Aerobics FAQ -Questions About Aerobics Get Answered
I have received alot of questions lately on the subject of aerobic exercise due to a lot of recent research that has been conducted on the topic of aerobics regarding what is the best way and time to conduct them for optimal fat loss results while keeping the muscle. Thus, I decided to put this aerobics FAQ together in order to clear up the confusion.
One thing that I would like to mention, having an engineering background with experience doing research and development, when a research study is conducted there are many variables that one must account for in order to ensure that you are getting the right answer to the postulated question. If an important variable is disregarded, your test results will either come out inconclusive or flat our wrong.
How Fat Loss Happens
Before I move on to talk about the topic of aerobics, I think it is important that I refresh your memory on how fat loss:
- Weight loss is a function of calories in vs. calories out for the most part. If you take in less than what your body burns on a given day, you will lose weight. Simple.
- The tissue that you burn will depend on your macronutrient intake (intake of carbs, proteins and fats). If you eat the right combination and sources of carbs, proteins and fats, you will keep (or even gain) muscle as you lose body fat. If you take in less calories than what you burn but you eat the wrong foods, then you will still lose some fat but you will mostly lose muscle along with it due to the fact that the nutrition is poor. This in turn lowers your metabolism and makes it harder for you to keep losing body fat.
- The best way to accomplish a permanent loss in body fat while keeping or increasing your muscle mass is weight training.
- Aerobic exercise is used only in conjunction to weight training as a means of burning extra calories in order to accelerate the weight loss efforts. When performed in the right amounts and correctly, you will get some very good health benefits from aerobics as well as burn extra calories. Aerobics should always be done in conjunction to weight training, never as a standalone solution.
With that said, let’s now cover the topics that are causing confusion in light of the recent research. If there is a question that you may have about aerobics not covered here, please feel free to email me and I will be happy to include it in this discussion.
What Is The Best Time to Perform Aerobics
I’ve always recommended cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach or right after the workout as during these times you get to burn a greater percentage of the calories used from fat.
In reality, the type of fuel burned is not as important as the total amount of calories burned since at the end of the day, the biggest factor in determining fat loss is whether or not we have a caloric deficit. Now, as a competitive bodybuilder I have always wanted to have every single edge I could, so for me, aerobics on an empty stomach have always been a part of my schedule.
In order to protect muscle from being burned I have always properly hydrated myself by consuming 16 ounces of water prior to my aerobics along with 5 grams of creatine, 5 grams of glutamine and 10 grams of BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids). In addition, I always consume 200mg of caffeine prior to the workout also as research indicates this practice spares muscle glycogen use and facilitates the release of fats instead. By the way, if muscle glycogen is being spared, then that means that proteins are protected as well.
If you cannot do aerobics in the morning, and for whatever reason you cannot do them after the workout, then simply do them 2-3 hours after a meal. It will not be the end of the world to not being able to do it first thing in the morning. All I state is that in order to get maximum benefit, especially for a competitive bodybuilder, I feel that first thing in the morning is the best time; besides the fact that doing it at this time wakes you up and makes you feel good right from the start of the day due to the endorphin release aerobics cause.
What Happens If I Am Not In The Fat Burning Zone?
The fat burning zone is just a formula that provides you with a good heart rate to shoot for in order to exert enough work to burn calories and work your heart without over exerting yourself or undertraining. It should not be taken as an absolute number that dictates whether you lose fat or not. Remember that at the end of the day, fat loss happens when you burn more calories than what you consume on a daily basis.
I suggest that if you are just starting out, you strive to exert an effort that gets your heart beating at (220-Age) x .75 in beats per minute. As you get more advanced, you can push yourself more in order to burn calories. Being above what is called the Fat Burning Zone will not burn muscle tissue.
I Have Heard That If You Do Your Aerobics Too Hard You Don’t Burn Fat?
The harder you perform the aerobics, the more carbs are burned during the workout. Even in the morning on en empty stomach, if your aerobics are very intense, your body may have to burn some stored glycogen (carbs). The lower your aerobic intensity, the more fat you burn during the workout. However, at the end of the day, whether you burn more calories from carbs or fats during the aerobic activity is not as important as the total amount of calories burned. Remember that what is most important for fat loss is the total daily deficit of calories.
Never lose sight of the fact that the main way aerobics help you to lose fat is by helping you to create a caloric deficit. Thus, I say that when it comes to aerobics you should push yourself as your condition gets better.
HIIT vs Conventional Aerobics: Which Type of Aerobics is Better?
There is research to back up both high intensity/shorter duration aerobics as well as more steady state, conventional aerobics. Which one is better? My opinion is that you try both and choose the one that you love the most. The main benefit to HIIT is that it takes less time than conventional steady state aerobics and when done correctly, you can burn an impressive amount of calories in a relatively short time. However, for me personally, straight HIIT protocols put too much strain on my nervous system. In addition, I enjoy the feeling of a longer cardio session. Thus, just choose the one that you enjoy and do it consistently. Remember that consistency of execution is one of the most important things to get results.
How Do I Perform My Aerobics?
Personally, while HIIT is too much for my nervous system, I don’t exactly do steady state aerobics. I introduce periods of higher intensity during my steady state cardio, which then turns my cardio session into a hybrid one. For example, I may do 10 minutes of steady state cardio, followed by 5 minutes of higher intensity (alternating between 1 minute of high intensity and 1 minute of low intensity), 10 minutes of steady state, 5 minutes of my own HIIT version and then 5-10 minutes of steady state.
Can I Die From a Heart Attack Doing Aerobics?
So I have come across some experts warning about aerobics causing heart attacks. Some researches claim that in some elite endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, their incredible amount of aerobic work may cause heart damage. However, even in this elite group, the probability of that happening is tiny. As a matter of fact, according to the American Journal of Cardiology:
“The overall prevalence of sudden cardiac death during the marathon was only 0.002%, strikingly lower than for several other variables of risk for premature death calculated for the general U.S. population.”
Thus, I am not looking to stop my moderate amount of aerobic exercise any time soon. And besides, I should mention that a good friend of mine, a former special forces colonel whom I’m very proud to call my friend, is a 70 year old marathon runner who has completed the Boston Marathon twice now (one of those times at his 70 year old mark) and he has a much healthier heart than most of us put together.
With that said, again I re-state that I am not looking to stop my moderate amount of aerobics exercise any time soon. Call me a rebel. As a matter of fact, if you are looking to die, the best thing that you can do is to stop everything you are doing and not move. Inactivity, in my opinion, is the leading cause of death.
Some Studies Have Shown That Aerobics Don’t Impact Your Fat Burning Abilities
Now this one is really a joke because when you look into these studies you notice that they did not control the diets of the individuals on it. Sometimes I swear that it seems as if some researchers simply disregard some variables in order to have test results that make the news (news love to publish shocking things like this).
So of course if you have a study where the individuals burned 500 calories during the aerobic activity, but had diets that supplied 500 calories more than what these individuals burned on a given day, then I guarantee you that they would not lose any weight. Does this mean that aerobics have no impact on fat burning? Obviously not. It simply means that the participants were eating too much!
I can see it right now; imagine a test where the participants eat 1000 calories above their maintenance. The participants do long aerobic sessions that burn 700 calories. However, at the end of the study the participants gain fat. I can see the headlines: “Aerobics make you gain weight!” However, if such a ridiculous study with an equally ridiculous conclusion comes out, by then you will be armed with the information presented in this article, and thus, you will know better.
Based on all of the above, here is what I think you should do with your aerobics program:
- If you are a competitive athlete then I would suggest doing aerobics first thing in the morning on en empty stomach. The choice of whether to do steady state aerobics or HIIT is something that you and your pre-contest coach will need to determine. If you have no pre-contest coach, then my advice is to implement my hybrid aerobics described above which give you the best of both worlds. Because extremely lean bodies do not behave like normal ones I feel that if fasted cardio offers the slightest possibility of burning some fat that cannot be tapped otherwise, I want to make sure I take advantage of that. My take on the subject is that if losing lean mass is the biggest issue that fasted cardio presents, I feel that proper hydration, BCAA supplementation, creatine and some glutamine can deal with that.
- If you are recreational bodybuilder with no competition in mind, I would still suggest trying to do your aerobics first thing in the morning for all reasons specified above. If you cannot do your cardio in the morning, then try doing the aerobics immediately after your bodybuilding workouts and if that is not possible, then at any time that is 2-3 hours after a meal.
- For recreational bodybuilders I also suggest that you choose the type of aerobics that you like doing the most, whether steady state, HIIT, or my hybrid version. If you enjoy all three, feel free to alternate between aerobic types also. I feel each type has its own benefits and there is no type that is better than the other, in my opinion.
- Remember that consistency of execution is the key to long term bodybuilding gains. That is why it is important that you choose an aerobic plan that you enjoy since otherwise, it will be easy to just drop the whole aerobic program together.
- Don’t forget either what I said in the beginning: Losses in body fat are a result of a caloric deficit, so without this, no matter what cardio you do or what the timing is, no fat loss will happen.
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