Much of my evidence is anecdotal but it is based on science too. Sarcopenia is the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass. This happens with age and it also happens with weight loss. One of the big reasons named during maintenance failure is unfavorable body composition. During an extended caloric deficit exacerbated by much steady state cardio, many of us, myself included were left in a "skinny fat" state. This state is very favorable for weight regain since fat is far less metabolically active than muscle. Some studies have recently noted that the BMR of two people at the same weight can be up to 20% different where one person dieted down to said weight and another was always at said weight. Why is this so? The studies I have seen did not seem to mention body composition, so I will purport that the dieted down subject has a far less favorable body composition.
SparkPeople, whether through policy or simply due to the nature of the members, is extremely pro steady state cardio. We encourage marathoners, tri-athletes and other endurance activities. Meanwhile, many of these folks either plateau or regain weight even though they are vigilant about their activity of choice. As one does more endurance activity, the body becomes more efficient and the calorie burn and subsequent recovery much less calorically expensive. Couple this with a lower BMR due to lower body weight and muscle mass and you have a recipe for plateaus/regain. This becomes even more so when the individual halts their excessive endurance training.
As a loser and subsequent maintainer and now observer, I learned this the hard way.
Doing steady state cardio is to your detriment. Ignoring or doing suboptimal strength training is to your detriment.
As a maintainer, we need to focus on two things in this order.
1) A good diet. Maybe you don't need to count calories any longer, but eating largely unprocessed food in reasonable quantities is huge.
2) Effective strength training.
I believe most of us here know what a good diet consists of. It might vary slightly from person to person, but as maintainers, I'll say we've figured it out for ourselves.
Item 2, effective strength training, seems to be largely lost in the SP community. For starters, effective strength training is not a video or a class.
It IS all about progressive overloading. This means that it never gets easier. Each session should be marked with some progress in the way of increased weight or increased reps. Muscular failure should occur or weight and/or reps should be increased to facilitate failure in the next session. Compound movements that recruit the most muscle fiber and elicit the most biological response are recommended. The "big 3" as they are commonly referred to as seem to accommodate both requirements. The big 3 are the squat, deadlift and benchpress. A program can simply do these three moves and nothing else combined with progressive overloading and be effective. Ancillary lifts that support the big 3 can be used when progression is stuck.
These three lifts done as little as once or twice a week are sufficient assuming muscular failure is achieved. In fact, more than twice a week may be counterproductive as it hinders the recovery process.
But what about my heart?
There is sufficient stimulus of the cardiovascular system during intense strength training that a person of reasonable aerobic capacity can largely maintain or improve VO2max. Also, one HIIT session per week not to exceed 30 minutes will build aerobic capacity sufficiently.
But I enjoy running/swimming/biking/hiking,etc.
That's fine. The point is never to take away from activity that you enjoy, but hitting that treadmill begrudgingly 5x a week is completely unnecessary. Understand that steady state cardio a) this does not have to be done in excess and b) that doing so in excess may be detracting from successful maintenance.
I've been practicing this ideology for the past few months. I've largely quit recording calories, my cardio has been near 0 with the exception of some hill sprints from time to time and my strength is up. Recently I notched a DECREASED race time for a 10K.
My experience is anecdotal, I understand, but I wanted to share my discoveries with you all because it goes pretty significantly against the grain. What's more, it makes a lifetime of maintenance a lot more achievable because of a huge decrease in time required and a huge decrease in chance of injury.
I post this here because I believe that folks within the healthy BMI range need to be focused on body composition to be successful maintainers. People who are obese can still benefit from steady state cardio.
I also wanted to open this up for discussion and have you share your experience and opinions. Of course, I'm open to questions as well.
The usual disclaimer applies, I'm assuming you're healthy, I'm also not a doctor, trainer or any professional for that matter. I'm just a guy trying to maintain. Consult doctors and trainers before undergoing any significant diet or training changes.
| current weight: 11.0 over