New Year's Body by Jean Jitomir PHd (c)
I've tried the six meal a day thing, after my old trainer Don Lemmon (rip) advised me toward a diet plan that actually increased calories each week. He also was very against cardio, believing in only doing HIIT training for 12 minutes twice per week and an Arthur Jones styled 1 set to failure/ten exercises workout regimen. I found on the type of training/eating plan I got bigger, more muscular, but not cut at all.
I really want to get back down to a lean kind of brad pitt ripped fight club body, not too muscular, more sinewy. I looked that about four years ago, but am having trouble losing weight now. Would you say that doing 1-2 hours of cardio per day would help me achieve that faster? Of course I can keep my diet really clean and continue to lift four times per week.
Do you increase your cardio greatly in your pre-contest phase? There are so many conflicting arguments.
I would really value hearing from someone like you who has the science as well as the training background.
Okay, lots of questions here; they are good ones though! As far as I can see there are three main issues to cover: Diet style, cardio, and resistance training regimen; I will give a quick overview of each below.
1. Diet style
I was reading Posedown magazine and I noticed a brilliant quote about diet by Lance Johnson, an amateur bodybuilder:
"Cut down on eating the crap, and you'll be well on your way to better health, increased energy, and a leaner body."
Alternatively my abbreviated version:
"Cut down on eating... and you'll be well on your way to...a leaner body"
In combination, these two principles are gold. Eat no crap; eat a little less of your "clean" food. That said overdieting can bring your metabolism to its knees. I have done this to myself repeatedly. I measured my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) in the lab the other day (over-feeding for about four months) and I burn 1350/Calories, which is only a little low for someone my size. However, after quickly and dramatically cutting my calories too fast last year, I dropped down to about 800 Calories/day, which is dangerous and unhealthy. In combination with that drop in heart will come a much slower heart rate (mine went down by about 12 beats/min rest), you'll stop sweating, etc. It's a severe state and you need serious caloric deprivation to do this; it is also completely counter-productive to your goals.
On the other hand, it may be smart to cut your Calories by about 300-500/day below a maintenance level to start and then mix in a week every three to four weeks that is a "normal" Calorie level; this means eating more quality food! This is not a lame justification for daily DQ and wings.
Many highly educated people loathe cardio; they think it is the antithesis to building an ideal physique. I was similarly convinced last year by one of my professors. The reason this idea prevails is because simultaneously adapting to endurance training and trying to build absolute MAXIMAL strength and size are contradictory. However, there are numerous examples of athletes who seem to require strength, cardiovascular endurance and leanness well: certain football positions, basketball, swimmers, and many others.
My point is this: if you are exclusively a competitive powerlifter or a trying to build absolute maximal muscle mass before dieting, you may want to seriously limit cardio. Alternatively, if leanness and weight-loss is your goal, cardio definitely needs to be in the plan and in a greater amount than 24 minutes per week. The level of caloric deprivation you'll endure to get lean without cardio may be so catabolic that it cancels out any muscle-building benefit of excluding it.
On the other hand, daily, marathon sessions of cardio are a total waste of time, unless you are training for a marathon, ofcourse. Hi intensity intervals are definitely the way to go for a lean look. At least 2-3 days a week should include some kind of unpleasant interval workout that lasts 30-40 minutes--do not do this on the same day as legs. On the non-interval days, do about 30-45 minutes of moderate intensity cardio. If your workouts are productive enough, this should be enough to see results. If you are competing, you may need to step it up a little more.
3. Resistance Training
Volume is so important, and it's simply not there in ten sets. Today I did just under 40 sets in 55 minutes; 12-15 reps; moderately heavy weight; to failure; minimal rest--that's INTENSITY! Though it's not a good level for a beginner; it's should be built up to that level for noticeable muscularity and leanness. It's also not a good idea to train that way every day. Also, do not do exclusively lighter lifting on a diet; you will loose your size and the muscular adaptations that helped you to gain the muscle in the first place.
Dr. William Kraemer of U Conn, who is a muscle physiology expert and works with several professional teams, recommends of a training plan of "undulating per iodization" Essentially, this means that you follow a program that incorporates heavy days with low reps, moderate days with moderate of reps, circuit or supersetting type days (that was today for me) and also power/plyometric days. In this way, you are kind-of getting the best of all worlds and stimulating your muscles with something new every time you lift!
So for Alex above, if he eats a little less clean food, changes his training to include more productive cardio, and ramps up the intensity of his training, in time he can realistically regain his leaner physique with consistent implementation of the plan
About the Author...
Jean Jitomir is a registered dietitian, Master of Science in Nutrition and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Exercise Nutrition at Baylor University. She has experience as a private dietitian and cooking instructor. Jean has competed in figure at the national level and is qualified for national level competition as a light weight bodybuilder.