Monday, August 6, 2012

Fat Loss, Minus the Cardio - Month 5 and Why You SHOULD do Cardio!

It's almost the end of August - the rough 'finish line' I set for my little experiment I've been documenting here.  It will be good to take the time to review what I've done, and to look back at where I started!

Today's topic to go along with the post will be about why you SHOULD do some cardio!  I know that this seems pretty counter-intuitive to the whole point of my journey here, but I would never say that cardio is detrimental to weight loss efforts unless done to excess.  The reasons I did this weight-loss adventure without the help of cardio again are:
  • To demonstrate that despite cardio being commonly thought of as the way to lose fat, and strength training being the way to gain muscle, it is not in any way necessary for your body recomposition efforts.  
  • Strength training and diet changes are sufficient for building a leaner physique.  
The fact that I despise cardiovascular training of almost any kind certainly didn't hurt to make this a more pleasant experience for me.  So if I've been experiencing success doing things I enjoy, it might be a little confusing to readers to see me start hitting the pavement at the end of August.

What is your Cardiovascular System?

There are 3 different kinds of energy systems that your body uses to fuel your activities.  Which energy system is dominant depends on the type of exercise:

  1. Anaerobic Alactic (ATP-CP): Your ATP provides enough energy to fuel about 10 seconds of very intense effort, such as sprinting or weightlifting.
  2. Anaerobic Lactic (Glycolytic): Provides enough energy for about 2 minutes of intense effort, such as a 200m butterfly swim or middle-distance races.  Over time, a waste product called 'lactic acid' builds up in the muscles, causing that familiar burning sensation that causes you to have to slow down.  
  3. Aerobic (Cardiovascular): Provides energy for 2 or more minutes and takes much longer to fatigue.  
Woah we're getting a little intense here.  It's just your lungs and heart delivering oxygenated blood to the rest of your body.

Anaerobic energy pathways get their name because they don't utilize oxygen to provide energy, this is also why they don't last you very long.  Generally high-intensity exercise requires so much fuel so quickly that oxygen doesn't  even have the time to reach your tissues!  Aerobic exercise, however, being much less intense, allows sufficient time for oxygen to provide the energy needed in your muscles.  

Why Train the Cardiovascular System?

Weightlifting - especially Powerlifting and Olympic Lifting - are decisively Anaerobic and utilize ATP as their main fuel.  (Unless of course you're like me and sometimes take 12 seconds to finish a deadlift.)  So why in the world would it matter for me, or anyone else who doesn't care for 5k training, to train the cardiovascular system?

Well, the entire system itself does a lot more than just provide energy.  Your blood carries in it not only oxygen, but essential nutrients needed to help repair and replace tissues in your body.  As well the aerobic system is what clears out your anaerobic waste and byproducts, such as lactic acid.  If you're looking to avoid overtraining and want to be able to perform intense workouts on a regular basis, it would be wise to train your cardiovascular system a bit.  

How about during training?  If you're getting through a 1 or 2 hour workout, how well you recover in-between sets and reps can be integral in how well you keep up the intensity throughout the whole training session.  Energy systems are more complicated than "after exactly 2 minutes you switch from 100% anaerobic to 100% aerobic energy."  If you're going for a heavy set of 10 reps on squats, that can take upwards of 90 seconds depending on the difficulty - and although your Alactic and Lactic energy systems will provide quite a bit of your energy, your aerobic systems can provide up to 50% of your energy during only a minute of effort!  

Even if you do nothing else...

If you're a sedentary person, if you're trying to research different workout plans and which will give you the most benefit, if you have a hard time keeping consistent with a training regimen, if you do nothing else, the BEST thing you can do for your health is to go for a walk 30 minutes a day.  The benefits you'll get from doing this consistently are astounding - not only physically but mentally as well.

My Cardiovascular Health Plan

I think I've expressed my dislike of cardiovascular training sufficiently on here - so what's a person like me to do to keep up some level of cardiovascular fitness?

Well, one activity I certainly don't mind is walking!  At this point as well, I'm probably in such poor shape cardio-wise that it will keep my heart rate up.  But that's not my only option - plus after a few months of training walking will probably lose its appreciable training effect.

Have one of these?  Then you should be walking anyway!

Jump rope and rowing are also activities I don't mind - although at the moment both are pretty difficult! Another option is to do circuit training, or alternating various lifts at moderate weights for about 30 minutes with minimal rest.  The key is that with any activity, I plan on keeping my heart rate at around 120 bpm - this can be done with any activity I choose - and the same applies to you!  Walking, boxing, rowing, swimming, weight training, frisbee golf, playing with your kids, mowing your lawn - anything that gets you in your appropriate heart rate range can be considered cardiovascular training.  

At first I'll just be shooting for 3 days per week of cardiovascular training on days where I'm not strength training, with hopefully 1 day of High Intensity Interval Training as well.  

Month 5 - Pictures and Updates

Weight loss did pick up a little bit this month!  In fact, I reached my arbitrary goal of 20 pounds lost this past week!  What's better is that I'm actually starting to see changes in myself when I look in the mirror, which I think is the hardest thing for anyone going through a body composition change.

Physically, I'm still trying to work myself back up to where I was before I re-injured my back.  My deadlift seems to have suffered the most, which makes sense as it is the most back-intensive exercise that I do.  But my bench press has actually progressed quite a bit, which surprised me.  I hit 115 at my powerlifting competition in March, and in July I did 125lbs for 2 reps!  

Weight (8/1/12): 155lbs - Officially down 20 pounds!

And for the pictures (taken 8/5/12):



Back (Relaxed)

Back (Flexed)

Finally!  A flexed picture where I look like I know what I'm doing!

Weight Loss

3/18/12 - 175
3/29/12 - 171 (-4)
4/13/12 - 167 (-4)
4/29/12 - 164 (-3, )
5/14/12 - 161.3 (-2.7)
5/27/12 - 160lbs (-1.3)
6/24/12: 158 (-2)
7/1/12: 155 (-3, -20 TOTAL!)

Let's see what I can do with the rest of this month!

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