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    Myths Under The Microscope: The Low Intensity Fat Burning Zone & Fasted Cardio

    Myths Under The Microscope: The Low Intensity Fat Burning Zone & Fasted Cardio

    By Alan Aragon


    INTRODUCTION

    Why do natural bodybuilding contests for the most part look like swim meets minus the pool?

    The obvious answer is the relative absence of anabolic and androgenic drugs that enable “enhanced” athletes to hold on to considerably more muscle under prolonged metabolic stress than natural pre-contest trainees. The other part of the answer is that naturals as a group tend to undermine their efforts by copying the training and nutritional practices of their pharmacologically advantaged brethren.

    I wrote this review in the hopes of slowly but surely prying open some minds (including my own) by bringing the facts to light. Sometimes concepts can’t be sufficiently conveyed through cyber debates, where emotionally-driven flexing and posturing for the public take priority over honest, objective, and thorough examination of the evidence. I’ll take a look at the hard data, as well as the theoretical extrapolations involved with this highly misunderstood topic.

    Warning: This is gonna be lengthy, so save this reading for when you can really sit down and buckle up. I highly encourage you to tread slowly and carefully through the material. For you skimmers out there, I provided summaries of the key research points.


    THE “FAT BURNING ZONE” ON TRIAL

    Substrate Utilization 101: Origin of the myth

    Dietary variables aside, the body’s proportional use of fat for fuel during exercise is dependent upon training intensity. The lower the intensity, the greater the proportion of stored fat is used for fuel. The higher the intensity, the greater proportional use of glycogen and/or the phosphagen system. But this is where the misunderstanding begins. Common sense should make it obvious that although I’m burning a greater proportion of stored fat typing this sentence, Getting up and sprinting would have a greater impact on fat reduction despite its lesser proportional use of fat to power the increased intensity. Alas, sufficient investigation of the intensity threshold of maximal net fat oxidation has been done. In what’s perhaps the best designed trial of its kind, Achten & Jeukendrup found peak fat oxidation to occur during exercise at 63% VO2 max. This peak level got progressively less beyond that point, and was minimal at 82% VO2 max, near the lactate threshold of 87% [1].

    Misunderstanding is perpetuated in fitness circles

    It has been widely misconstrued that a greater net amount of fat is burned through lower to moderate intensity work, regardless of study duration and endpoints assessed. In addition the confusion of net fat oxidation with proportional fat oxidation, the postexercise period is critically overlooked. No distinction is ever made between during-exercise fat oxidation, recovery period fat oxidation, total fat oxidation by the end of a 24-hr period, and most importantly, a longer term of several weeks.. Thus, the superiority of lower intensity cardio continues to be touted over the more rigorous stuff that takes half the time to do. Fortunately, we have enough research data to gain a clear understanding. Let’s dig in.


    DISSECTING THE RESEARCH

    Mixed study protocols + mixed results = plenty of mixed-up bodybuilders

    As with all research involving applied physiology, the highly mixed set of results is due to a wide variation of study designs in terms subject profile, dietary manipulation, energetic balance, and actual intensities used. Nevertheless, the body of exercise-induced fat oxidation research can be easily deciphered by stratifying it into 3 subgroups: Acute effect (during exercise & immediately after), 24-hr effect, & chronic effect (results over several weeks).

    Acute effects spawn ideas for further research

    In addition to measuring fat oxidation during exercise, most acute effect trials look at fat oxidation at the 3 to 6 hr mark postexercise [2]. Fat oxidation during exercise tends to be higher in low-intensity treatments, but postexercise fat oxidation tends to be higher in high-intensity treatments. For example, Phelain’s team compared fat oxidation in at 3hrs postexercise of 75% VO2 max versus the same kcals burned at 50% [3]. Fat oxidation was insignificantly higher during exercise for the 50% group, but was significantly higher for the 75% group 3 hours postexercise. Lee’s team compared, in college males, the thermogenic and lipolytic effects of exercise pre-fueled with milk + glucose on high versus low-intensity training [4]. Predictably, pre-exercise intake of the milk/glucose solution increased excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC, aka residual thermogenesis) significantly more than the fasted control group in both cases. The high-intensity treatment had more fat oxidation during the recovery period than the low intensity treatment. This implicates pre-fueled high-intensity training’s potential role in optimizing fat reduction while simultaneously setting the stage for quicker recovery.

    24-hr effects come closer to reality

    You can call it Murphy’s Law, but the promise of greater fat oxidation seen during and in the early postexercise periods of lower intensity cardio disappears when the effects are measured over 24 hours. Melanson’s research team was perhaps the first to break the redundancy of studies that only compared effects within a few hours postexercise [5]. In a design involving an even mix of lean, healthy men & women aged 20-45, identical caloric expenditures of 40% VO2 max was compared with 70% VO2 max. Result? No difference in net fat oxidation between the low & high-intensity groups at the 24 hr mark.

    Saris & Schrauwen conducted a similar study on obese males using a high-intensity interval protocol versus a low-intensity linear one [6]. There was no difference in fat oxidation between high & low intensity treatments at 24 hrs. In addition, the high-intensity group actually maintained a lower respiratory quotient in postexercise. This means that their fat oxidation was higher than the low-intensity group the rest of the day following the training bout, thus the evening out the end results at 24 hrs.

    Chronic effects come even closer

    Long-term/Chronic effect studies are the true tests of whatever hints and clues we might get from acute studies. The results of trials carried out over several weeks have obvious validity advantages over shorter ones. They also afford the opportunity to measure changes in body composition, versus mere substrate use proximal to exercise. The common thread running through these trials is that when caloric expenditure during exercise is matched, negligible fat loss differences are seen. The fact relevant to bodybuilding is that high-intensity groups either gain or maintain LBM, whereas the low-intensity groups tend to lose lean mass, hence the high intensity groups experience less net losses in weight [7-9].

    The body of research strongly favors high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for both fat loss and lean mass gain/maintenance, even across a broad range of study populations [9-12]. A memorable example of this is work by Tremblay’s team, observing the effect of 20 weeks of HIIT versus endurance training (ET) on young adults [9]. When energy expenditure between groups was corrected, HIIT group showed a whopping 9 times the fat loss as the ET group. In the HIIT group, biopsies showed an increase of glycolytic enzymes, as well as an increase of 3-hydroxyacyl coenzyme A dehydrogenase (HADH) activity, a marker of fat oxidation. Researchers concluded that the metabolic adaptations in muscle in response to HIIT favor the process of fat oxidation. The mechanisms for these results are still under investigation, but they’re centered around residual thermic and lipolytic effects mediated by enzymatic, morphologic, and beta-adrenergic adaptations in muscle. Linear/steady state comparisons of the 2 types tends to find no difference, except for better cardiovascular fitness gains in the high-intensity groups [13].

    Summing up the research findings

    • In acute trials, fat oxidation during exercise tends to be higher in low-intensity treatments, but postexercise fat oxidation and/or energy expenditure tends to be higher in high-intensity treatments.
    • Fed subjects consistently experience a greater thermic effect postexercise in both intensity ranges.
    • In 24-hr trials, there is no difference in fat oxidation between the 2 types, pointing to a delayed rise in fat oxidation in the high-intensity groups which evens out the field.
    • In long-term studies, both linear high-intensity and HIIT training is superior to lower intensities on the whole for maintaining and/or increasing cardiovascular fitness & lean mass, and are at least as effective, and according to some research, far better at reducing bodyfat.
    Last edited by alan aragon; 08-16-2007 at 11:54 AM.
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    FALSE HOPES FOR FASTED CARDIO

    The bandwagon is lead by blind horses

    Many trainees pigeonhole weight training as an activity exclusively for building muscle, and cardio exclusively for burning fat. On the contrary, weight training can yield very similar results to cardio of similar intensity when 24-hr energy expenditure and macronutrient oxidation is measured [14]. The obvious advantage of weight training is the higher potential for lean mass and strength gains. In the bodybuilding context, cardio should be viewed as merely an adjunctive training mode to further energy expenditure and cross-complement the adaptations specific to weight training. As far as cardio being absolutely necessary for cardiovascular health, well, that depends upon the overall volume and magnitude of your weight training - another topic for another time.

    Chaos theory strikes again

    On the surface, it seems logical to separate carbs from cardio if you want a maximal degree of fat oxidation to occur during training. But, there’s the underlying mistake - focusing on stored fuel usage during training instead of focusing on optimally partitioning exogenous fuel for maximal lipolytic effect around the clock. Put another way, it’s a better objective to coincide your carb intake with your day’s thermic peaks, where insulin sensitivity & lean tissue reception to carbs is highest. For some reason, this logic is not easily accepted, nor understood. As we know, human physiology doesn’t always cooperate with logic or popular opinion, so let’s scrutinize the science behind the claims.


    LET THE RESEARCH SPEAK

    Carbohydrate ingestion during low-intensity exercise reduces fat oxidation

    As far as 3 decades back, Ahlborg’s team observed that carb ingestion during low-intensity exercise (25-45% VO2 max) reduced fat oxidation compared to fasted levels [15]. More recently, De Glisezinski’s team observed similar results in trained men at 50% VO2 max [16]. Efforts to determine the mechanism behind this phenomenon have been made. Coyle’s team observed that at 50% VO2 max, carbohydrate availability can directly regulate fat oxidation by coordinating hyperinsulinemia to inhibit long-chain fatty acid transport into mitochondria [17].

    Carbohydrate’s effect on fat oxidation during moderate-intensity exercise depends on conditioning level

    Civitarese’s team found glucose ingestion during exercise to blunt lipolysis via decreasing the gene expression involved in fat oxidation in untrained men [18]. Wallis’ team saw suppressed fat oxidation in moderately trained men & women when glucose was ingested during exercise [19].

    In contrast to the above trials on beginning and intermediate trainees, Coyle’s team repeatedly showed that carb ingestion during moderate-intensity (65-75% VO2 max) does not reduce fat oxidation during the first 120 min of exercise in trained men [20,21]. Interestingly, the intensity margin proximal to where fat oxidation is highest was unaffected by carb ingestion, and remained so for the first 2 hours of exercise.

    Horowitz’ team examined the effect of a during-training solution of high-glycemic carbs on moderately trained men undergoing either low intensity exercise (25% VO2 max) or high-moderate intensity (68% VO2 max) [22]. Similar results to Coyle’s work were seen. Subjects completed a 2-hr cycling bout, and ingested the carb solution at 30, 60, and 90 minutes in. In the low-intensity treatment, fat oxidation was not reduced below fasted-state control group’s levels until 80-90 min of exercise. In the 68% group, no difference in fat oxidation was seen whether subjects were fasted or fed throughout the trial.

    Further supporting the evidence in favor of fed cardio in trained men, Febbraio’s team investigated the effects of carb ingestion pre & during training in easily one of the best-designed trials on this topic [23]. Subjects exercised for 2 hrs at an intensity level of 63% VO2 max, which is now known as the point of maximal fat oxidation during exercise [1]. Result? Pre & during-training carbs increased performance - and there was no difference in total fat oxidation between the fasted and fed subjects. Despite the elevated insulin levels in the carb-fueled groups, there was no difference in fat availability or fat utilization.

    Summing up the research findings

    • At low intensities (25-50% VO2 max), carbs during exercise reduce fat oxidation compared to fasted trainees.
    • At moderate intensities (63-68% VO2 max) carbs during exercise may reduce fat oxidation in untrained subjects, but do not reduce fat oxidation in trained subjects for at least the first 80-120 minutes of exercise.
    • Carbohydrate during exercise spares liver glycogen, which is among the most critical factors for anticatabolism during hypocaloric & other conditions of metabolic stress. This protective hepatic effect is absent in fasted cardio.
    • At the established intensity level of peak fat oxidation (~63% VO2 max), carbohydrate increases performance without any suppression of fat oxidation in trained subjects.
    Last edited by alan aragon; 04-01-2006 at 09:46 AM.
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    DISCUSSION & ATERTHOUGHTS

    Not an "Either-Or" Issue

    The current facts have been presented in parts 1 & 2, and the bases for conclusion should be self-evident. Let me clarify that HIIT and linear high-intensity cardio are not the best and only ways to go. Many folks have perfectly legitimate orthopedic, cardiac, and even psychological reasons to avoid them. Not only that, I sincerely believe that both low and high-intensity cardio have unique benefits unto themselves. Optimally, both types should be done, since each has specifically different effects. Saying that one is bottom-line superior to the other for improvement in body composition is as false as blanketly saying 5 reps per set is superior to 15. On the contrary, there is well-established benefit in periodizing training variables, including intensity of cardio.

    Too Much of the Same?

    I've heard it mentioned that high-intensity cardio shouldn’t be done concurrently with high-intensity weight training due to excessive stress on the central nervous system. Perfect excuse. My primary response is, there's no solid proof of that danger. Certainly there's no evidence of it in my observations as a professional in the field, working with bodybuilders, and all types of other competitive athletes such as gymnasts, sprinters, boxers, etc (you know, athletes whose incredible physiques have nothing to do with weights + high intensity cardio). It's true that some folks regard a precociously low carb intake as a legit reason to keep intensity low. However, if your nutritional program doesn't adequately support productive training, then you've designed it ass-backwards, painting yourself into a corner of compromised adaptation.

    The Options

    Options can be broken down in the following ways: If you're pressed for time, and you can do HIIT without any delayed onset muscle soreness overlap (by virtue of doing a low frequency of HIIT), and you can tolerate it joint-wise & heart-wise, and you hate spending time doing cardio to begin with, then do HIIT. On the other hand, if you have the time to allot for low-intensity steady state (LISS), and you do a particularly high volume & magnitude of resistance training which raises potential recovery conflicts posed by a high frequency of HIIT, then do LISS. If you're somewhere in between the aforementioned 2 camps and you don't have a specific preference or tolerance limit, do both types on either a cyclical, rotational, or even combined basis. Also, it can't be overstated that unless you undergo a very gradual progression towards the the musculoskeletal tolerance for something like sprinting, you can get hurt pretty bad & there goes your productive training for several weeks.

    Fasted = Suboptimal

    Fasted cardio is not optimal for reasons spanning beyond its questionable track record in research. There’s unavoidable positive metabolic synergy in fed (read: properly fueled) training, regardless of sport. This effect increases with intensity of training; even in untrained subjects, whatever fat oxidation is suppressed during training is compensated for in the recovery period by multiple mechanisms, many of which are not yet identified.

    Athletes are known for their gravitation towards self-sacrifice, but some rely on hearsay, while others rely on science. Did you know that way back in the 60's, it wasn’t uncommon for coaches to tell athletes in various sports to avoid drinking water before and during training? No comment needed. Good thing researchers questioned it, and enough data surfaced to validate claims of the skeptics. Sometimes counterproductive dogma indeed dies, thank goodness. However, the myths addressed here are admittedly more subtle than the water example. Even on suboptimal protocols, athletes all over the world still inch along, although not at optimal rates, and not necessarily to optimal levels.

    So...

    I see the bottom line like this.. Do the type you have a personal preference for, and also respect your physical limits. HIIT is quicker but riskier. LISS is safer but takes twice as long to accomplish the same thing. Again, do what you prefer & can tolerate, but do NOT make the mistake of assuming that LISS burns more fat. That's misunderstanding the physiology of the matter.

    I'll end off by challenging you to diligently review the facts before blindly latching onto the myths.



    REFERENCES

    1. Achten J, Jeukendrup AE. Relation between plasma lactate concentration and fat oxidation rates over a wide range of exercise intensities. Int J Sports Med. 2004 Jan;25(1):32-7.
    2. Thompson DL, et al. Substrate use during and following moderate- and low-intensity exercise: implications for weight control. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1998 Jun;78(1):43-9.
    3. Phelain JF, et al. Postexercise energy expenditure and substrate oxidation in young women resulting from exercise bouts of different intensity.J Am Coll Nutr. 1997 Apr;16(2):140-6.
    4. Lee YS. Et al. The effects of various intensities and durations of exercise with and without glucose in milk ingestion on postexercise oxygen consumption. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1999 Dec;39(4):341-7.
    5. Melanson EL, et al. Effect of exercise intensity on 24-h energy expenditure and nutrient oxidation. J Appl Physiol. 2002 Mar;92(3):1045-52.
    6. Saris WH, Schrauwen P. Substrate oxidation differences between high- and low-intensity exercise are compensated over 24 hours in obese men.
    7. Grediagin A, et al. Exercise intensity does not effect body composition change in untrained, moderately overfat women. J Am Diet Assoc. 1995 Jun;95(6):661-5.
    8. Mougios V, et al. Does the intensity of an exercise programme modulate body composition changes? Int J Sports Med. 2006 Mar;27(3):178-81.
    9. Okura T, et al. Effects of exercise intensity on physical fitness and risk factors for coronary heart disease. Obes Res. 2003 Sep;11(9):1131-9.
    10. Tremblay, et al. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism. 1994 Jul;43(7):814-8.
    11. Yoshioka M, et al. Impact of high-intensity exercise on energy expenditure, lipid oxidation and body fatness. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001 Mar;25(3):332-9.
    12. Broeder CE, et al. The effects of either high-intensity resistance or endurance training on resting metabolic rate. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992 Apr;55(4):802-10.
    13. Gutin B, et al. Effects of exercise intensity on cardiovascular fitness, total body composition, and visceral adiposity of obese adolescents. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 May;75(5):818-26.
    14. Melanson EL, et al. Resistance and aerobic exercise have similar effects on 24-h nutrient oxidation.. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Nov;34(11):1793-800.
    15. Ahlborg, G., and P. Felig. Influence of glucose ingestion on fuel-hormone response during prolonged exercise. J. Appl. Physiol. 1976;41:683-688.
    16. De Glisezinski I, et al. Effect of carbohydrate ingestion on adipose tissue lipolysis during long-lasting exercise in trained men. J Appl Physiol. 1998 May;84(5):1627-32.
    17. Coyle EF, et al. Fatty acid oxidation is directly regulated by carbohydrate metabolism during exercise. Am J Physiol. 1997 Aug;273(2 Pt 1):E268-75.
    18. Civitarese AE, et al. Glucose ingestion during exercise blunts exercise-induced gene expression of skeletal muscle fat oxidative genes. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Dec;289(6):E1023-9.
    19. Wallis GA, et al. Metabolic response to carbohydrate ingestion during exercise in males and females. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Apr;290(4):E708-15.
    20. Coyle, et al. Muscle glycogen utilization during prolonged strenuous exercise when fed carbohydrate. J. Appl. Physiol. 1986;6:165-172.
    21. Coyle, et al.. Carbohydrates during prolonged strenuous exercise can delay fatigue. J. Appl. Physiol. 59: 429-433, 1983.
    22. Horowitz JF, et al. Substrate metabolism when subjects are fed carbohydrate during exercise. Am J Physiol. 1999 May;276(5 Pt 1):E828-35.
    23. Febbraio MA, et al. Effects of carbohydrate ingestion before and during exercise on glucose kinetics and exercise performance. J Appl Physiol. 2000 Dec;89(6):2220-6.
    Last edited by alan aragon; 03-11-2008 at 09:02 PM.
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    Excellent articles
    I don't know either lol
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    Originally Posted by W8isGR8
    Excellent articles
    Thanks man.. I must admit SOMEONE had to inspire me to get off of my ass & write this novella

    Good luck with prep, by the way.
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    Originally Posted by alan aragon
    Thanks man.. I must admit SOMEONE had to inspire me to get off of my ass & write this novella

    Good luck with prep, by the way.
    I think it lacked enough info on the nutrient partitioning aspects of high intensity cardio, as that's one of the best benifits. You touched on it slightly, but I think it deserves more attention.
    I don't know either lol
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    A great read!
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    More specifically, the usefulness of higher intensity work during a bulk, as a way to ensure those extra calories are being used for what you want, while keeping the fat away. I think the biggest problem is that most people refuse to do any extra work during a bulk, which is just setting themselves up for extra unwanted weight gain.
    I don't know either lol
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    great read
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    Thanks all.
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    Excellent article, AA!

    Most def a worthwhile read.

    Do I hear sticky?

    Have a good weekend
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    Originally Posted by mivi320
    Excellent article, AA!

    Most def a worthwhile read.

    Do I hear sticky?

    Have a good weekend
    Agreed, and I think w8's cardio thread should be a sticky as well.

    Excellent article and very well written, thanks Alan.
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    Originally Posted by W8isGR8
    More specifically, the usefulness of higher intensity work during a bulk, as a way to ensure those extra calories are being used for what you want, while keeping the fat away. I think the biggest problem is that most people refuse to do any extra work during a bulk, which is just setting themselves up for extra unwanted weight gain.

    huge 2nd. i would definetly be interested in knowing more about this. if anyone has any info PM me.


    right now i have just been doing low-med intensity cardio 2-3 hours after meals for 20-30 minutes. seems to be working, but im all for doing the best possible thing.
    - Uli
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    Great read. Thanks for the post.
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    Excellent article. Very informative
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    Alan: aside from the well written aspect of your article ( and at 1800 posts here, I wonder why I don't recognize your name?), you have touched upon something that I have harped on here from time to time, and in arguments with other people....

    regarding cardio, or even exercise in general, I always would speak of the after effects, not necessarily what is actually happening at the time of the exercise, and your research shows that.....

    that there is a long term fat burning effect long after doing these things....

    I have had countless arguments with cardio-nuts about their obscession with reaching and maintaining a certain heart rate and all that, and I have tried to explain that if you do a cardio type movment, that it is not necessarily all that important exactly what heart rate you achieve and maintain, but that the fat burning effects will last for a great time AFTER the event, as you have pointed out.....

    I have also always stressed relatively short rest periods in workouts, and tell people how my workouts reach a crescendo so to speak, and that you should be at a breathless state at the end of your workout. Again, besides the muscle building effects, the fat burning effect is more long term than during the actual workout.

    Also: the reason that contestants look like swimmers in Natural contests is because they greatly favor extreme definition: and extreme definition, when you are not on enhancing drugs, will most likely result in the look you are talking about......just comes with the territory....

    the only solution to that, would be to relax the standards, and return to yesteryear, along with posing trunks that look a little bit more masculine that these thongs of today which must emphasize such things as the glutes, of which I couldn't give the foggiest, but has been given a ridiculous priority....

    I don't think that will come, and I think natural contests will continue to exhibit the bodies that you see now.....

    if all of these bogus supplements did what they advertise, then, we might see totally natural atheletes with a different look or more approximate the other contests, but of course, 90 percent of them are phony and do nothing......

    do you write for the magazines??
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    Originally Posted by JOHN GARGANI
    Alan: aside from the well written aspect of your article ( and at 1800 posts here, I wonder why I don't recognize your name?), you have touched upon something that I have harped on here from time to time, and in arguments with other people....

    regarding cardio, or even exercise in general, I always would speak of the after effects, not necessarily what is actually happening at the time of the exercise, and your research shows that.....

    that there is a long term fat burning effect long after doing these things....

    I have had countless arguments with cardio-nuts about their obscession with reaching and maintaining a certain heart rate and all that, and I have tried to explain that if you do a cardio type movment, that it is not necessarily all that important exactly what heart rate you achieve and maintain, but that the fat burning effects will last for a great time AFTER the event, as you have pointed out.....

    I have also always stressed relatively short rest periods in workouts, and tell people how my workouts reach a crescendo so to speak, and that you should be at a breathless state at the end of your workout. Again, besides the muscle building effects, the fat burning effect is more long term than during the actual workout.

    Also: the reason that contestants look like swimmers in Natural contests is because they greatly favor extreme definition: and extreme definition, when you are not on enhancing drugs, will most likely result in the look you are talking about......just comes with the territory....

    the only solution to that, would be to relax the standards, and return to yesteryear, along with posing trunks that look a little bit more masculine that these thongs of today which must emphasize such things as the glutes, of which I couldn't give the foggiest, but has been given a ridiculous priority....

    I don't think that will come, and I think natural contests will continue to exhibit the bodies that you see now.....

    if all of these bogus supplements did what they advertise, then, we might see totally natural atheletes with a different look or more approximate the other contests, but of course, 90 percent of them are phony and do nothing......

    do you write for the magazines??
    I gotta agree here. I think the judging in natural shows is a little ridiculous. I went to see my first show last year and it was more like a "who has the lowest bf% contest" not a "bodybuilding" contest. I was disgusted at some of the calls that the judges made. There were some guys that were much, much bigger, but had maybe 4-5% bf and placed lower than some skinny dude with like 3%bf. IMO, those bigger guys looked much better, but had just a llittle too much fat I guess. I was a little dissapointed with that.
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    Question Question regarding the start of a cut cycle.

    I always notice whenever people start cutting (myself include) they immediately cut cals to 200-500 less than maintenance, introduce cardio exercise and tweak their macro-nutrient percentages.

    My question is, if someone is successfully bulking at say 4000 cals and now wants to shed some fat, shouldn't they look at increasing exercise activity (quantity) and intensity first before messing with their diet.

    Example: A guy has been bulking for 6 months doing a 3 day split, no cardio and has reached bulk cals of around 4000. He likes what he sees regarding muscle mass but now wants some definition.

    Possible Solution: Keep cals the same, increase weight training to 4-5 days per week, add 2-3 cardio sessions per week mixing up high and low intensity methods.

    IMO this method should produce fat burning without the sacrifice of lean mass at least for the introductory stage of the cut.

    Opinions?
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    Thumbs up

    Originally Posted by alan aragon
    Myths Under The Microscope: The Low Intensity Fat Burning Zone & Fasted Cardio
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    Originally Posted by akaMarko
    I always notice whenever people start cutting (myself include) they immediately cut cals to 200-500 less than maintenance, introduce cardio exercise and tweak their macro-nutrient percentages.

    My question is, if someone is successfully bulking at say 4000 cals and now wants to shed some fat, shouldn't they look at increasing exercise activity (quantity) and intensity first before messing with their diet.

    Example: A guy has been bulking for 6 months doing a 3 day split, no cardio and has reached bulk cals of around 4000. He likes what he sees regarding muscle mass but now wants some definition.

    Possible Solution: Keep cals the same, increase weight training to 4-5 days per week, add 2-3 cardio sessions per week mixing up high and low intensity methods.

    IMO this method should produce fat burning without the sacrifice of lean mass at least for the introductory stage of the cut.

    Opinions?
    Yes, calorie deficiet induced by exercise will always yeild better results than from diet.
    I don't know either lol
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    Alan, I really appreciated the articles, good stuff. I also want to comment on something you mentioned in the discussion that I think is sometimes overlooked....periodization, 'mixing it up', should be a mainstay with the weights and with cardio. There is often discussion as to which is better as far as cardio is concerned, I think you hit the nail on the head, if we can periodize when it comes to lifting, there's no reason we can't periodize cardio....
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    theres only one problem i have with the above post... HIIT is a high cns event since its basically speed andurance.... and if your doing that on your OFF days you might burn out your cns and hamper your strength gains... although that may not be a big issue for a bb.
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    Alan, I think they're excellent articles and I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to give advice.

    Some questions though - What type of weight training/cardio program are you following throughout the year? Do you do bulking/cutting cycles and if so, what type of cardio do you for each? I know you preach a lot but it would be good to hear what you do.

    Secondly, it seems that a lot of your information is from science and studies. But what about real world data? I can't help it but I have to keep bringing up the "big dogs" like iron addict and doggcrapp and all those guys that prescribe and do fasted cardio, and (not quoting here, from what I remember reading) say that walking is great for fat-loss. It's also what they tell their clients to do. (I know they also do GPP work too like sled pulling, but the majority claim that high intensity cardio burns muscle). The debate is that low intensity is glycogen-sparing and that's something you want while dieting (especially a low-carb diet). I know that when I did HIIT, I could only do it 2-3 times a week, whereas walking I can do that twice a day, 7 days a week - so I don't know about you saying there's no CNS fatigue (either that or I was just not in shape LOL). So I guess it's more about what type of cardio can you do the most to get the most overall EE right?

    I'm not arguing with you I'm just trying to gather as much info as possible and it's hard to decide who's right when both sides is filled with such knowledgable guys who are all big, strong, and lean. I know that I'm going to be adding lots of GPP work and high intensity cardio to my routine once I get off this low-carb diet and go back on a balanced maintenance diet because walking is getting boring - but I've seen good results.

    Thanks for your time I would really appreciate your feedback.
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    Originally Posted by akaMarko
    I always notice whenever people start cutting (myself include) they immediately cut cals to 200-500 less than maintenance, introduce cardio exercise and tweak their macro-nutrient percentages.

    My question is, if someone is successfully bulking at say 4000 cals and now wants to shed some fat, shouldn't they look at increasing exercise activity (quantity) and intensity first before messing with their diet.

    Example: A guy has been bulking for 6 months doing a 3 day split, no cardio and has reached bulk cals of around 4000. He likes what he sees regarding muscle mass but now wants some definition.

    Possible Solution: Keep cals the same, increase weight training to 4-5 days per week, add 2-3 cardio sessions per week mixing up high and low intensity methods.

    IMO this method should produce fat burning without the sacrifice of lean mass at least for the introductory stage of the cut.

    Opinions?

    Marko:, I like your logic, and you are on the right track: the key is finding the right BALANCE!!! doing it with extreme diet alone is no good, but on the same way of thinking, over-doing the exercising can also be bad.....

    so we have to strike a balance when we are cutting, and the only answer is in experience.......
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    bump. more people need to read this
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    No more replies? I figured this would be a 10-page thread by now ..
    I've still got a lot to learn.
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    Originally Posted by Khryz
    (I know they also do GPP work too like sled pulling, but the majority claim that high intensity cardio burns muscle).
    High intensity burns muscle?
    Huh?
    I could see it as building muscle more than burning it.
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    I've read this thread and I have found it very valuable. I didn't post any replies because I don't really have anything to contribute. But it is a great thread and definitely should not be judged solely on the number of replies.

    BTW, I'm taking the high intensity approach at cutting this year, and so far so good. When I was in high school I always had excellent results when combining sprinting (100m, 200m, 400m) with weight training in terms of having very low body fat and good muscularity, and I don't expect anything to be different this time around. So far the results have been spectacular.
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    So, in the end...its "Eats your healthy carbs, and do high intesnity cardio for 45 miutes or do 15 minute HIIT" right?
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    Originally Posted by Khryz
    Secondly, it seems that a lot of your information is from science and studies. But what about real world data? I can't help it but I have to keep bringing up the "big dogs" like iron addict and doggcrapp and all those guys that prescribe and do fasted cardio, and (not quoting here, from what I remember reading) say that walking is great for fat-loss. It's also what they tell their clients to do.
    Exactly! We can compare scientific studies all we want, but all that really matters is real world results! I for one am getting sick and tired of all these debates... low intensity versus high intensity, blah, blah, blah. This is the internet people. For every article despousing a certain method, ten can be found supporting it. The most important thing is to get off your ass and do something... anything is better than nothing, and see what works for you. IA and DC are guys that know what they're talking about, and have real world results to show for it. If their advice works for you Khryz then I would follow it, and not concern myself with a method that may burn .00000000023% more fat than moderate intensity fasted state cardio... and even that is extremely debatable.

    -AkaMarko- I've said it before, and I'll say it again. If you're following a clean diet and gaining muscle mass with only a little fat accumulation, and then decide to cut, why on earth would you want to adjust your diet? Add in some cardio (fasted state moderate intensity or high intensity interval training... I could give a **** less), and that will allow you to continue building muscle while you carve away at your fat stores.

    I'm also sick of the "regulars" flip flopping on a daily basis. Nothing wrong with learning new and better ways of doing things... I'm not saying that. But don't start threads, or heatedly defend positions, if you're just going to change perspectives overnight. End of rant.

    And before I get any smart ass replies about not being able to comprehend all this "science" crap... I'm a reasonably intelligent person... smarter than some, not as smart as others, it just bothers me that alot of people are getting hung up on these threads lately thinking, "I thought I was supposed to do this, but now you're telling me to do that". Do what works for you... experiment a little... and f*ck the science behind it. If it's working for you, keep at it.

    Flame away
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