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View Full Version : Best ways to minimize muscle loss with High Intensity Cardio/Distance training


Randy Gurley
08-04-2010, 07:10 PM
Hey guys, sorry if this has been addressed here as I may have missed some of the threads. I'm trying to figure out if what I've heard about both high intensity cardio and distance running on muscle loss is true, still questioning and breaking out of things I've read and been taught from various bodybuilding sites.
Anyways, I'm training for a marathon in November, and just got Daniels Running Formula. Since reading it, I've been doing some threshold training a few times a week to improve endurance, and some days of long distance running. Will both forms of running use muscle as fuel regardless of around workout nutrition? Will BCAA's really help minimize muscle loss? Sorry for a common question, I'd like to know the truth and it looks like people on here seem to know what they're talking about. Thanks.

Derek Weaver
08-04-2010, 08:44 PM
It really depends. If you eat enough, and maintain intensity in the weight room, in terms of weight on the bar, then you should be okay.

The energy balance equation holds true. If you eat enough to maintain weight, and keep to a low-ish volume, high intensity weight training plan, you should be able to spare any loss of muscle.

It is true though that marathon running, and the training that goes into it, does not really coincide with above average muscularity. Unless you're talking about Dean Karnazes or one of the other ultra runners. It seems like distance running is hindered by increased muscle mass to a point, then once you get into crazy stuff, increased muscle seems to help. Within reason of course.

What are some of your stats and numbers right now?

Steven Low
08-04-2010, 09:22 PM
Eat enough.. do a strength day once or twice a week.. you should be fine.

Randy Gurley
08-05-2010, 06:06 AM
Long story short, lots of cardio last year, no weight lifting, I was pathetic looking. Cut the cardio in March, started lifting, got lots of newbie gains and some muscle memory back. Reintroduced cardio in June, and my gains stopped. Maybe I should focus on maintaining what I have, instead of doing cardio and wanting gains in the weight room. My lifts are minor, bench is 155, back around 180 but I'm only 6 months into lifting. I don't do legs as the muscles will adapt to the longer distance running anyways, although I sometimes will work my ham's.
Thanks, I'll work on maintaining intensity in the weight room and eating enough then.

Darryl Shaw
08-06-2010, 05:58 AM
I'm training for a marathon in November, and just got Daniels Running Formula. Since reading it, I've been doing some threshold training a few times a week to improve endurance, and some days of long distance running. Will both forms of running use muscle as fuel regardless of around workout nutrition?

Short high intensity workouts do not generally use protein as significant source of fuel unless your total energy and/or carbohydrate intake is inadequate. The protein requirements of endurance athletes are increased slightly though because protein can provide up to ~10% of energy during endurance training/races as it's used as fuel once glycogen stores are depleted. The recommended protein intake for elite endurance athletes therefore is 1.5-1.8g/kg/d but as most Western diets that are adequate in calories provide more than this amount without the use of supplements it isn't something you should be too concerned with. It's also worth bearing in mind that the use of protein as fuel can be avoided or at least minimized to some degree if [a] adequate calories are consumed, a high carbohydrate diet (6-10gCHO/kg/d) is habitually consumed to ensure that glycogen stores are topped up and [c] carbohydrates are consumed during training sessions and races that last longer than an hour.

[b]Will BCAA's really help minimize muscle loss? Sorry for a common question, I'd like to know the truth and it looks like people on here seem to know what they're talking about. Thanks.

No, calories, carbohydrates and strength training are what you need to prevent muscle loss and according to this paper (link (http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/135/6/1591S)) "the BCAA content of food proteins is about 15% of the total amino acid content" so a normal diet provides all you need and supplements are of no real benefit.

Shane Skowron
08-06-2010, 12:08 PM
Hey guys, sorry if this has been addressed here as I may have missed some of the threads. I'm trying to figure out if what I've heard about both high intensity cardio and distance running on muscle loss is true, still questioning and breaking out of things I've read and been taught from various bodybuilding sites.
Anyways, I'm training for a marathon in November, and just got Daniels Running Formula. Since reading it, I've been doing some threshold training a few times a week to improve endurance, and some days of long distance running. Will both forms of running use muscle as fuel regardless of around workout nutrition? Will BCAA's really help minimize muscle loss? Sorry for a common question, I'd like to know the truth and it looks like people on here seem to know what they're talking about. Thanks.

No BCAAs will not help minimize muscle loss.

Your body will lose muscle if you are doing a combination of the following:
a) doing really high volume (think 100+ miles per week)
b) not eating enough
c) not doing movements that build and/or maintain muscle


If you don't want to lose muscle:

- do regular strength training
- eat a lot of food.

Derek Weaver
08-06-2010, 02:33 PM
So is the consensus that he needs to eat enough and lift heavy a day or two per week? I'm not sure.

Sorry. I couldn't help myself.

Honestly though, I want to say that Mike Robertson had a blog post on strength training for endurance. He's big on injury avoidance and taking care to correct imbalances before they become serious problems.

Randy Gurley
08-08-2010, 08:23 AM
Hey, thanks guys. I've never really looked deep into the matter, my brother told me the other day that I need to stop doing cardio or I'll lose all my muscle. I knew he didn't know what he was talking about but I did believe cardio could affect muscle mass despite consuming adequate calories. FYI, I got the BCAA intake from reading some of Martin Berkhan's blog, my weekend runs are early morning and fasted and he advocates BCAA's during any type of fasted training. Thanks again.

Chris Butler
08-08-2010, 10:25 PM
Randy, I don't run marathons but I do a LOT of cardio!

In summer/fall I mountain bike, road bike, hike, sprint hills, backpack, climb,etc... In winter/spring I climb mountains and snowboard down them.
Probably 300+ days a year I do excessive amounts of cardio. Hours a day!

From Apr>Dec I lift 2-3x per week, just basics. Always power variations of Oly lifts.
From Dec>Apr I don't lift at all.

I came out the last ski season at 227lbs. , very lean. Right now I'm about 238lbs., pretty lean. Got abs.

I basically do what the above advice is saying.

Darryl Shaw
08-13-2010, 03:41 AM
Hey, thanks guys. I've never really looked deep into the matter, my brother told me the other day that I need to stop doing cardio or I'll lose all my muscle. I knew he didn't know what he was talking about but I did believe cardio could affect muscle mass despite consuming adequate calories. FYI, I got the BCAA intake from reading some of Martin Berkhan's blog, my weekend runs are early morning and fasted and he advocates BCAA's during any type of fasted training. Thanks again.

Fasted training is the exact opposite of what you should be doing if you want to avoid losing muscle.

Derek Weaver
08-13-2010, 02:34 PM
Fasted training is the exact opposite of what you should be doing if you want to avoid losing muscle.

Do elaborate.

Randy Gurley
08-13-2010, 08:13 PM
Yes, I would like to hear why fasted training would increase muscle loss. Assuming someone had near full or full glycogen stores, wouldn't that be enough to fuel, say a hour long cardio session without the body resorting to breaking down protein? I could be way off here but I thought the body went to it's stores when it needs to fuel activity and doesn't immediately use what's digesting at the moment?

Darryl Shaw
08-14-2010, 04:49 AM
Yes, I would like to hear why fasted training would increase muscle loss. Assuming someone had near full or full glycogen stores, wouldn't that be enough to fuel, say a hour long cardio session without the body resorting to breaking down protein? I could be way off here but I thought the body went to it's stores when it needs to fuel activity and doesn't immediately use what's digesting at the moment?

Muscle glycogen levels may be adequate for a fasted early morning run if you're eating a high carb diet but liver glycogen stores will be low following your overnight fast. If liver glycogen stores fall too low hypoglycemia develops and you will be forced to end your run prematurely due to central fatigue. Underperform due to central fatigue (or any other reason) on a regular basis and muscles will start to atrophy as you lose any adaptations to training you might have made.

Steven Low
08-14-2010, 08:05 AM
Basically,

1. Eat enough.
2. Up protein if still muscle wasting
3. BCAAs may help

Not that hard..

Randy Gurley
08-14-2010, 06:09 PM
Point taken on what to do to avoid muscle loss. I usually don't IF most of the days on weekends anyways so I'll start to eat something before morning cardio. I do have a question about what Darryl wrote about liver glycogen. I haven't done a search here for this, but say someone has eaten and has full liver and muscle glycogen stores, and goes running at say, 70% VO2 Max. At what percentage does liver glycogen delete, my understanding is that a lot of muscle glycogen is used due to the exercising muscles, but unable to find the rate of depletion for the liver. From reading other sites, it seems the liver holds around 70-100 grams, so 280-400 calories worth. Running at an intensity burning 50% carbs/50% fat, if muscle and liver depleted at the same rate, you would have to run 1.5 to 2 hours to deplete a full liver. I found a very large study today that went into detail of exercise induced hypoglycemia and about all the hormones involved, and lots of other things, I still haven't finished reading it yet.
Again, this is just for my knowledge, I find the study of the body very interesting, and can't seem to get enough. If I need to do a search as this subject has already been discussed, tell me.:)

Derek Weaver
08-14-2010, 10:17 PM
I may very well be wrong, but I thought liver glycogen was primarily used to fuel the brain? Once glycogen stores were depleted the brain, and other tissues, could switch to ketones for fuel?

Jarod Barker
08-15-2010, 02:15 PM
Hey Randy, does your sweat smell like ammonia? I don't know if this is true, but I once asked my boxing coach why my sweat smells like ammonia, and he said that it comes from when your body is burning muscle for energy. Like I said, I don't know how true that is, but if it is true, maybe you could balance your muscle loss and training by taking time off and eating more when your sweat smells like ammonia, and going hard when it's fine.

On a side note, BMac is a strong dude, and he runs quite often, so it may require some tweaking and effort, but I think it is possible to train for long distance with very minimal muscle loss.

Darryl Shaw
08-16-2010, 04:05 AM
Point taken on what to do to avoid muscle loss. I usually don't IF most of the days on weekends anyways so I'll start to eat something before morning cardio. I do have a question about what Darryl wrote about liver glycogen. I haven't done a search here for this, but say someone has eaten and has full liver and muscle glycogen stores, and goes running at say, 70% VO2 Max. At what percentage does liver glycogen delete, my understanding is that a lot of muscle glycogen is used due to the exercising muscles, but unable to find the rate of depletion for the liver. From reading other sites, it seems the liver holds around 70-100 grams, so 280-400 calories worth. Running at an intensity burning 50% carbs/50% fat, if muscle and liver depleted at the same rate, you would have to run 1.5 to 2 hours to deplete a full liver. I found a very large study today that went into detail of exercise induced hypoglycemia and about all the hormones involved, and lots of other things, I still haven't finished reading it yet.
Again, this is just for my knowledge, I find the study of the body very interesting, and can't seem to get enough. If I need to do a search as this subject has already been discussed, tell me.:)

At rest liver glycogen is used at a rate of ~10g/hour and during exercise ~60g/hour. If you've done some serious carb loading you might have ~130g of liver glycogen available so at best you can run at a good pace for a little over two hours before hypoglycemia develops forcing you to slow down and eventually stop. In practice that means that if they don't take on board CHO during a marathon an average runner might make it to somewhere around the 20 mile mark before they're forced to quit.

Edit: I think this might interest you -

http://www.marathontraining.com/articles/art_39th.htm

Darryl Shaw
08-16-2010, 05:40 AM
I may very well be wrong, but I thought liver glycogen was primarily used to fuel the brain?

Correct, liver glycogen is used primarily to fuel the brain and CNS.

Once glycogen stores were depleted the brain, and other tissues, could switch to ketones for fuel?

It can take up to a week for your brain to switch over to using ketones as fuel so in the short term you're dependent on gluconeogenesis to keep your blood glucose stable. Unfortunately free glucose can't be produced fast enough by gluconeogenesis to keep up with demand during intense exercise so if glycogen stores run out during a marathon your only options are slow down significantly, which is only going to delay the inevitable, or quit.

Darryl Shaw
08-20-2010, 03:35 AM
I found an interesting review article from Tarnopolsky that addresses some of the questions that have been raised in this thread -

Protein requirements for endurance athletes.

Tarnopolsky M.

Abstract

Acute endurance exercise results in the oxidation of several amino acids. The total amount of amino acid oxidation during endurance exercise amounts to only 1-6% of the total energy cost of exercise. The branched chain amino acid, leucine, has been most often studied in relation to endurance exercise. Leucine is oxidized by the enzyme, branched-chain oxo-acid dehydrogenase (BCOAD). BCOAD is relatively inactive at rest ( approximately 4-7%) and is activated at the onset of exercise by dephosphorylation (to about 25%). After a period of endurance exercise training, the activation of BCOAD and amino acid oxidation are attenuated, however the total amount of BCOAD enzyme is up-regulated. A low energy and/or carbohydrate intake will increase amino acid oxidation and total protein requirements. With adequate energy and carbohydrate intake, low to moderate intensity endurance activity has little impact on dietary protein requirements and 1.0 gPRO/kg/d is sufficient. The only situation where dietary protein requirements exceed those for relatively sedentary individuals is in top sport athletes where the maximal requirement is approximately 1.6 gPRO/kg/d. Although most endurance athletes get enough protein to support any increased requirements, those with low energy or carbohydrate intakes may require nutritional advice to optimize dietary protein intake.

http://img2.tapuz.co.il/forums/1_102825767.pdf

Note: I'm going to post this abstract and link in a thread of their own as I'm sure this question will come up again sooner or later.

Randy Gurley
08-20-2010, 08:26 PM
Great, thanks for all the info.