Cardio Ambivalence

As I typed up my workout plan for today, I found myself fighting the usual battle in my head over cardio. Today is supposed to be another chest/back/abs training day according to the schedule I posted earlier this week, but that was before I heard back from Beachbody about the pull-up bar situation. Now that I am actually going to start P90X on Monday, it is tempting to use Saturday and Sunday as extra cardio days to burn up a thousand calories or so for the week.

I’m of two minds about cardio.

One side (we’ll call her “Coddling BFL Purist Maggie”) is telling me that I should alternate lifting and cardio days to prevent burn out and give my body time to recover from the resistance training, that too much cardio is catabolic and not feasible while I have so many work demands and am not planning on becoming a figure competitor or model. 60-90 minutes of cardio a week have worked for so many (to a point…plenty of BFLers look like they could use just a wee bit of extra cardio to knock off the last stubborn pounds), so why go against the book?

The other side (“Hooah Drill Sergeant Maggie”) keeps reminding me that I’m not one of those unlucky gals whose metabolisms freak out and go into survival mode over a bit of extra treadmill time, just 180 extra minutes a week would significantly boost fat loss, and that I’m just letting my hatred of actually performing cardio justify wussing out of a proven method of deflating the post-bulk fat cells on my body. Drill Sergeant Maggie reminds me that I have never physically broken down from any exercise regimen–not in the Army, not on BFL, not on Leanness Lifestyle. It points out that fitness competitors DO take on extra cardio during competition season to get and stay lean, and that I actually thrive on higher activity levels. And it yells at me to stop being such a blork and just get my ass in gear and do what needs to be done.

My experience last fall taught me that more cardio–up to 300 minutes a week total (60 minutes of HIIT and 240 minutes of medium intensity steady-state)–DOES get me leaner much faster than 60 minutes of BFL HIIT alone. I was probably at my leanest around the first or second week of November on 1400-1500 calories a day, 3 resistance training workouts, and 50 minutes of extra cardio daily. It DOES work for me. Don’t let anyone kid you–if your metabolism hasn’t been completely shot to starvation mode hell by a history of eating disorders, overexercising, or health issues, cutting 500 calories a day from your maintenance level diet and putting in 500-800 calories worth of hard exercise a day WILL cause the pounds to fall off of your body, even if you have only 10 lbs or less to lose. I went into BFL with a normal metabolism, no EDs in my past, and good health.

Calories in – calories out = -750 to -1000 calories/day worked like a charm for me to the tune of 1-2 lbs per week when I was in turbo Leanness Lifestyle action mode.

But my upper body got scrawny. I was starting to see ribs under my clavicle, and I could tell that my arms were going to be straight, skinny girl tubes instead of the Angela Bassett guns I’ve always coveted. Looking back, I think I probably cut the calories back too aggressively while simultaneously raising my cardio level too high.

So I’ve been hesitant to go that route again. I’ve kept my calories above 1600 during the past few months when I’ve been on a professed cut, and haven’t succumbed to the lure of double cardio sessions in a long time. With SGX, I even took the leap of faith into daily moderate-steady state cardio without HIIT, the foundation of the Body-for-Life cardio program.

After 7.5 weeks of SGX, I had indeed retained all of my upper body lean mass. In fact, I’m pretty sure I gained more of it judging by photos and measurements.

I just didn’t feel the fat draining from my cells at the same rapid rate that I did on LL, and objectively speaking, I KNOW I have a good 8-12 lbs of fat I need to shed before I am anywhere near ripped based on my frame, measurements, and caliper measurements. 😕

So therein lies the crux of my dilemma: How do I balance out my desire for consistent, reasonable and measurable fat loss at 1 lb per week with my knowledge that the type and quantity of cardio required to achieve that has a high likelihood of withering away a large percentage of the muscle gains I’ve made in the past months?

Deep down inside, I know I can’t repeat last October and November’s level of activity and calorie restriction without sacrificing muscle mass and courting 3-5 lbs of rebound weight gain when I go back to normal intake and activity, but it is still tempting sometimes to do it because it was so addictive to see the scale weight fall almost daily. It was a nice, visible validation of my effort and proof that fat loss really was just a matter of doing the math, doing the diet, and doing the exercise, not some mystical and obscure secret formula.

That’s why I’m going to let everything sort of take care of itself during P90X. I am going to do the workout program as designed while using my own diet plan based on BFFM’s ratios and calorie suggestions. I am starting out at the BFFM regular fat loss target for activity modifier 1.55 of around 1700 calories a day. The P90X literature claims that each daily workout is worth around 600 calories burned, so with a sedentary, no workout maintenance level of 1700 calories, six workouts a week, five low zigzag days, and two maintenance level high zigzag days a week, I will have an estimated deficit of 3245 calories a week.

P90X Mathematics

Weekly Energy Expenditure Without Exercise = 1735 calories x 7 days = 12,145 calories/week
Weekly Calories Burned via P90X = 600 calories x 6 days = 3,600 calories/week
Weekly Calories Eaten = (1700 x 5) + (2000 x 2) = 12,500 calories/week

Weekly Deficit = 12,500 – (12,145 + 3,600) = -3,245 calories/week

If my meals are clean and the calorie burn estimates for P90X are accurate, I will drop around 0.927 pounds every week without additional cardio. The workouts average 60-90 minutes in length and are of the high-intensity calisthenics variety, so it’s possible, even given the “high” cutting calories I’ll be consuming.

Looking at this program, I think I’ve found a way to balance out BFL Maggie and Drill Sergeant Maggie. The BFL side likes the six workouts a week and splitting of cardio and resistance days. The drill sergeant side likes the fact that the workouts are hard, reminiscent of Army PT, and long enough in duration to burn the right number of calories to make the mathematics of fat loss work. And the third part of my brain, “Super Hungry Cereal Wench Maggie”:, is bouncing up and down with glee about the 1700 calories per day.

Oh, and in case you were wondering…I decided to do my chest/back/ab workout after all. I’ve had so many carbs today that I am bursting at the seams to go lift, push, and pull some heavy stuff.

And, quite frankly, I’m so stuffed with high carb baked goodies today that I would probably wind up cleaning up my regurgitated breakfast, lunch and dinner from the treadmill if I attempted to run. :yuck:

Nutrition: 2000 calorie high zig zag free day

1: 3/4 c. FF cottage cheese and large navel orange
2: Navel orange and Einstein Bros. cranberry bagel
3: Oatmeal chocolate chip cookie (4″) and toasted coconut doughnut
4: 3 oz. grilled chicken with broccoli and 4 oz. sweet potato
5: Thai chicken pasta salad
6: 3/4 c. FF cottage cheese and large navel orange

Daily Supplements: multivitamin with iron, calcium 500 + D
Water for yesterday: 20 cups

6:00 PM Chest/Back/Abs
(Optional) 6:45 PM Moderate steady-state cardio – Treadmill (4 mph/ 10% incline / 25 minutes)

The Awful Truth:
1. 12 sour gummi worms, heh
2. 2-3 oz. assorted chips

Short-term Goals:
1. Print out new 50/30/20 recipes.
2. Adjust schedule for P90X series.
3. Work on paper doll project.
4. Do thumbnails for 5-6 new prints.
5. Clean the bathroom and kitchen.
6. Vacuum and tidy living room.

7 thoughts on “Cardio Ambivalence

  1. Act One, Scene Two

    You think to f##king much, soldier! You analyze every f##king, gd thing!
    You need to just get your little girlie ass in rapid motion while forcefully sucking in some oxygen and blowing out some carbon dioxide! You know what to do! So don’t let me hear you think while you move, let me hear you feel the run, feel the burn, feel the calories dripping off your little girlie ass. Now let’s go, go,

    All joking aside, you have to make a decision: big, muscular and slow? Or, lean, muscular and fast? Personally, I knew that I didn’t have the genetic make up to get as big and beefy as Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I could get fairly close to being as powerfully built and ripped as Bruce Lee.

  2. :prop: You know, they never ever take into account about your caloric afterburn, and how that affects your metabolism. It’s one of the huge reasons that fitday always seems to be way off for me. but I like your dedication. Maybe you could do a little bit of both workout plans? do whatever your heart tells you to. If you want to do the BFL one day, I’d do it. If you want to do the SGX plan another, I’d do it. If you want to do something else entirely, like play an hour of basketball or tennis, do that, too. Listen to your heart — it’s how I do it.

    You’re already a machine, you look fantastic, your diet is pretty strict yet unrestrictive (does that make sense?), and you’ve already achieved something most people will never ever attain in their entire life: the knowledge that when you put your mind to what you want, you can get it.

    All that aside, when you can do 10 pullups in a row, it’s time to throw on some weights to it 😉 But I know you’re not there yet, but with your dogged stubborness, I’m sure it’ll come up a lot sooner than you think.

  3. LOL, La Rue. Yes, I do need to make the decision about which direction I want to go. In the end, I know I will opt for the “lean, muscular, and fast” route, but I had to at least TRY for the Angela arms. I just don’t have the genetics for a huge, bulky upper body, and functional fitness is as important to me as aesthetic fitness. :dbell:

  4. You sound like you’re pretty dialed in, so don’t let the lack of calories fool you in the mirror and convince you that you could be doing differently
    And props on the cardio discipline. I can barely force myself to do much other than jump rope or swimming. Treadmills give me this creepy hamster-in-a-wheel vibe.

    As you know, you must build mass to cut it up (The book “Sliced” gets into this really well). If you haven’t yet tried this, try adding a “carb” day once a week starting about 3-4 weeks out. You’ll feel guilty about the additional 800 calories of yam and rice, but you’ll blow up. Your body will gladly metabolize anything in excess. Another option is to add another meal in the wee hours of the morning, like 4 a.m. If necessary, grab a jump rope and make that muscle stand out.

    What are you doing for arm training anyway?

  5. Andrea–If you are a number cruncher or if you need more structure to your plan than BFL provides and want to get lean, then yes, I highly recommend Leanness Lifestyle. It isn’t as “easy” as BFL, but it’s not impossible by any means. And it works.

    JAK–I did a mini-bulk this winter after hitting “goal” weight at a low of 128 lbs last November and put on 10 lbs in the process, some of it definitely in the upper body. :prop: Now I’m back on the cutting trail and using this opportunity to try out one or two other programs before I settle on which one works the best for me as I’m still a newbie to planning my own fitness routines.

    I’ve been doing the following for upper body workouts for the past 2 months or so, but I’m about to switch to more calisthenics/body weight based exercises for a while.

    * Flat Dumbell Press—10 reps, drop weight, 10 more reps x 2 (30 lbs, 27.5 lbs)
    * Dumbell Side Laterals—12 reps drop weight, 12 more reps x 2 (15 lbs, 12.5 lbs)
    * Lat Pulldowns—15 reps x 2 (85 lbs)
    * Dumbell Curls—15 reps x 2 (20 lbs)
    * Tricep Pushdowns-15 reps x 2 (80 lbs)

    * Stiff-Legged Deadlift from floor—15 reps x 2 (~80 lbs)
    * Dumbell Lying Rows—12 reps, drop weight 12 more x 2 (30 lbs, 27.5 lbs)
    * Straight Arm Standing Cable Pulldowns—20 reps x 2 (45 lbs)
    * Incline Dumbell Press—15 reps x 2 (30-35 lbs)
    * Dumbell Curls—10 reps, drop weight 10 more x 1 (20 lbs, 17.5 lbs)
    * Tricep Pushdowns—10 reps, drop weight, 10 more x 1 (85 lbs, 80 lbs)

  6. You certainly don’t seem like a newbie to all of this. You’re doing better than great.
    I’m glad you are digging the pullups. You can do supinated chins to force your biceps if you feel so inclined. As far as arms go, I’ve had great luck with all typs of chins/pulls, weighted dips, and what I call “reaper curls,” which is nothing more than 4 drop sets of incline dumbell curl and incline hammer curl. Sometimes I’ll alternate weeks by doing chest/tri and back/bi one week and just arms the next. Like you said, it’s all about finding out what works for you. Best of luck with that. It seems that you’ve got the right combination of intellectual curiosity and discipline, so your goals are going to be met soon enough. With the right cause, the right effect has to follow. Best of luck reaching them.

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