusion somewhere.

Last summer I started cycling a lot more regularly. Still almost exclusively aerobic as measured by a heart rate monitor, but with some high intensity intervals thrown in. Without altering my diet, or even trying to lose weight, I lost about 10 kilos in 3 months. I gained muscle, especially in my thighs, and had a steady drop in my body fat percentage. But overall weight is not always a good indicator as increase in muscle mass can mask the loss of fat, but is a very positive outcome.

Visceral fat, the internal fat around your organs, is just as unhealthy as fat anywhere else, but there can be big variations in the amount of visceral fat carried with little external indication. I remember hearing a lecture by a Professor from UCL a couple years ago where he compared a size zero model with a size 12 amateur athlete. The size zero model had a few kilos more visceral fat than the athlete despite being a similar age and height. The same Professor also spoke about another study where they recruited men and women, gave them gym memberships and personalised workouts, and had them come in for blood lipid profile as well as MRIs (or CTs, can't remember) to assess total fat and visceral, as well as standard body measurement. The main finding was that most of the women dropped out of the study after a few months if there was no change in their external measurements, even if there were significant positive changes in their lipid profile and their amounts of visceral or total fat. So don't give up if you don't see the changes you want in the first few months.....you're still becoming healthier!!!
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Old 04.09.2011, 01:18
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

For a long time there has been this "myth" around that you need to do primarily cardio to lose weight. The main reason for this, as far as I understand, is that cardio burns more calories in a specific time then weight training. But, if you do a lot of cardio (and eat less) the body can start to use up muscle mass to keep going.
Weight training on the other hand builds muscle (not out of fat - it's not possible to convert fat into muscles) and while it burns less to do an hour of weights there is a longer afterburn and muscles burn more calories even while you are doing nothing.
I personally think you have to do both to be truly fit and strong - and if you want to really burn a lot of calories combine the two to keep your heart rate up.

But also, no amount of exercise will get you slimmer and healthier if you don't change your diet.
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Old 04.09.2011, 02:40
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

What works for me is zone 1-2 cycling workout with some high intensity intervals; plus own body weight resistance workout like push ups/chin ups etc. after the ride (consume some proteins within 30 min of workout).

For you, as you already have more than average muscle mass, i think it should be ok if you can maintain your workouts within zone 1/2/3. Also, I have heard that medical conditions like Hyperthyroid etc. can cause generation of excessive body fat. And any amount of workout is irrelevant if you are eating more than you are burning.

My 2 rappens. I think you need to know what you want and get second opinion about training.

Cheers
Pankaj
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Old 04.09.2011, 02:51
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

I have a personal trainer who is constantly researching and going to new conferences. He says that 20-30 min cardio here and there is fine, but you shouldn't do long term of the same kind of cardio. Basically, your body gets used to it and then you have to keep increasing the amount to get the same affect. If you want to burn fat, he highly recommends interval training. So, 10-20 min of interval... basically 20 seconds or so of a pace that's ok, but not strenuous, followed by 10 seconds of the highest intensity you can handle. Believe me, it'll wear you out fast! If you don't have a machine, you can find a hill and sprint up and jog down. And, of course the strength training is mandatory It doesn't have to be with weights. Elastic bands, balancing on balls, etc are wonderful ways of getting stronger. He also says to be careful with the machines that only allow one specific line of motion. These machines do not train your muscles to work the way they're designed to. It's better to do things that support multiple groups in natural movements.
Oh, and check out a TRX class. They're so great for strength and stability. I'd also recommend a yoga class for lengthening, slimming and balancing
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Old 04.09.2011, 07:09
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

I'm not a doctor, but after 15 years of track, the way I understand this is:

Muscle-mass burns a lot of calories (about 80 additional calories per kg of muscle mass per day) because the body wants to maintain your muscles.

Running / swimming / cycling (outdoors) burns carbs / calories, and, after about 25-30 minutes of beginning a cardio exercise, also some fat.

Cardio, however, doesn't add much muscle-mass. Instead, it makes your existing muscles more efficient (by growing additional mitochondria / cell motors in your muscle cells and storing glycogen in your muscles). Storing glycogen adds a lot of weight to your body, btw. - that's why a lot of people experience a body-weight increase of up to 3 kg after getting started on regular training. However, glycogen is NOT fat and is nothing to worry about.

What that means: during the training, cardio burns more calories and, if you do it long enough, also some fat. However, since your muscle-mass doesn't grow (much), this does not give your body the ability to generally burn more fat all day long. Instead, in order to keep your glycogen levels up, you'll be hungrier, you'll eat more and you'll possibly even gain weight.

Also, once your muscle-efficiency has reached a certain level, the muscles actually start using less energy to perform. Which is great if you need to run through the jungle and don't have any food on you - but it's bad if you want to lose weight - because those muscles will use less energy during the whole day, not only when you're running.

In order to lose weight, you need to find a balance between burning fat through cardio and bulking up through weight training. For me, this usually means: 1x cardio (usually 30-35 minutes of jogging) and 2-3 times 1-2 hours of weight training per week. You can also gain muscle-mass with running, of course - but then you need to shorten your training intervals to 10-15 minutes and instead of jogging, go full-throttle. This is NOT recommended until your general fitness has improved drastically and you've lost some weight.

And to wrap this up, a few hints in terms of food-intake:

Your muscles need carbs (to perform) and protein (to grow). Depriving your body of either one will screw up your training progress. Don't starve yourself or your body will actually kill its existing muscle-mass. That way you'll be losing weight fast, but because a decrease in muscle-mass also means a decrease in calorie-usage, you'll be gaining everything again in no time later.

Also, here are some facts about your body during periods of exercise:

- muscle-mass is built up during the resting phase, not during the exercise itself.
- the body keeps on burning carbs at an accelerated rate for a couple of hours after a cardio-exercise

You can use these to optimize your food-intake.

1. During your resting periods (e.g. the day off between two exercise days), focus on eating proteins such as lean meat, fish (tuna is especially rich in proteins) or soy-products. Reduce your carb intake and fill the gap with lots of low-fat veggies. Don't over do it on the fruit-side - fruits contain a ton of sugar / carbs.

2. in the 2-3 hours following a cardio training, increase your carb intake. Make sure you don't eat foods rich in fat. Instead, eat fruits, wholemeal bread, pasta etc.

While the body needs a minimal amount of fat to function normally, fat is the only thing you'll have to do without. The good thing, however, is that protein also kills hunger.

Muscle-mass takes a lot of time and exercise to increase. Typically, it'll be at least 3 months until you'll notice a measurable increase in muscle-mass and a decrease in body-fat. If you start losing (lots) of weight from the get-go, this typically means that you're not eating enough, which will endanger the long-term success of the training and the diet.
It's normal to gain 2-3kg in the first 10-14 days of starting to exercise regularly, because of the glycogen build-up. After that, you'll want to make sure you keep losing a bit of weight every week, as your aim is a reduction of body-fat. If you don't lose any weight, adjust your diet accordingly. However, don't reduce your protein and greens intake - reduce the amount of carbs instead as the proteins are essential for muscle-growth and the long-term success of your program.
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Old 04.09.2011, 17:46
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

my two pence... there is no magic formula. I honestly think cardio works better on some people, weight training on others. I have struggled with my weight my entire life, constantly around 20kg overweight.

I had a great PT for several years who totally believed what yours is saying. We would train, HARD for an hour, circuit training 3x a week. When we didn't get the expected results we cut my caloric intake to 1200k a day, cut out alcohol completely and upped the training to 4x a week.

His argument was that there is no cardio needed when uyou circuit train because my heart rate was 150+ the entire session anyway.

I lost maybe 3 kilos in 6 months of that gruelling regimen. Obviously, I lost more fat than 3kg because was putting on muscle, but nowhere near enough to still not be deemed overweight. But he was so shocked by our lack of results that he emailed Poliquin (the supplements company in the US he was using) with my "case".

There is nothing wrong with my thyroid unfortunately. I am unusually estrogenic according to my fat measurements but to date there is no cure for that. It wasnt until I had my metabolism tested by a specialist that he identified that I have an unexplained low low metabolism, about 40% lower than average. On a non-training regular office day my body barely burns 1400 calories.

To lose weight I discovered that I had to cut calories to below 1000 and cut back on the training.

Naturally I put everything back on and quit the PT when I came here.

I know that for the rest of my life I will have to juggle with weight struggles and food intake (my appetite doesn't equate 1000 calories unfortunately) and exercise.

I'm 37 and it gets harder and harder every year.

Sorry for the long response - but there is no magic formula so keep trying and don't get confused by what everyone says. I think they're all right... for some people.
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Old 04.09.2011, 19:15
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

DON'T cut your calories to anything under 1'200kcal a day (or more) - because you will only mess up your metabolism and end up putting on more. To find out how much you need to eat not to go below your "resting metabolic rate" google it and you will find several sources that will give you a number based on age, height, weight and activity.
The body needs a certain amount of calories to function properly and if you go below that number you will put it into starvation mode and hold onto every ounce of fat.
That eating less (but really too little) to lose weight is a diet myth that is alive and well but mostly just results in people gaining more then they started with.
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Old 04.09.2011, 20:05
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Re: I'm confused - I SHOULDN'T do cardio because it will destroy my muscles?

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Ok, so we had this fun sports and fitness day where I live and one of the local gyms brought this machine that tests your body composition and all that jazz. So it told me some things I knew (muuuuch too fat, literally, 45 kgs of the stuff, tendency to store the stuff in the lower body) and one that surprised me, which is that I have more than average levels of muscle mass. Which explains why I don't look as though I weighed what I weigh. Aaaanyway, so the instructor tells me that I need to get rid of quite a bit of the fat (30 kg of it, to be exact) but that I should under no circumstance start training cardio, rather I should focus on doing weights. Doing cardio would destroy the precious muscle mass that I have, which would lower my metabolism which would make me gain weight if I'm not super careful with food, and so on.

Now while I know that weight training is important and I've always tried to include it in the workouts I do, the "avoid doing cardio as it will eat your muscles" is new to me.

Any insight on this? Also, I just joined a gym, precisely because I quite enjoy doing cardio training on a crosstrainer but also for a more structured weights programme. Any thoughts? I'll be getting my personal programme concocted tomorrow so that will probably be another opinion as well but I'd be interested to hear what the EF health and fitness gurus have to say...
you SHOULD do cardio, but do short and VERY intense, like HIT, max 20 minutes...stay away from LOOOONG "cardio" sessions...
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