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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

How I Learned the Importance of Cardio the Hard Way

How I Learned the Importance of Cardio the Hard Way

When I am training clients the first time, I often hear this one sentence: “I don’t want to go jogging today, I don’t want to lose my muscles!” This is a deadly misconception. It is completely irrational, unhealthy and unscientific.

As Will Smith said, cardiovascular endurance training is one of the keys to a great life,

The keys to life are running and reading. When you’re running, there’s a little person that talks to you and says, “Oh I’m tired. My lung’s about to pop. I’m so hurt. There’s no way I can possibly continue.” You want to quit. If you learn how to defeat that person when you’re running, you will know to not quit when things get hard in your life.

While jogging might not be the most fun activity to do. At least for most of us. It is nonetheless crucial to implement cardio training in your workout schedule. Not doing cardio is an excuse, to not deal with the pain of running long distance. The fear of losing your muscles is simply an excuse to not go for that hard, yet so important activity.

More often than not, cardio training can actually improve your prospects of gaining muscles. Partly by helping your body build muscles faster but also by increasing your life span. Increasing your life span is a big part in achieving muscle growth. Because one thing is for sure: If there’s a person that definitely can’t build muscle mass, it’s a dead one.

Learning The Importance Of Cardio – The Hard Way

I was never a big fan of doing cardio training, until I felt an unexpected and grave urgency to start doing so. Let’s go back two years.

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At that time I was at a seminar for cardio training. We were asked to do a lactate test. This is a test where you run on a treadmill while getting your blood tested several times. After a certain period of time, about two minutes, the speed of the treadmill gets increased. The goal is to find out how much lactate your body is producing at a certain speed. The more lactate your body is producing, the more stress your body is currently dealing with. Also the more likely you are for having problems with heart disease or other underlying diseases.

We were starting out at about 7 kilometers per hour. This is an easy jogging tempo considered from today’s standpoint. But back then, this was exhausting. I was starting to sweat heavily after only three minutes of running with that speed. After the first blood test, we had to reduce the speed on the treadmill. I was expected to have a lactate level at about 0.8mmol/l. My lactate levels were about 2.5mmol/l. My stress levels were already going through the roof.

At that time I was also founding my business and my youtube channel. Sleep loss, tons of stress, plus my complete neglecting of cardiovascular training has taken its toll. Me, a fitness trainer, completely healthy looking and muscular, was at a risk of heart disease. I felt like a scam-artist.

    While it’s true that most of the top long-distance runners are really thin, cardio training is nonetheless important for many other key aspects of your life. Such as dealing with stress and improving your heart health. It even improves your blood circulation of your brain, which has been linked with increased intelligence.[1]

    Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Cardio training is important to live a long and healthy life and performing at your highest level, both professionally and in your private life.

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    The Benefits For Muscle Growth

    The number one reason I was afraid to go jogging or ride a bike on a continuous basis, was that I was afraid to lose my muscles. This meant that a completely biased and unscientific belief was preventing me from living my life to the fullest.

    Just recently I ran 26 kilometers straight for fun. I think at this moment, I’m at one of the best shapes of my life, both physically and mentally. I am able to work long hours as a facility manager, online coach and content creator, plus I’m still able to train hard.

    While it’s true that a calorie surplus is needed to gain muscles and cardio training is burning calories, this is an easy shortcoming to make up for. Having to eat more is a privilege. Most people in this world struggle to eat less.

    Doing cardiovascular training on a regular basis can even help you to improve your muscle growth. Cardio training can reduce the time needed for recovery. Endurance training improves your blood circulation.[2] Blood circulation is important for transporting nutrients to your cells and removing toxins. Put cardio training in combination with a vegan diet and you’re absolutely boosting your results in the gym.

    The downside of cardiovascular training for muscle growth is therefore easy to manage. The downsides of not doing cardio, are harder to deal with.

    Not Doing Cardio Is Slowly Killing You

    A professor of mine once told me that while weightlifting helps you deal with stress, cardio training helps you to relax. Low intensity cardiovascular training is crucial when it comes to increasing your vagal tone.[3]

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    An increased vagal tone, the measure of the activity of the longest and oldest nerve in your body – the vagus nerve, is linked with better control over your emotion and less likelihood to acquire stress.

    Cardiovascular disease is the number one risk factor for death and disability in the US. While multiple factors are playing a role in the creation of this disease, such as nutrition. Cardiovascular endurance training is a good way to prevent and even cure that sickness. Jogging or even walking on a regular basis can improve your blood cholesterol and triglycerides level, indicators that help you live a long and healthy life. Doing endurance training seems to be a good price to pay then.

    If exercise could be purchased in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation. – Robert H. Butler

    How To Implement Cardio In Your Schedule

    To combat my high lactate levels, I was implementing sprints into my workout schedule. This is not good. I did not know that this form of high intensity training can even lead to more stress.

    If you’re already an avid weight trainer, make sure you’re training cardio at separate days of your workout programs. Try to put as much time between your weight training and cardio training. This way your body has enough time for recovery and can focus on the build up of the two different training entities, increased muscle growth and blood circulation.

    Implement cardiovascular training in your schedule, by following this exact order. Following this scheme is crucial for your long-lasting success:

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    1. Train as often as you can.
    2. Train as long as you can.
    3. Train as fast as you can.

    Implement cardiovascular training in your daily life. Walk to the grocery store instead of taking your car. You don’t have to go for a jog if you can’t do it. Instead just go for a walk. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you can’t – you’re still beating everyone that is sitting at home on the couch. The duration or the speed of your training don’t matter at the beginning. Try to do this for 3-4 times a week, you’re trying to create a healthy habit. I recommend doing cardio in the morning, when you’re still uninterrupted. The before or after breakfast discussion is trivial, you have to see what works for you. The most important thing is, to just get into the habit.

    If you’re walking 3-4 times a week, you can increase the duration. Aim for 30-60 minutes each time. Day by day, try to walk a little bit longer each time. I like to use an audiobook or listen to good music. You can also find a good workout partner, this will even make it more likely for you to stick to the schedule.

    If you manage to walk 3-4 times a week for 60 minutes, increase the speed of your exercise. Try to incorporate small jogging intervals in your walking. Don’t push yourself too hard. Make your training sustainable and enjoyable. At least for the beginning. With some time you will learn to appreciate the pain, in a non-masochistic way of course.

    Featured photo credit: Pexel via pexels.com

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    Florian Wüest

    Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

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    Last Updated on December 28, 2020

    How to Build Muscle Fast: 5 Fitness and Nutrition Hacks

    How to Build Muscle Fast: 5 Fitness and Nutrition Hacks

    Building muscle isn’t rocket science. All it takes is repeatedly doing the things that are proven in the lab and gym to work. This article provides 5 great ways to build muscle fast.

    None of them requires you to spend lots of money on fancy fitness equipment or nutritional supplements. All you have to be willing to do is make a few adjustments to your diet, workout, and supplement routines. Put forth the effort, and you’ll be able to gain 5-10 lbs. of muscle in a month or two.

    1. Eat Enough Protein Every Day

    Contrary to what advertisements for protein powders say, you don’t need to eat and drink hundreds of grams daily to build muscle. The truth is, eating this amount won’t help you build muscle faster. It can actually be stored as fat.

    All you really need is enough to meet your body’s daily needs and then a little more to stimulate muscle gain. This works out to about .8 grams per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 150 lbs., you need to eat about 120 grams of protein daily.

    Don’t stress too much over exactly how many grams of protein are in everything you eat. Use the eyeball method instead. 

    This is done by looking at the protein on your plate and picturing an amount that’s the size of the palm of your hand. This amount contains about 28 grams of protein[1]. Do this every time you eat, and you’ll easily be able to make sure you eat enough.

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    What does 25 grams of protein look like?

      You also need to know which foods are protein rich. They include: beef, eggs, poultry, pork, and seafood. Drink a protein shake if you’re having trouble eating enough of these foods. The best type of shake for building muscle is one that uses whey and casein proteins as its primary sources.

      Research shows these are the best protein powders for building muscle. One study also shows that drinking a shake that contains casein protein before bed can actually turn on the muscle building process[2].

      2. Do “Big” Lifts

      Forget exercises like curls, shoulder presses, and flyes and training individual body parts (chest, back, biceps, etc.) if building muscle is your goal. Instead, perform strength training exercises that train several muscle groups at once. Scientific studies show that exercises that do this are better for building muscle than the aforementioned isolation movements[3].

      Exercises you should do often include: dips, deadlifts, farmers walks, kettlebell swings, military presses, and pull ups. These are the movements that will really stimulate your body to build muscle fast.

      This video below will teach you how to perform my favorite muscle building exercise: farmer’s walks.

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      3. Train Hard Often

      You don’t have to work out every day for hours at a time to build muscle fast. What you need to do is train using the exercises I mentioned above often enough to stimulate muscle growth. Lifting weights 3 to 4 times a week is plenty. Give yourself a day’s rest after every 1-2 workouts.

      Your workouts only need to have 4-6 of these exercises. Choose an exercise for every major muscle group at each workout, and you’re set. This includes your legs (squats, deadlifts, lunges), chest/shoulders/triceps (bench press, dips, military press, push ups), and back (bent over rows, pull ups).

      I like to include a total body exercise every workout, too. I find that they are the best exercises for building muscle fast. This includes exercises like kettlebell swings, kettlebell throws, and farmer’s walks.

      Perform 3-5 sets of each exercise for 6-10 reps. Use a weight that makes it difficult to do the last rep of each set but not so hard that you cannot do it without using good form. Increase the weight you use when you can do every rep of each set.

      4. Rest and Recover Between Your Workouts

      Working out breaks down your muscles and eats into your ability to recover. You build muscle when you aren’t exercising. Therefore, proper rest and recovery can speed the muscle building process.

      The best way is to get enough sleep. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night will enable you to train harder and longer, and build muscle faster. If you can’t get this much sleep daily, take a 45 minute nap during the day to make up the difference.

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      Another way to recover faster and build muscle fast is to back off a little bit with regard to the number of sets and reps you do at each workout every once in awhile. Studies show that reducing the workout volume (sets and reps) by about 50% every 8-12 weeks can help you make progress significantly faster[4].

      This means that instead of doing 12 total sets at a workout, you’ll only do 6 using the same weight. Do this for a week, and then go back to your normal routine.

      Cutting back every once in a while will help you stay mentally fresh, too. This, in turn, gives you more energy to put into your future workouts.

      5. Take Nutritional Supplements That Are Proven To Work

      Once you have the four other tips in place, you can consider taking nutritional supplements to help you build muscle fast. The key thing is to use products that work. Through my research, I have found that there are three that work best: branched-chain amino acids, creatine monohydrate, and fish oil.

      The first supplement, branched-chain amino acids, are shown in several research studies to give you energy during your workout, decrease muscle soreness, and “turn on” the muscle-building process within your body. I find that they help me increase my energy and decrease post-workout soreness. You should take about .05 grams per pound of body weight before and after working out for the best results.

      Next is my favorite, creatine monohydrate. If you’re only going to take one supplement to build muscle, this is the one. This is because there are dozens, if not hundreds, of scientific studies that show it safely helps you build muscle and get stronger[5].

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      If you decide to give it a try, make sure you buy a product that is tested and guaranteed to include nothing but creatine monohydrate to ensure its purity. When you take creatine, follow what’s referred to as the loading phase, which is taking 10-20 grams a day for 5-7 days for the best results.

      Research shows this is the best way to get as creatine into your cells as quickly as possible. You can then back off to 5 grams a day to keep getting benefits[6].

      Last but not least is fish oil. In addition to being good for the health of your brain and heart, it can also help you build muscle fast. In one study, subjects taking 2 grams of fish oil daily for 6 weeks added a couple pounds of muscle[7].

      They lost body fat, too, and all without changing their diet or exercising at all. When shopping for a fish oil supplement, make sure you buy a concentrated source that’s tested to be free of impurities and pesticides.

      The Bottom Line

      Getting fit and building muscle doesn’t happen overnight, but with some simple changes to your diet and exercise routine, you can still build muscle fast when you build from a place of motivation and persistence.

      Whether you’re working out at home or at the gym, apply the above tips and watch your muscles grow week after week.

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      Featured photo credit: Anastase Maragos via unsplash.com

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