Anabolic vs Catabolic states and weight loss
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
There seems to be a misconception in the weight loss community that it is simple to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. While it is possible with a strictly regimented diet and carefully programmed workouts, it is not simple or easy. It's actually two completely different physiological states.
Anabolic is a building state and catabolic is a breaking down state. Strength training causes an anabolic state in the body and cardio and cutting calories causes a catabolic state. You simply cannot be in both states at the same time. So, if you are lifting heavy weights trying to build muscle for strength and definition and then are also doing 4 days or more of cardio of 30 minutes or more you are actually working against yourself and tearing down all that hard work.
I don't want to confuse you though, if you are not concerned with weight loss or muscle gain and are simply looking for general health and fitness, this is perfectly fine. My concern is when I hear that someone is trying to build muscle while still doing large amounts of cardio. This is like building a house during the day and then having a wrecking ball come in overnight and break it all down.
My other concern is that when women are trying to lose weight they typically assume that they need to cut calories. This works, but it is also counteractive to building muscle. When you lose weight it is never all fat. It is always a mix of fat and muscle. If you are not giving your body adequate calories and doing cardio to lose weight and then trying to build muscle at the same time you need to know that it's not going to happen. The best case scenario is that strength training while cutting calories will help you maintain some muscle. But it's not the best way to go about things.
Let's use the building analogy again. Trying to build muscle while cutting calories is like trying to build a house with no bricks, plywood, or drywall. Another serious consequence of this is calcium depletion. In addition to building strong bones calcium plays an important role in muscle contraction. If you continue to work your muscles without giving yourself adequate fuel, your body will take the needed calcium from your bones.
We all know that building muscle revs up your metabolism and turns you into a fat burning machine. But you need to build the muscle first. If you are trying to build muscle you need to be eating at maintenance level calories at the very least, ideally a little bit above that to give your body something to work with. You are adding tissue to your body, it needs building supplies.
I hope this isn't confusing and please ask any questions you need to.
To sum up, there are a few different options for your training. If you are purely looking to burn fat without concern for building muscle, then you should cut calories and do cardio; but you should also do weights to maintain your current amount of lean muscle without expecting to put on any more muscle. If you want to put on lean muscle you need to eat at maintenance or above and limit your cardio. My best advice is to put on the lean muscle first and then get into a fat burning or "cutting" phase for a period of time. I say a "period of time" because you never want to maintain you calories lower than maintenance for too long because your metabolism will slow down to match that. It is best to switch between building and burning phases to keep the metabolism stoked.
Again, I hope I haven't confused any of you in my effort to clear up some misconceptions. I just want to share my trainer knowledge so we can all get lean and strong!