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Keys to Optmizing Lean Muscle Development – High Intensity Training (How to Use Cardio Training to Develop Strength

I recently wrote on 9 Kid Fitness about the myth of “developing” long, lean muscles.  Shortly afterward I received an email from trusted sports physical therapist Alan Tyson about “optimizing” lean muscle development ( a subtle, yet much more accurate way to say it).  Instead of explaining in my own inadequate words, I decided to reprint the entire article here. Note how Tyson says to avoid ALL sugar and fruit juices two hours after exercise.  Most of us are familiar with High Intensity Training HIT (or High Intensity Interval Training) and Tyson explains it further here…

Keys to Optmizing Lean Muscle Development – High Intensity Training

(How to Use Cardio Training to Develop Strength)

 Alan Tyson PT, ATC

Should I do cardio, lift weights,  a combination?  What is the best method for me to develop lean muscle which helps increase my metabolism and either lose weight or keep my weight manageable?  The answer is high intensity training or HIT training. Let’s discuss the reason for this.  To fully grasp the benefits of peak fitness exercises, you first need to understand that you have three different types of muscle fibers:

1. Slow

2. Fast

3. Super-fast

We now know that in order to naturally increase your body’s production of human growth hormone (HGH), you must engage your super-fast muscle fibers. HGH is a vital hormone that is key for physical strength, health and longevity. Neither traditionally performed aerobic cardio nor conventional strength training will work anything but your slow muscle fibers, and hence has no impact on production of HGH. On the contrary, it has the unfortunate effect of actually causing the super fast fibers to decrease or atrophy, further impeding natural HGH production. Power training, or plyometrics burst types of exercises will engage your fast muscle fibers, but only high-intensity burst cardio,will engage your super fast fibers and promote HGH.

It would be best to AVOID all sugar and fruit juice for two hours after your workout, otherwise you will obliterate the growth hormone response and ruin the major benefit of the workout, which is to increase your growth hormone level. Remember that after age 35, your growth hormone levels radically decrease.  The reason why restricting these carbs after exercise works is that they will prevent the production of the hormone somatostatin. One of the primary purposes of this hormone is to inhibit the production of human growth hormone.

Virtually all exercises, certainly nearly all cardio or standard aerobics, fail miserably when it comes to increasing growth hormone. So if you decide to use the only type of exercise that will increase growth hormone, then it would be a shame to make a post workout food choice that would diminish the benefit from doing this amazing type of exercise. When you break your exercise session into intervals like this — short segments that alternate high intensity with a rest period in-between – you can dramatically improve your cardiovascular fitness and fat-burning capabilities in a fraction of the time.

This makes logical sense when you consider that, historically, long-duration exercise isn’t “natural.” Our ancient ancestors never ran for mile after mile without rest or recovery. Their exercise was primarily hunting — short bursts of exertion, followed by periods of rest. By exercising in short bursts, followed by periods of recovery, you recreate exactly what your body needs for optimum health, and that includes both the production of growth hormones and the burning of excess body fat. Please understand that the sugar and juice restriction are really intended for nearly everyone reading this whose primary purpose is to increase human growth hormone naturally, through exercise, to improve their health.

There is a very small group of elite and professional athletes who are actively competing, where increasing growth hormone is not their primary goal. For these athletes, consuming some carbs, preferably dextrose-based, in the recovery period is probably a good idea to improve their recovery time, as they are competing and not so concerned about long-term growth hormone levels. It is also important to understand that the two hour post workout sugar restriction is for high intensity exercises NOT for strength training or, if you chose to, aerobic exercises. Since neither of these exercises increases growth hormone, there is not an issue with the sugar restriction within the bounds of replacing needs generated from thexercise.

Fast Recovery vs Growth Hormone Release

To expound on this issue further, Phil Campbell provided the following information:

 “When I train young athletes in speed – – I explain to them that the research shows 20 to 25 grams of protein (within 30 minutes of training) with a 4 to 1 ratio of carbs to protein, starts the recovery process quicker.  This advice is given to everyone as general advice in most fitness magazines today and is mostly based on research led by Dr John Ivey on young cyclists who have to perform several days in a row, and a quick recovery during competition is extremely important. Clearly, young athletes more concerned with fast recovery than maximizing HGH release should use this strategy.  However, if you are middle-aged, or in a non-competitive phase of training, and keeping HGH circulating as long as possible is your goal, then protein intake (20 to 25 grams after training) is a great strategy, but you need to monitor the glycemic rating of carbs because of the variable impact of carbs on insulin, which in turn impacts the HGH release process. There are a couple of variables that come into play that can change the rules for adults wanting to maximize human growth hormone from exercise.  Research shows that a spike of insulin after training increases somatostatin (thehormone that shuts down HGH).

 So, here’s where this issue gets complicated, because it’s difficult to estimate theglycemic rating of food on different people with different muscle to body fat ratios. And what makes this issue very complicated is that the insulin producing process is variable for every adult to some degree.  It depends on where you are on the Metabolic Syndrome scale. Metabolic Syndrome just became an official medical condition in 2001, and the research shows that even a few carbs can spike insulin for some people with insulin resistance.

 If you are lean and do not need to drop a lot of body fat, then you can probably eat some carbs without spiking insulin — and maybe even some refined sugar depending on the interaction of the carbs with an intake of post-training protein, which will somewhat negate the impact of the carbs on the insulin response – as opposed to an intake of carbs on an empty stomach.  So, as you can see, there are many variables that come into play.  In short, carbs with the protein can be good after training as long as the glycemic response doesn’t spike your insulin.

 Research shows that the insulin response of an individual is lessened with youthand/or lean body weight (muscle vs. body fat), and that’s another reason why it’s so important to maintain muscle throughout life.  From a performance training strategy perspective for runners, I would suggestconsider training with the strategy of maximizing HGH release (except on really hot days or on the one-long-run-a-week day) because this strategy should build muscle to make you faster, and reduce body fat so you have less to carry.  For competitions, and those hot, long-training days, I’d suggest using the quickrecovery strategy of 1 to 4 ratio of protein to carbs, because in this instance, your body does not care what the quality of glucose is; it just needs glucose.”

A recumbent bicycle or regular indoor bike for the High Instensity exercise is a great start, although you certainly can use an elliptical machine, a treadmill, or anywhere outdoors for that matter. However, unless you are already a strong athlete, I would strongly advise against sprinting outdoors again based on the intensity you will have to achieve for optimal results . Just warm up for three to five minutes and then go all out as hard as you can for 30 seconds. In the warm up you typically get your heart rate around 60 to 70% of its maximum (220-your age). So if you are 50 your max heart rate would be170 and your warm up heart rate would be 102-119. The first repetition is usually pretty easy as your starting heart rate is low and you can do the entire 30 seconds without stress.

Since you only recover for 90 seconds your heart rate gradually continues to climb after every repetition so hopefully by the time you finish your last repetition it is at or above your maximum heart rate. Remember to cool down for a few minutes after your 8th repetition. Unless you work out regularly you will likely need to work your way up to 8 cycles. You can start with 2-4 and gradually increase to 8, but ideally, you should get to 8 cycles. The magic really starts to happen around repetition number 7 and 8.

Here are the principles:

1. Warm up for three minutes

2. Then, go all out, as hard as you can for 30 seconds

3. Recover for 90 seconds

4. Repeat 7 more times, for a total of 8 repetitions

5. Cool down for a few minutes afterwards by cutting down your intensity by 50-80%.

If you have a history of heart disease or any concern please get clearance from your health care professional to start this. Most people of average fitness will be able to do this, it is only a matter of how much time it will take you to build up to the full 8 reps.  The beautiful thing about this approach is that if you are out of shape you simply will be unable to train very hard as the lactic acid will build up in your muscles quickly and prevent you from stressing your heart very much.  Start slowly, build up, and enjoy the fact that you are working to develop lean muscle mass which is one of the main keys to aging well.


 **Remember to

1. Always plan ahead for what you are going to eat

2. Obtain adequate amounts of protein

3. Work on Flexibility

4. Supplement your diet with a fish oil and multi-vitamin





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