Any regular reader of the site will know I’m not a very big fan of cardio on LeanMassGains.com. On the website, in the book and in the free course I recommend that you don’t count the calories consumed through cardio exercise because people greatly over-estimate the number of calories burned during exercise and subsequently over-eat to “reward” themselves afterwards. Check the article here if you want more information.
If you want to lose fat then your primary area of concern should be your diet. Even the most lethargic couch potato can lose body fat if they sort out their diet. Up your protein intake, reduce reliance on refined or processed foods and make sure you have a good idea of the calorie content of your daily meals. Most of our daily calorie expenditure comes from the basal metabolic rate – which is the calories burned whilst at rest. Make sure you’re doing free weights exercise to maintain muscle mass whilst dieting and you’re set!
So what’s the point in this post then?
Well, this is all OK in theory, but in the real world the guys and girls reading this website are active people. You might have a day job that involves a lot of manual labour, or you might just be an active person with a lot of outside sporting interests. The rise and rise of the MMA in recent years has highlighted this to me – many of the people interested in strength training are doing so for a sporting purpose. And obviously sports are great, they’re fun, they’re a brilliant way to meet new friends and they can definitely help make you fitter and stronger.
And that’s where today’s post comes from. Lean Mass Gains Made Easy reader Jesse wrote in to ask how he can combine his love of Aussie Rules football training with the fat loss protocol I outline in the book. I dropped him an email back, but thought I’d post this up on the main site to share my thoughts on this with everyone.
Just had a quick question mate, diet is going well but i play aussie rules footy and have to start some cardio for training twice a week on my rest days, will be say and hour or boxing and cycling one day and half an hour of rowing the other, and was just wondering what u think i should do calorie wise for those days? Add fat? Carbs? Or keep it just meat and veg?
So what’s the answer?
Jesse is running the fat loss protocol, meaning that on rest days he’s on limited calorie intake mainly from meat and vegetables. The point in this protocol is to minimise the amount of calories you consume whilst simultaneously providing enough protein to spare your muscles from the calorie deficit AND make sure you feel full throughout the day. But what if you need to do some cardio on your rest days? Should you eat more calories? And if so where should those calories come from?
The first thing to do is give the extra training a try without eating anything else. Do a few sessions without eating any more calories to find out what happens. Chances are you’ll be fine throwing in some additional cardio on the “rest” day and it may just help to accelerate the fat loss process even further. Make sure you read up my article on fasted cardio if you’re planning to do your cardio during the fasting window though.
If you can still keep making progress in your weight training (i.e. keep adding strength by adding extra weight on the barbell) then you know it’s fine. Strength increases indicate that you’re eating enough, so if you keep getting stronger then you don’t need any more calories in the diet. Carry on as you are.
If you start to stall on weight training progress then you need to add some more calories into your diet. My preference for doing this with cardio exercise is by drinking a sports drink prior to a cardio workout on your “rest” days. Standard drinks like Lucozade and the like will have around 150 calories per 17 fluid oz/500mls of drink (check before you glug your personal favourite down – Gatorade has far more calories). One bottle of this should be enough to fuel you through the cardio training (or at least to top you up a little bit) and if you take it around 30 minutes before you train the additional calories should be burned off during your training.
What if this doesn’t work?
Your weight training is still the bellwether for whether you’re eating enough or not. Continually increasing strength is the best method to ensure you’re not losing muscle mass whilst on a calorie deficit. So if you start to stall more often than usual you might need to increase your calorie consumption again or look for a way to reduce your exercise requirements. Post workout is always the best time to eat more calories, so I suggest you raise your calorie intake in the immediate post workout window. Add in calories in small amounts – 200 calories at a time – and make sure you are certain that it’s the diet which is causing your stalls rather than other issues (mental fear from heavy squats, poor form, lack of sleep etc).
Do NOT use the additional cardio as an excuse to go light in the gym. Do not listen to your body – hit the gym and the weights as hard as you can. If you stall, make sure all other elements are right before you add more calories to your diet. If your goal is fat loss then every morsel you consume is another step further from your ultimate body shape.
Be sure to keep a track of your body fat percentage, ensure that you’re still losing fat on the protocols and you’ll be fine. Over-training can cause you to retain body weight (sometimes just excess water, other times through a spontaneous reduction in non-exercise activity). But mostly, get out and enjoy your sports, improve your cardiovascular performance and keep on losing the fat!
P.S. If you guys have got any other questions please feel free to send them across by email, or post them up on the Facebook page here. Of course, you can put anything relevant to this particular topic in the comment section below.