A disclaimer to begin: I absolutely detest running (with the exception of sprints). I see it as a collossal waste of time as I believe there are better ways to increase aerobic capacity. I'll try not to let my personal bias affect my presentation of the facts. With that in mind, let us continue.
Since your even here in the first place, I'll assume you're looking to put some mass? If not, I guess you must just like the wit and charm displayed in my writing. However for the purpose of this installment we'll get straight to the facts. Then we'll look at what this pasttime has done to those praying to the hypertrophy gods.
FACT: Strength Training>Cardio for improved body composition
For those who just want the high-level points let me give you an overview of the study. The setup included 3 groups of obese individuals aged 19-48 that were assigned either a strength-training template with restrictive diet, an aerobic training template with restrictive diet, or simply a restrictive diet to be used as the control group.
The strength training template was a progressive-loading program using Nautilus resistance equipment to train 8 major muscle groups in the upper and lower body (quads, hamstrings, lats, pecs, shoulder, biceps, triceps, and glutes). Participants performed 3 sets of each movement with 30 second rest. The first two sets consisted of 6 repititions, the last was completed to failure. If the subject performed more than 8 reps on the final set the resistance was increased during the next training session. The aerobic template consisted of 8 minutes of lower body erg cycling, and 8 min of upper body arm cycling. The template was designed to utilize 55% of the subjects initial VO2 capacity and hold heart rate at 70% of their maximum.
The diet was liquid-based, designed to give the subjects what was calculated to be 55% of their daily energy expenditure. Macronutrients were as follows:
- 70g protein
- 32.5g carbohydrate (in the form of fructose and corn syrup)
- 10g fat (soybean oil)
*For the love of God never emulate this diet.
The results? There was not a significant difference in the amount of weight lost between the three groups. The mean weight lost was 9.2% of initial body weight. However, the strength training cohort showed increased muscle mass in their arms (the study's measurement of muscle gain), and a significant increase in grip strength. So just to be clear, the strength cohort lost weight yet increased strength. Guess what happens when we decrease weight and increase muscle mass? Decreased bodyfat that's what.
The results speak for themselves. Despite the horrendous diet plan the subjects were forced to choke down, those in the strength-training group still gained muscle from what I would argue is subpar programming. Imagine the results had the participants followed Clean Muscle foods and incorporated heavy barbell training in their exercise? Now the aerobic group did show a significant increase in VO2 max. Yet is the increased aerobic capacity necessarily desired if it's to the detriment of body composition? You be the judge.
Also consider the fact that if we are trying to gain muscle, we need to be consuming sufficient calories. This becomes extremely difficult when you're burning calories for exercise that should be used for recovery.
The final nail in the coffin comes when we consider the fact that most of the cardio warriors out there don't factor in their basal metabolic rate or BMR into the equation when looking at their calories burned during exercise. For those who don't know, your BMR is the amount of calories your body burns by simply maintaining metabolic function. It's what you would burn sitting in bed all day in layman's terms.
So you jump on the treadmill, run for a solid 20 min and congratulations! You feel like a rockstar for your 200 calories burned according to the super-accurate calculator that factors in only your bodyweight. What a great system. Even if this were an accurate calculation, we must factor in the individuals BMR into the equation. In other words, that 200 calories isn't only the product of your running, some of that is simply your body regulating itself. So you've put yourself through 20 minutes of pain and agony for a significantly lesser calorie total than you first thought. Listen up, here's an easier way to burn the 200 calories: don't consume them in the first place. Put down the oreo, forget the cardio, and kick your feet up for some How I Met Your Mother reruns on Lifetime.
I've got another article coming here on what I think's going on up there to cause you to put yourselves through the agony that is steady-state cardio. A word of caution, if you don't like being called on your insecurities, you may wish to skip this one. Yet it's for your own well-being. I only wish to help.