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MFL Podcast 64: How much and what types of cardio you should do

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In this podcast I talk all about cardio: how much you should do when you’re dieting to lose fat, how much for building muscle, how much is too much, what types are best, and more…

TRANSCRIPT

Mike Matthews: Hello, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to another episodes of the Muscle for Life podcast. I am Mike, and today I want to talk to you about cardio. I get asked about it a lot. A lot of emails. A lot of messages.

People will ask me, how much cardio should I be doing, what types of cardio should I be doing, and based on different goals. I have people that want to build muscle. Should I be doing cardio at all? How much is too much?

On the flip side, people that want to lose fat, usually they assume they have to do cardio. Then the questions are how much and what types are best. So I thought it’d make for a good podcast episode.

I’ve probably spoken about these things a little bit here and there, but wanted to go over the entire subject and lay it all out. This will be a good one to refer back to and ford around and whatever, because it’s going to answer a lot of questions.

Let’s first talk about cardio in general. Cardio versus weightlifting. Most people associate exercise and health, they associate cardio with exercise and health, general health, heart health, and not being overweight and so forth, whereas weightlifting is almost….

I don’t know, people I talk with, it’s like a stigma almost, that’s it’s more for vanity. It’s for building big muscles and then looking cool, or looking good. Obviously if you’re listening to this you probably know that’s not true.

Ironically a research…I’ll link a couple of studies down below, you can see these things, but research shows that endurance athletes run in to more heart troubles, especially later in their lives heart disease, heart dysfunction, than even the average, sedentary, non-exercising public.

These are people that have really pushed their bodies hard in their endurance training and their cardio, essentially, for years and years and years. Marathoners also, they accumulate more arterial plaque than sedentary people. They have more heart complications later in their life.

Of course this doesn’t mean if you run marathons or if you do a lot of cardio, it doesn’t mean you’re going to have these problems. Remember, whenever you’re looking at research, especially observational epidemiological type of research, it means that you’re in that group that’s at-risk.

Depending on your body and depending on a lot of different factors that will determine if you have that problem, but you should know that if you’re doing a lot of cardio, say you’re doing a lot of running.

You run marathons a lot, you do that, you are putting yourself at higher risk of heart disease and heart dysfunction.

Also cardio does put stress on the body. Of course, exercise stresses the body. That’s one of the benefits is you have the acute stressor of exercise and then the body adapts to it, and that adaptation that occurs after that, response to exercise, is where a lot of the health benefits are.

I don’t know if you saw recently, it was like a week ago, study came out that confirmed that the hormone irisin, might be mispronouncing it. Irisin, I-R-I-S-I-N, I believe, which is a feel-good hormone that’s produced when you exercise that causes different positive changes in the body.

There’s a very physiological basis for the health benefits of exercise, but if you push it too far, then it goes in the other direction. It’s like the hormone cortisol. An acute spike of cortisol like what occurs when you exercise is good.

Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, so cortisone breaks down fat. It also breaks down muscle, but it’s a part of the fight or flight response of the body. Acute spikes of cortisol that then come back down, that’s good. It’s part of the stress response system of the body.

But if you have chronically elevated cortisol then you’re going to have health problems at some point. One of the ways that you can achieve that is by exercising too much doing too much cardio or too much weightlifting, as well.

You can run into that issue. I find that in my experience working with people and talking with people that the chronic cortisol type of cases tend to be people that are doing a lot of cardio.

It seems to be easier to get there doing a ton of cardio than with weightlifting, because the sheer amount of time. I’ll speak with people when they come to me and are not feeling good and they’ve stopped losing weight.

A lot of times it’s women, and they’ve lost their periods. Things are just not going well. They’re doing anywhere from one to two hours of cardio per day, seven days per week, plus the weightlifting program that might be another four to seven hours of exercise a week.

Now, with weightlifting, though, it’s pretty hard to do two hours of weightlifting, especially heavy weightlifting, which puts a lot of stress on the body. It can be done, but I see that people tend to abuse cardio more than weightlifting.

In a way, maybe it’s easier to go hop on a bike or hop on a treadmill or a Stair-Master and grind away for two hours every day while you watch your iPad or something like that.

Not that it’s easy. It’s going to be a bit less stressful than trying to do two hours straight of heavy compound weightlifting, for example.

If you’re doing too much exercise, one of the problems you’re going to run into is your cortisol levels are going to remain chronically elevated, and that causes a lot of different health issues.

The bottom line of cardio is how much you should do is dictated by your goal. My philosophy is there are definitely health benefits to cardio. There are a lot of health benefits to weightlifting, as well, going back to what I was talking about initially.

It’s not just for having big muscles that look good. Having large amounts of lean mass is in itself very healthy. It’s great for insulin sensitivity. It’s great for your immune system. That’s one of the things that people don’t know about having muscle.

That the total amount of lean mass that you have is associated…Researchers associate with all-cause mortality, meaning that the less muscle you have, especially as you get older, the more likely you are to die from a variety of different causes disease, falling down and breaking your hip.

Your quality of life is going to decline the less muscle you have as you get older, and the more likely you are to die from anything.

Yes, there is a vanity point of it. Of course, we’re in the gym lifting weights because we want to look a certain way, and that’s at least 50 percent of the reason why we’re there, but it’s also nice to know that there are a lot of different health benefits to it, as well.

It’s very, very healthy for the body. In all the stuff that I’ve read, and in my experiences with my body and working with a lot of people, I would say weightlifting really has the edge, in terms of overall health benefits, big cardiovascular benefits.

Especially with heavy weightlifting, your hearts gets going. Go do a bunch of heavy dead lifts, and you’re going to be struggling to breathe at the end of a few sets of that, for sure.

You get cardiovascular benefits, insulin sensitivity benefits, cholesterol benefits. Weightlifting is great for burning energy and for staying lean, and it builds and preserves lean mass, which cardio does not.

Cardio is…Obviously any exercise is healthy, but if you were to only pick one, I would say weightlift before doing cardio. That informs my general position on cardio, which is, “You should do as much cardio as it takes to reach your goals, and no more.”

That’s not as much as many people think. For instance, if I’m cutting, if I’m dieting to lose weight, I do no more than two hours of cardio a week, every seven days. That’s usually when I’ve worked up to that. I usually start, around an hour a week, and then as I…

If you’re a seasoned Muscle for Lifer, MFLer, then you know why. The longer you’re in a calorie deficit, the longer your body works against it to reduce your calorie expenditure, and then upping your cardio is an easy way to keep that energy expenditure high so you can continue losing fat.

But I’m never doing an hour of cardio a day or two hours of cardio a day. Uniformly, the people that I hear from that are having the biggest problems with cardio are the people that are doing that.

A lot of these people are people that are…The reason why they’re putting themselves through that is because they compete. The reason why I don’t do a bunch of cardio for losing weight is, one, it’s unnecessary.

Remember, you need to create a calorie deficit. You can burn quite a bit of energy, especially with heavy compound weightlifting, which burns a fair amount of energy while you’re doing it and burns a fair amount of energy afterward, that “after-burn” effect.

Also because cardio, it’s not as effective as many people think. A lot of people underestimate the amount of calories they eat. If they’re not following a meal plan and they wing it and go.

“Oh, I think I’m eating about 1800 calories,” and then they go add it all up and realize they’re eating 2,500 calories a day. A lot of people tend to overestimate the amount of energy they burned when they do exercise. Both of those things have been verified in scientific studies.

I don’t even need to…I already know that dealing with people, that’s the way it is. The reality is that if you’re doing…You have to work really hard to even burn 500 calories. That’s about an hour of steady state cardio where you’re working.

It’s not just an hour of walking. You’re going to have to really be moving your body. 500 calories, that’s good, but if you don’t really know what you’re doing with your diet, you can easily eat that 500 calories. A cookie could be 300 calories, for instance.

It could be a cookie and a piece of fruit, and then there’s that hour of gruelling cardio that you did, and you ate it all back. This is why, and either you’ve seen the studies that are being referred to or you’ve seen news headlines that say that.

“Exercise doesn’t work,” “Exercise doesn’t guarantee anything in the way of weight loss,” and that “People who do exercise programs wind up fatter.”

A lot of those angles to be controversial and say that, “Move more, eat less,” doesn’t work. What they’re not telling you is, when you look at what’s the substance of that research, it’s that these aren’t people like you and me that know exactly what we’re doing.

We know how energy balance works, we know how macro nutrients breakdown. We know how to make meal plans, we know what we’re doing. These are average people, they might see something on a TV show or read a simple little book that tells them to “eat clean” and do exercise every day.

Either they don’t lose weight or they maybe lose a little bit of weight in the beginning and then they get sick of the diet, and they get lazy and then they gain all the weight back or more.

What is partially underlined that is, of course, not understanding how food relates to weight gain and weight loss, that doesn’t help.

But also the fact that if you go do, lot of these shallow type of, Pinterest type of workout programs, the ultimate this workout, the ultimate 10 minute, 15 minute, they’re shorter. 15 to 20 minutes of high intensity exercise like interval training where you’re really pushing yourself.

I would say, in 20 minutes you could maybe burn 200 calories, maybe. You have to work for that, that wouldn’t come easy. Again, 200 calories, to someone that doesn’t know what they’re doing with their diet, is nothing.

I mean, 200 calories, that could be three extra bites at dinner, or that could be, “Oh, that little bit of extra dessert” or whatever. So, yes, it’s true. The prescription of “oh, just go do exercise”; if that’s all you told somebody that wanted to lose weight they’re probably not going to do well.

They might initially lose some weight because they’re not going to change their diet and they’re going to burn a bit more energy. They’re going to see that for two or three weeks. But then you know they might…

Because they are in calorie deficit they’re not going to be used to that feeling. Most people are not. They’re used to being pretty much full all the time. So, when they go into a calorie deficit they start getting hungry, and they go, “Oh, I’m hungry, I need to eat food.”

They don’t realize that hunger is not a signal to eat food. It is, physically speaking, but it doesn’t mean you have to go eat food. It’s your body saying, “I don’t want to be in a calorie deficit.” That’s not true.

Hunger is not a feeling of…the hunger that you’ve feel everyday when you’re in a calorie deficit; there are hormonal changes and there are things happening in the body, where the body is generally saying, “Hey, I need more energy, I need more energy, you’re not feeding me enough.”

And that doesn’t mean you have to do it though. You’re doing that intentionally and you’re saying, “Yeah bitch, deal with it. Get leaner and then you’ll get more food.” Obviously, the average dieter doesn’t understand that. Another thing that is good to know about, cardio.

Cardio in particular is that…there’s research that shows…I’ll either link a study down below or I’ll link an article where I’ll link all the studies. That’s quite better, I’ll link the article so you can go check it all out.

Where I’m talking about a lot of…I’ve written about a lot of these things and you go check out all the science behind it. Your body is going to adapt to the exercise and you are doing, it is going to reduce its calorie expenditure over time.

This is a simple matter of the body working to increase its efficiency. So, when you’re doing the same types of exercise, say, you do inclined walking on the treadmill, you do it every day, you do 30 minutes.

The amount of energy that you burn while you’re doing that is going to go down over time. So, what might have…you know, help you burn x number of calories on week one is now burning 20 percent less calories on week eight or week six or whatever. That’s something else you need to keep in mind.

Another issue which I mentioned earlier about doing a lot of cardio doesn’t preserve lean mass. It can even accelerate the loss of lean mass, especially if you’re in a calorie deficit, too big of a calorie deficit.

Not enough protein that’s really the worst way that you can go about dieting is to severely restrict your calories eat very little protein and do a bunch of cardio. Yes, you’re going to lose fat but you’re going to lose a lot of muscle.

Which leads to that skinny-fat type of physique, where body fat percentage or while the percentage could be relatively high but the absolute amount of body fat like ‘X’ number of pounds of fat on the body isn’t that high.

But because there is very little muscle there as well, the body looks amorphous it looks like you’re fat but if you’re to take measurements you waist isn’t that big, your arms or legs…this is more…girls run into this more than guys because girls get worst advice.

Lot of guys are told to go lift weights, do resistance training. Whereas, a lot of girls are told to do very little of that. Maybe some body weight stuff but to focus more on cardio and starving themselves.

So, their thighs, if they were to measure them are really not that big but they don’t have any shape, they look like sausages. So, those are some general things to keep in mind about cardio. Now, let’s talk a little bit more about some practical…what do you do?

So, if you’re losing weight, if you’re dieting to lose weight I highly recommend that you know that you do high intensity interval training. There have been quite a few…there is this another study that came out, I saw it a couple of weeks ago.

Every few months there’s a new study that comes out or a new review or analysis of previous studies that confirms that high intensity interval training is better for losing fat. It’s also better you lose fat faster doing it than lower intensity cardio.

It’s also better for preserving muscle mainly because you don’t have to do nearly as much. My hit cardio sessions are no more than 25 minutes, really no more than 30, usually 25 minutes though That’s it, 25 minutes. I enjoy my cardio, so right now I’m not cutting, I’m maintaining .

And I still do cardio three of four days a week because I find it relaxing because I can sit there…I’m watching some documentaries essentially. It’s either documentary or there’s this company called ‘The Great Courses’, which I highly recommend, they kick ass.

They go to professors all over the country, a lot of these professors have won awards and some of them are teaching in very prestigious schools. They teach whatever subject and The Great Courses comes to them and works with them to create like a…

It could be anywhere between a 15 to a 40-hour course on whatever subject it is that they teach. And it’s awesome, they have stuff on everything. Their marketing is incredible too. For what they’re doing…I’m impressed with their whole system. They are like a billion-dollar company.

So it’s not surprising. Anyways, I enjoy it. I can go and I do my cardio and no one is talking to me, you know what I mean. I can sit there and it’s almost like a relaxation for me even though I’m working.

Again, it’s high intensity interval and I’m pushing myself and that’s the important thing when you’re doing your hit cardio once you get going after your first few minutes when you’re in your high intensity, those high intensity sprint periods?

You should be at the point where you can’t comfortably hold a conversation. You don’t have to be gasping for breath but you shouldn’t be able to calmly talk to the person next to you. I do one-minute-long sprints followed by a minute and half of low intensity rest.

So after about 30 seconds into that sprint I’m at that point where I could talk but it’s going to be labored and you want to make sure, you’re pushing yourself to that point ’cause that’s related to your vO2 max which is related to the maximum amount of oxygen consumption that can occur.

Whether your body can…there’s a limit to how much oxygen it can absorb. So, you want to be hitting anywhere from 80 to 100 percent of your vO2 max, but the only way to really know that would be to hooked up to a metabolic cart and that’s obviously not practical.

But an easy heuristic way to know if that’s happening is if you’re at that point where you’re breathing is labored and you cannot easily carry on a conversation you’re in the right range.

Anyways, more back to the point is, I’m doing three to four, 25 minute sessions of cardio a week right now, because I enjoy it, and because it makes me feel good. It gives me energy. I feel energized after. I do it before dinner, and I work at night, so it’s a nice…

Either it’s weights, first thing in the morning, and that is a great way to start the day. It keeps me energized. I do my stuff all day, and then go home, do my cardio which then, I feel like it almost revives me a little bit, eat food, and then get back to work, so I like it.

When I’m cutting, I’m doing about the same. I don’t ever do more than five, 25 minute sessions a week, but it’s usually three to four sessions a week. If I were bulking, which I don’t really have a reason to do these days, because I’m not trying to get bigger.

And I don’t like getting fatter at this point. [laughs] I’d rather stay lean, because I have more or less the amount of size that I want, then I would cut that back probably to one or two sessions a week, and I’ll talk about why in a minute. We’ll focus on fat loss for now.

That one to two hours a week of high intensity interval cardio, that’s all you need. I don’t really see a reason to do anything else. Now, of course there’s an incidental “cardio.” I take my dogs for a walk every day, and that takes 15 minutes of walking.

I don’t even really count that. In terms of energy expenditure, it’s very low, and what does that really get me? It gets me half of my little chocolate snack that I have every day. Fine, so when I’m talking cardio, more exertion type of stuff. Now that’s my general standard recommendation.

Three to five, 20 to 25, maybe 30 minute sessions of high intensity interval cardio per week. I like to stick to recumbent biking, or upright biking, because the way it mimics a squat motion. There’s some research that shows that, the type of cardio that you do can have a bit of an effect on your strength.

So if you do a type of cardio like biking, that mimics a weightlifting movement, you’re going to see better strength retention, than if you did something that didn’t, like running, for instance.

Again, this is nit-picking. If you enjoy running, if you enjoy doing sprints, like actual road running sprints, which I do enjoy. I used to do them, but it would fuck up my legs so much, that it would mess with my lifting. Like if I was doing three sprints a week, I would do it on, let’s say Sunday.

Monday, my legs would be sore. Tuesday, still a little bit sore, so I feel it a little bit, and I’m dead lifting, then that makes them sore. Wednesday, I’m trying to run again with sore legs, and it hurts. Thursday, they’re still fucked up. Friday, I’m trying to squat. It didn’t work.

But some people, they don’t have that problem. They can sprint every single day, and they’d never get leg soreness, and that’s great. I tried it for at least a month. It was six weeks of it, and I still was getting too sore, so dropped it.

The type of cardio that you’re doing, obviously like certain types of cardio, are going to fit for high intensity type of training better, but the most popular, most common methods are biking, running, swimming is great.

People that are good at jump roping, if you have enough technical skill that you go really fast, you do that. Rowing is great. Rowing is another good option, because that pulling, so it’s mimicking a weight lifting movement. Boxing is great. Boxing is really tiring, so you can get creative.

The point is that…I’ll link an article down below, and for those that are listening, you can find it on Legion, the blog I run at Legion Athletics, on high intensity. If you Google Legion Athletics HIIT, H-I-I-T, three words, you’ll see it. It’ll come up on Google.

I dive into a bit more of the details of the intricacies of, how do you get the most out of your HIIT cardio, but those are the basic concepts. You have to push yourself hard for anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes, and then you’re going to have to do a low intensity, which is usually matched.

I’m now doing a minute…that’s not matched. It’s usually twice as long, so whatever your high intensity interval is, you’re taking twice as long of a rest period. Once that gets easier, and you’ll know that by, again, how labored is your breathing? How comfortable are you?

I got to a point where doing a minute on the recumbent bike, which also, it’s worth noting, that I don’t go really high on the resistance, because the point of HIIT cardio is to go really fast. Not really hard, not grind against resistance, but you are only going fast.

You want to get your heart rate going. I find it better. It doesn’t fry your legs, which again, matters if you’re lifting weights. If you’re doing heavy dead lifts, heave squats, you don’t want to be frying your legs out on your cardio sessions. I’m doing a moderate amount of resistance.

Somebody give me something to peddle against, so I can go really fast, but one minute, and two minutes of rest, it got to a point where it was too easy. My heart rate, it was coming down. It the beginning, it was reaching by the end of the workout.

Probably about 170, 180, on my high intensity intervals, and I couldn’t comfortably hold a conversation. After several months, it was coming down to the 140s, maybe 150, and I could talk. I was breathing a little bit, but I could still have a conversation.

Instead of making my intervals longer, which eventually, the legs are really what become the issue for me at least. It’s not my cardio, so much, it’s my legs get fried. Instead of making the intervals longer, which I’m going to have to eventually, but right now, I’m bringing my rest down.

I’m going to bring it down to a minute of high intensity, and a minute of low intensity, and see if that now, brings me back to that 170, 180 beats per minute, and labored breathing, and whatever.

That’s really what you want to be doing, and rinse and repeat. I do a one minute warm up and I get right into it, rinse and repeat for 20 to 30 minutes, and you’re done.

The bottom line is, if your goal is to lose weight, and of course health benefits doing cardio, we already talked about that, but if the reason why you’re doing it is to lose fat faster, then you don’t need to be doing more than that. You don’t.

You have that hour to two hours of HIIT cardio per week, plus anywhere from, let’s say, three to six hours of weightlifting per week, is plenty. You do not need to be doing more exercise than that.

Even that is…You’re probably not going to run into any over training to have issues with that, but that’s really pushing it.

I wouldn’t recommend doing more than that, than the six hours of weightlifting, because that’s quite high, and the couple hours of HIIT cardio per week. That’s everything. You can’t move more than that in terms of exercise.

Walking around and stuff very low intensity type of physical activity is not going to be a problem, but if you’re doing all that, plus, let’s say, you’re in school, and you’re playing a sport, that would be too much. You’re going to run into over training issues eventually. You’re not going to feel good.

When you have all that exercise in place, then it comes down to your diet, and knowing what you’re doing with your diet, and sticking to it, and not over eating, and not making any of the simple mistakes that people make, and you can get as lean as you want to get.

Really, I’ve done that, and with a couple supplements like caffeine, and green tea extract, and Yohimbine, and the stuff that you’ll find in my own supplements that…Again, you probably know that story. With Legion, I make the stuff that I’ve always wanted.

Where I had to buy six different bottles, and now I can make my own. Now, I can make Phoenix, and put it all on that, and then I can make Forge, and put the rest of it in that, and now, I only need two bottles.

Just with doing that exercise routine, plus the supplementation, plus proper diet, I’ve been able to get down to six percent body fat, give or take. It’s hard to know exactly.

I’ve got to a point where there’s no fat really left to lose. It’ll start to look ridiculous. You don’t need anything else, other than really what I laid out for fat loss. Especially with cardio, you do not need to be doing hours and hours of cardio per week.

A couple, I guess little, I wouldn’t say caveats, but questions that you might have, because you see that stuff out there is, one, what if your cardio is like sports, let’s say? You’re going to be playing hours of sports every week, and you don’t want to cut that back?

OK, that’s fine. You have to keep in mind though, that the more cardio that you’re doing, the more energy you’re burning, the more likely you are to lose muscle, and the more likely you are to lose strength in your weight lifting, but we can work around it.

A couple simple things is, to have some protein before you…If you’re going to go out and play, say you play soccer, and it’s going to be a two hour game, have a good 30, 40 grams of protein before and after. That can help. Make sure that you’re not on too large of a calorie deficit.

It can be hard to quantify how much energy you’re really burning when you’re doing something like playing soccer, because there’s a lot of sprinting. How do you really know? Personally, what I would do is, I would…It’s a bit of an experiment.

You’re going to have to learn your body, and you’re going to have to…I would go with a, catch me cardio type of approach, although the modifiers are a bit high. I’d go a little bit low with modifiers, and I would go, OK, my weightlifting, plus my sports, equals, let’s say it’s 15 hours of exercise a week.

So if it were 15 hours of exercise a week, I would probably try BMR times 1.6 or 1.7. For my TDE, for my total daily energy expenditure, and then cut it maybe 80 percent, or 70 percent of that, and see how my body responds.

I’m I losing weight too quickly? Initially, you’re going to lose a couple pounds a week, because of water and glycogen. If you’re relatively lean, like if you’re a guy under 20 percent body fat, or a girl under 30 percent body fat, after a few weeks.

You really should start seeing that fat loss, or that weight loss, to slow down to about a pound or a pound and a half per week.

If you’re still losing two or three ponds per week after being in a deficit for, let’s say, four weeks, and you didn’t start out very over weight, you’re probably eating too little, or moving too much, and you’re losing muscle essentially.

You’ll also know in the gym. One thing that you can know is, if you’re not losing strength in the gym, you’re not losing muscle, period. That’s not how it works. If you are losing strength in the gym, like if you’re losing quite a bit of strength, plus you’re losing a lot of weight, you’re probably losing muscle.

You can jockey those two factors, what’s your weight doing, and what are your lifts looking like in the gym, and adjust things accordingly. That’s one thing. It’s if you’re going to be doing a bunch of low intensity cardio, don’t add high intensity on top of that.

If you’re playing 10 hours of soccer a week, there’s no need to do anything more. Remember, the primary purpose of cardio is, to burn energy. In terms of fat loss, that is its primary purpose, so you’re doing a lot.

You don’t need to be doing more. You may even need to be dialing your weight lifting back a little bit. I’ve worked with quite a few people that won marathons, and they want to know, how do they work their weight lifting, as they’re running?

As they have to run more and more, coming up to this marathon, for their training? What do they do with their weight lifting?

You have to taper it back, so in some cases, people will taper then down to an upper body, lower body workout. One upper body, one lower body per week, because they’re running so much, and you just don’t want to overload the body.

Some people are able to do a three day, like push, pull legs, and occasionally, some people can get away for four day, but that’s rare, and usually comes down to a two, or three day. You might have to do the same thing, if you’re playing a lot of sports.

You might find that five days of lifting, plus all the sports, you just don’t…You’re energy levels are low. You’re hungry all the time. You’re irritable. You’re moody. You’re not sleeping well. Well then, something has to go.

If the sports can’t go, then the weight lifting has to go. You have to bring it down to three days a week, or even two days a week, make sure you’re eating enough food, so that’s one thing. Another thing is, that you’ve probably known people.

You have seen people that talk about they’re super lean, or have gotten super lean and said, “Oh, no cardio, you don’t have to do any cardio. It’s all diet, it’s all diet,” yeah, for some people.

I’m somewhere ecto, meso type of morph, type of body, I’m not super ecto. Growing up I was not super lean, I wasn’t a super lean muscular naturally type of person. I was relatively lean, tall, not super skinny, but skinny-ish, and I was more, endurance.

I played a lot of ice hockey and roller hockey growing up. That was one of my strengths, is I could do a lot of sprints in terms of skating. I was a good skater, and I was fast, and I didn’t tire easily. That was more my genetic strength, you could say.

With that, I find that the problem with no cardio is, I get stuck around nine or 10 percent body fat if I don’t do cardio, simply because I’m not able to burn enough energy with my weight lifting, and I have to reduce my calories over time because that’s how it is, and I’ve tried it several times.

I have not been able to get down to the seven, eight percent body fat range without, at least, doing that three or four cardio sessions per week. It really has made a difference. I’ve tried it, lifting and diet, and I’ll get to a point where I’m stuck.

And I don’t want to keep on dropping my calories because to a point where that also becomes counterproductive. Then I add my cardio back in, and like that, I’m losing my half-a-pound of fat a week again, and I can roll right into, right through the cut and be done.

Just know that that’s probably how your experience is going to be. If you want to get lean, sure you don’t have to do cardio. As a guy, you’re 18 percent body fat. Let’s say you want to get down to the 12, 13 percent range where you have some abs and you look good.

You don’t have to do cardio to do that. You can weightlift, and you can use your diet to get you there. As a girl, I would say if you want to get down to the 20 percent range, give or take, then you probably don’t have to do any cardio.

Again, if you do cardio you’ll get there faster, but you don’t have to do it if you really don’t want to, or don’t have the time, or whatever. If you want to get very lean you’re going to have to do cardio, you will.

Again, the only people I’ve known that didn’t have to were naturally, their entire life they were seven percent body fat, so who cares, [laughs] it doesn’t count.

Then over a period, they bulked and ate a bunch of food, and it took a shit ton of food for them to even get up to, let’s say, 10, or 11 percent, and then for them to get back to seven percent is to stop eating a shit load of food and their body, you know…

I’ve written about what’s called a body weight set point, and some people’s set points are low. I’ll link an article down below, or if you’re listening you can search for muscle for life set point in “Google” and you’ll find it. Some people, it’s a genetic gift, you could say.

Now, before I wrap up here, let’s quickly talk about cardio and building muscle. A lot of people think that doing cardio, or improving cardiovascular endurance, and building muscle are mutually exclusive, you can’t do both, and you shouldn’t be doing cardio if you want to build muscle.

I disagree, yes there’s a point where it becomes counterproductive because there’s quite a bit of research that shows that concurrent type of training programs, where you’re doing a bunch of cardio.

And a bunch of weight lifting, are just not as good for building strength as pure strength programs where you’re not doing any cardio. There’s really no refuting that and I’ve experienced that with my body. I’ve worked with a lot of people that have experienced it.

That’s pretty cut and dry. If you’re doing a small amount of cardio, one, it can help with recovery. I noticed when I started putting the biking in that my legs recovered faster from my dead lifting and squatting, and the faster you recover, the more…

It’s nice because it’s nice to not be blasted sore for as long, but also it can help you in that, like let’s say you’re doing some heavy pulling on a Tuesday, and then you’re squatting on a Thursday, or a Friday.

If your legs are still a little bit sore from the Tuesday, there’s a good chance that it’s going to affect your squats, not that you shouldn’t be squatting, but if your legs are still a bit tight it can impair performance a little bit.

Also, regarding frequency, if you’re trying to squat twice a week, or pull twice a week, that speed of recovery can really help. I also found that, and again, this is anecdotal, even Lyle McDonald has spoken about it as well, and I’ve seen it.

If you keep your cardio in when you are bulking, that when you flip to a cut, the transition seems to be smoother, and the fat loss…it your body, there isn’t a lag from that in the beginning, and you don’t have to fight for every to start getting this fat loss going. I found that to be true.

Insulin sensitivity is another good reason to do some cardio because it improves insulin sensitivity, which, of course, applies to your muscle tissue. Insulin sensitivity is one of the important…it affects muscle growth, and it effects fat storage as well.

The more insulin resistant you are, the less muscle you’re going to grow because insulin drives nutrients in the cells, that’s what it does. If your muscle tissue is very sensitive to insulin, that’s great because that means it’s going to be very receptive to the nutrients that you eat.

And it also means that your body is going to be able to shuttle those nutrients into muscles, as opposed to having to convert them into fat. That’s one of the reasons why high levels of insulin resistance, why carbohydrates, eating high carbs in those situations…

…is one of the reasons why its bad, is that if your muscles aren’t able to absorb carbs, eventually your body has to do something with them.

One of the things it will do with them is the liver will convert it into fat through a process called de novo lipogenesis, which I spoke about in the last podcast. DNL does not happen under normal circumstances, but to any degree you’d have to really, really go hard on carbs.

This is an abnormal circumstance where DNL can occur at a higher than normal rate, which is where there’s a lot of insulin resistance. That’s one of the things your body will do with the excess glucose, and the blood is trying to get it out, so one of the things it will do is start converting it into fat.

What you’ll find is, this is also one of the reasons why you want to stay relatively lean when you’re bulking and you don’t want to go crazy bat-shit, ham on food is, the fatter you are, the more insulin resistant you’re going to become.

The more insulin resistant you become, the more easy it is to gain fat even faster, and the less muscle you’re going to build. It becomes very counterproductive, to gain a lot of fat when you’re bulking, or to bulk when you already are fat.

That’s why I generally recommend that if you really want to look at this in the bigger picture, and you want to go from being fat to having a great physique, the first thing you need to do is you need to get lean.

As a guy you need to get down to the 10 percent body fat range, as a girl you need to get down to the 20 percent body fat range.

One of the big reasons for this is because, at that point, you’re going to have good insulin sensitivity. If you’re overweight there are no supplements you can take. There’s really not much you can do to counteract the negative effects on insulin sensitivity, other than losing the weight.

Cardio, coming back to cardio, it improves insulin sensitivity, and everything you can do when you’re bulking to keep that insulin sensitivity high is going to help you. Of course, there are supplements out there that can help, like berberine.

I’ve been trying to work berberine into one of my supplements, but it tastes so fucking bad that it can’t be in a powder.

I wanted berberine in Recharge for my post workout. It’d be a perfect thing to put in there because when your insulin sensitivity is already high right after you train, and then adding berberine, which there’s even…they’ll use berberine with people with diabetes and it’ll work as well as metformin.

It works there’s no question, but it tastes so bad that we can’t use it. I was even thinking, maybe I’ll throw it in a pill and have it as an add on to Recharge that’s optional, and can explain why, like, “Here’s something I wanted to put into Recharge but can’t.

So if you don’t mind spending the money, here, get this, and take this pill too.” Anyways, but something’s only going to do so much, like with building muscle and losing fat, you have to work for it, and if you’re working for it, supplements can help.

Same thing with this insulin sensitivity point, you can’t just be overweight, and lazy, and pop some pills, and have great insulin sensitivity. That’s another reason why I like doing cardio when I’m bulking, is to help maintain insulin sensitivity.

Now, in terms of how much, again, I try to keep it to maybe two sessions a week, no more than three. I stick to high intensity because I’m going to get really, the most bang for my buck, and not have to spend a bunch of time doing it.

Again, the amount of time that you’re going to be spending doing cardio matters when you’re, especially, it matters when you’re cutting, it also matters when you’re bulking. You really want to be doing as little cardio as you can, while still getting the benefits that you’re looking for.

I found in bulking that is, maybe an hour, hour-and-a-half max, but usually about an hour a week of high intensity cardio, and then again I’m walking my dogs every day, and stuff but that’s walking around, I almost don’t even count that.

I would say that you don’t have to do cardio when you’re bulking if you stick to your calories, maintain a slight surplus, five, 10 percent. Don’t go crazy on your cheat meals. Be smart about that, save your calories for those meals.

Don’t go in 3,000 calorie surpluses twice a week with a bunch of dietary fat and all the things that people, especially when they come out of a diet, so they’ve been cutting, and now they go right into a bulk and they’re like, “Ooh, now I get to eat anything and it, is a disaster.

At the end of a cut, at the end of that period where you’re in a sustained calorie deficit, your body is primed to gain fat very quickly. If you indulge it, [laughs] and you go pound Five Guys hamburgers every day, you’re going to gain fat very quickly and throw away everything that you worked for.

Then the insulin sensitivity problems, or resistance problems will come into play, and then you’re going to start gaining fat faster, you’re not going to build as much muscle. It becomes like a vicious downward type of spiral.

You can prevent that by doing a proper reverse diet after you’re done cutting, and then go into a slight surplus and maintain that. Don’t go crazy on your cheat meals. Do some cardio, which you factor in with your calories to make sure you’re in a surplus.

You’re going to have to eat a bit more, which is nice as well, and then maintain insulin sensitivity. When I’m bulking I like to go for, I would say, three months. At least you want to go three months, but personally I used to go, I try to stretch it out to even six months.

Where I would go from like eight or nine percent body fat to like, maybe 15 or 14, over the course of six months, but that’s great. That was six months of really making a lot of progress in the gym.

Going up quite a bit in my weights and strength, then get rid of the fat again, and then compare and see, “Wow, that’s a seven pound,” it wouldn’t be that much. In my case when I was bulking years ago, I gained my first…

Like when I really started learning what I was doing, my first bulk and then cut, I gained probably about seven pounds of muscle in the first year of that, which was pretty impressive, considering how long that I had been lifting at that point.

Although, I didn’t know what was I was doing, I had a little bit of like, advanced new beginnings in a sense. Anyways, you get the point that you can go six months, gain a few pounds of muscle, keep it all when you lose the fat, rinse and repeat, and then eventually you get there.

If you’re new to weight lifting you can gain quite a bit more. You can gain, if you were…like I’ve seen guys that started lean and just don’t put on fat easily, bulk essentially for an entire year, and gain 20 pounds of muscle, legitly 20 pounds of muscle.

Let’s say you bulk for six to eight months of that and then you spend last…let’s say its eight months of bulking and four months of cutting. If you can gain 15 pounds of muscle in that time, if you’re new to weight lifting, that’s great, in the second year you cut those numbers in half.

I’ll link an article down below, and if you’re listening, if you want to learn more about how much muscle you can build naturally, and if you’re listening you can Google, muscle for life build muscle naturally, and it’ll come up. That’s everything, it covers all of the questions I hear most.

One last thing is, do your weight lifting first. If you’re going to do cardio after your weight lifting, which I recommend that you split those workouts up if you can, but if you can’t, do the cardio after the weight lifting.

If you’re train fasted that’s fine. If you’re not, then you can have your…some guys, some people, they’ll do their pre-workout meal, they’ll lift, have a scoop of whey, and then do their cardio. I don’t know if that really matters.

Sometimes I’ll tell people if they want to be, if they’re like really scared of losing muscle, [laughs] I don’t think it’s really necessary. You probably have your pre-workout meal, lift, cardio, go have your post workout meal, and you’re good to go.

If you do your cardio first it’s going to suck energy that is better spent on your weight lifting, and pushing heavy weights, and then, if that means that your cardio session, you’re not going to push.

You’re not going to be able to go, let’s say, as fast on your high intensity intervals as you would have been able to if you did it first. Who cares, that’s not the point.

The point is that you’re getting your heart rate up, you’re reaching that high VO2 max, labor breathing, can’t hold a conversation easy, that’s what you’re going for. So yes, if you are on a time trial and you’re really trying to…

If you’re doing your cardio for performance reasons then they would be different, but you’re not. You’re weightlifting more for performance reasons and the cardio is supplementary. I hope that helps you. If you have any other cardio related questions, of course, you can comment down below.

If you’re watching this in the blog poster, you can email me, or go on “Muscle for Life,” and comment on [laughs] the podcast. You know how to reach me on social media blah, blah, blah.

Sometimes I should probably talk about some of the things that I have because I come out with new things we email about, and stuff. I never really promote shit on the podcast, which isn’t necessarily bad. I just don’t really even think of it.

I want to say that, over at Legionathletics.com we came out with a new product called Fortify, which is a joint support supplement, and one of the things that I really like about it is, it’s not a glucosamine supplement, it’s not an MSM, or Chondroitin supplement.

Which those molecules are underwhelming, period, and more for people that have arthritis, or arthritic symptoms. There’s no research that shows that they’re going to do anything for people with healthy joints.

It’s an unknown thing, but if we know that it isn’t even that great for people with arthritis it’s probably not, even if it does do something for people with healthy joints, it’s probably just not going to be much of anything.

This supplement, Fortify, is very different and contains a few ingredients that if you were to buy them separately, they’re expensive. Like for instance, Curcumin, Curcumin and Piperine, if you go look at…

I take Curcumin every day and I was buying it from some company, Viva Labs, or something like that. I was paying like 20 to $25 a bottle, for that alone. I’m getting the same dosages as 500 milligrams, that’s the clinically effective dosage.

And I believe like 25 milligrams of Piperine, is that what it is? I don’t remember off the top of my head. Piperine is to increase the absorption. Really the Curcumin is what gives you the benefits. A great anti-inflammatory agent helps lower inflammation in the joints.

Also, a type of collagen called undenatured type two collagen, which also, this is a very cool molecule that modulates the body’s immune response. What can happen is your body’s immune system can attack the collagen in your joints and that degrades it over time.

By supplementing it with this particular type of collagen, it teaches your immune system that it’s not harmful, so then the immune system stops attacking the collagen in your joints, very simple mechanism, but very cool.

There’s research showing that in people with healthy joints that it benefits, and it prevents that degenerative process that eventually leads to arthritis. There’s a clinically effective dosage of the collagen, there’s also a clinically effective of, it’s an acid, it’s a long word.

The acronym is AKBA and it comes from a plant called the boswellia serrate plant, and this is the plant where the frankincense comes from.

Like Curcumin, it’s a great anti-inflammatory agent because, obviously, if you’re lifting weights regularly, and if you’re physically active, if you’re playing sports, or whatever, you know that joint inflammation is one of the problems you can run into. Joint swelling, joint inflammation.

It causes pain, and then also it triggers that immune response which causes joint degeneration over time. Boswellia serrate, like Curcumin, similar in their effects of reducing inflammation, which also, of course, has other benefits in the body because inflammation is an important…

It’s like going back to where I was talking about Cortisol, where acute bouts of spikes of Cortisol in the right situations is good, that’s what you want. Acute inflammation is good if it’s like, for instance, in response to exercise, that’s good, in the muscles you want that.

That inflammatory response is part of the entire adaption process, which is why you’ve probably heard, or maybe even seen the research showing, that taking antioxidant type of things, like vitamin C, for instance, after taking a gram of vitamin c after weight lifting’s a bad idea.

Because it modulates that inflammatory response. That’s why that is because you want that inflammation to occur, and then your body has ways to deal with it. You don’t want to go in there and reduce that.

If you have chronically elevated levels of inflammation throughout the body that’s very bad, and that can lead to different types of disease states, and give you all kinds of problems. There’s some side benefits to stuff like Curcumin, and AKBA as well, because it does reduce systemic inflammation.

There’s also a clinically effective dosage of grape seed extract in Fortify, which is also in Triumph because there are quite a few health benefits. It improves eye health, reduces the risk of heart disease and other things.

But related to joint specifically, the grape seed extract, the mechanism is similar to the collagens in that it reduces that pro-inflammatory response from the immune system, in terms of attacking the collagen.

Anyways, that’s the product, it’s called Fortify, you can find it on “Amazon,” you can find it at legionathletics.com. I’m excited about it because, again, it’s less bottles that I… [laughs] not only, of course, is it cheaper for me, but it’s quite a bit cheaper for you if you go and see…

Like I know “Life Extension,” they sell the collagen alone, it’s like $30 a bottle, or $25 a bottle. If you look at how much would it cost to go buy all these ingredients separately because you will not find another joint supplement that has all of these ingredients together.

The vast majority of joint supplements are glucosamine supplements, or chondroitin MSM type supplements, and overhyped, and bullshit.

It would be quite a bit more to build this supplement to, hobble it together by buying all of the ingredients separately. That’s it for this week and I will see you next week.

ARTICLES RELATED TO THIS PODCAST:

How Much Cardio You Should Do (and How Much Is Too Much)

The Worst Way to Lose Weight

The Top 3 Reasons to Do High-Intensity Interval Training

How to Change Your Body Weight Set Point

How Much Muscle Can You Build Naturally?

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like my articles, then you'll love my bestselling books. They'll show you exactly what you need to do to build muscle and lose fat without hating your diet or living in the gym.

If you're a guy, check out Bigger Leaner Stronger, and if you're a girl, Thinner Leaner Stronger is for you.

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Bigger Leaner Stronger

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