THE CARDIO CONUNDRUM
Are you worried that cardio will inhibit your capacity to build muscle?
Concurrent training (CT) is the inclusion of both cardio and resistance (aerobic/anaerobic) training in your workout routine. CT seems to raise concerns that one cannot simultaneously improve in both modalities. If you haven't guessed this already, the answer is: it depends.
WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS
It is possible that cardiovascular training can negatively impact your ability to build muscle. This is called the interference effect and it occurs when your body's signal to build muscle is blocked as a result of the signals produced from aerobic training.
However, it is also possible that cardiovascular training can enhance your ability to build muscle. Another possibility is that cardiovascular training has no impact on muscle building at all.
So, what gives?
It's important to remember that research is often performed with an end goal of generalizability. This means that, in a perfectly researched world, findings are applicable to a broader population or scenario. In this case, the evidence provides us with mixed results so we will need to assess individual factors before determining applicability of the studies.
5 FACTORS TO TRAINING SMART
When looking at CT from an individual standpoint, there are five factors that need to be taken into consideration:
- High impact cardio such as our Accelerate class or running is likely to cause more damage to the muscle fibers than lower impact types of cardio such as cycling. Muscle fibers are also damaged as a result of resistance training, so it's important to ensure you are allowing your body adequate time to recover when incorporating high intensity styles of cardio.
- This one seems like a no brainer, but it's still important to highlight. The longer your training times are, regardless of the training type, the more your body will fatigue. The more fatigue you experience when training, the greater your injury risk. More recovery time is also needed when training to greater levels of fatigue.
- Similar to type and duration, the higher the intensity of the cardio you are performing, the more muscle fiber damage you will experience as well as fatigue.
- We've all asked the question: "Should I do cardio before or after lifting?" Here it's important to remember to prioritize the training modality that aligns best with your overall training goals. If strength is more important to you overall, then lifting should be the first thing on your agenda.
- If your diet is inadequate, whether from an energy (calories) or nutrient (vitamins and minerals) standpoint, then both your cardio and strength training will suffer. The intereference effect will also become enhanced if your body is lacking the short term fuel (pre- and post-workout food) it needs for training.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PRIORITIZING STRENGTH
If strength and/or muscle-building are the overall desired training outcomes, here are five general recommendations to follow to reduce the intereference effect and optimize your results:
- Cardio training should consist mostly of low impact types
- Cardio training sessions should be shorter in duration
- Implement high intensity cardio sparingly
- Allow as much time between cardio and strength training sessions as possible. If you have to do them together, perform your strength training first.
- Understand your nutritional needs from both an adequacy and timing standpoint
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