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This post is part of a series of articles about the famous bodybuilding cutting phase and how it can help “normal” people in their weight loss plan. Here is the first part, nutrition when cutting, and the second about exercising to cut fat, not muscle.
Seriously, No Cardio At All?
Here is where I disagree with most people about exercising during a cutting phase: the common advice is to avoid long aerobic sessions because it would shrink your muscle mass.
Some sites even recommend NO cardio at all! For me it makes no sense. I know that most bodybuilders hate cardio but this is not a reason to tell people to avoid it. Think about it in a reasonable way: why should you exclude cardiovascular exercises that have evident benefits for your health just because some people tell you that “catabolic is bad” and “anabolic is good”? In their mind, catabolic exercises result inevitably in muscle loss and anabolic sessions are the best way to grow muscle fast. OK, but not the ONLY way to build muscle or to preserve it: what about these athletes who train cardio during years? Don’t they have enough muscles? 😉 They often have amazing physiques with lean, dense muscles built over years that will also last for years by minimal exercising – Time does not respect what is done without him.
Am I a bit overreacting?
Maybe 😉 I just have the feeling that a lot of information found in fitness sites might be misleading for overweight people. When I read that cardiovascular exercise is just a waste of time, sorry… Words are important and all people interested in weight loss are not athletes or even highly trained people, so please no generalization when comparing the respective weight loss results of HIIT compared to steady-state cardio training, especially for people with a BMI over 30!
Cardio Training Health Benefits
- Your heart is a muscle, if you get it pumping at a higher rate with regular cardiovascular exercise it will become stronger: every beat will pump more blood, your resting heart rate and blood pressure will decrease and consequently you will significantly reduce the risk of heart diseases.
- If you run regularly, you will increased your muscle strength and endurance, your joint flexibility and bone density and thus reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels will decrease progressively.
- Cardio training will also reduce stress, anxiety or depression and will have a positive effect on your sleep.
Losing That Stubborn Fat
Now more specifically about weight loss benefits: if you exercise in the aerobic mode, let’s say 30 percent below your anaerobic threshold, you will lose fat inevitably. Aerobic training increases the number of capillaries in your muscles and in your fat tissues. This is very important: capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in your body, transport nutrients and wastes in both ways to your tissues. The more capillaries you have, the more oxygen will be served to your muscle and fat tissues. From several medical studies we know that aerobic exercise has two major benefits:
- it will improve your capillary density by the growth of new capillaries 
- it will also improve the effectiveness of the existing capillaries, regardless of density .
The end result is that your muscles will become more efficient at using fat during exercise and even at rest. Plus something that will ring a bell for most you: stubborn fat anyone? Developing new blood vessels in your fat tissues is a mandatory condition to burn this stubborn fat in these desert areas 😉
Cardio training will also help your hormonal balance by stimulating epinephrine, norepinephrine, insulin which all play a role in fat burn but also cortisol and endorphins, the feel-good hormones.
In a Nutshell
When you are in a cutting phase, you do your best efforts to lose fat, so why should you ignore cardio that will burn fat and especially this stubborn fat that is so hard to mobilize, even if the price to pay is a small reduction of your muscle mass? You will have time later to build it again! For me it is much more difficult to get rid of fat than to build muscle. That’s what I was meaning by “think about it in a reasonable way”, it’s a matter of proportions and common sense: it’s not a disaster if you lose a very small part of your muscle mass, considering that you lose a lot of body fat at the same time. It’s not all or nothing, black or white, there are many shades of grey in between — something like fifty, I’ve heard 😉 It is possible to reduce this muscle mass loss as low as possible and we will detail that in the next post, along with recommendations for your exercising plan, of course taking into account the physiologic support of ephedrine for fat burn.
 Robbins JL, Duscha BD et al. “A Sex-Specific Relationship Between Capillary Density and Anaerobic Threshold”. Journal of Applied Physiology (1985). 2009 Apr;106(4):1181-6.
 Gates PE, Strain WD, Shore AC. “Human Endothelial Function and Microvascular Ageing”. Experimental Physiology. 2009 Mar;94(3):311-6.