Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Should you do Cardio before or after your weight training session?

I seem to be asked this question quite often. Should i do cardio before or after my weight training? There seems to be a lot of debate on the internet as well as to which order is better. So let me present some facts and also my own personal preference. This question may seem simple enough, but actually it can get pretty complicated.

Whenever i get asked this question, my answer is always, well it depends on:-
  1. what your fitness goals are. Your training and exercise program should be shaped around your desired fitness goal. Meaning you need to first decide what you want to achieve before planning your workout routine. Not the other way around. Its like asking "Are bicep curls good exercise?" Not if you don't want your biceps to grow.
  2. How intense your cardio session is going to be. Is it just going to be a 5 minute jog or a 45 minute jog. You need to take this into consideration as well when making your decision.
Once your know the answers to the above 2, the choice is quite simple.

So when would you do Cardio BEFORE weights?
  • If you are a marathon runner and your goal is to increase your endurance, then YES, give your cardio session the attention it needs. If your goal is endurance, there is a high chance that you are just doing weights to shape up and firm up your muscles. So in this case, you would want to do your cardio first.
  • I know of some people who like to warm up by jogging on the treadmill for about 5 minutes, before hitting the weights. This is fine, though it would not be my preferred method of warming up. But to each his own. But please don't jog for 30 minutes and say it is a warm up.
Unless your fitness goals is one of the above, it will be better to do your cardio AFTER your weight training. Here's why
  • Lifting weights requires you to maintain proper form through out the ROM. If you have already taxed your body physically with a 45 minute run, it becomes that much more difficult to maintain proper form, since your body is already exhausted. This also means higher risk of injury. Imagine trying to squat 100kgs after a 40 minute run.
  • If you are lifting weights, i am assuming you are lifting heavy. To lift heavy, you are going to need all the energy you have. Especially for pushing out those last 2 or 3 reps when you feel like you just can't do anymore. After a 45 minute run, you will not be able to lift as heavy or push yourself as much as you would. In other words, your lift becomes a secondary workout, because your main focus was cardio
  • Personally, i find it easier to do weights and then run compared to the other way around. Whether its a psychological preference or an actual physical conditioning, i am not sure. But i just find it easier to do it this way
But what if i want to just lose weight and firm up my muscles here and there, then what? If this is your goal, i would still recommend doing weights first and then doing your cardio. Many people don't see it and still disagree, but doing weight training is CARDIO. A good weight lifting session will cause you to burn lots of calories. Many people out there still believe that the only way to burn calories is to do cardio like running, cycling etc. Weight training is an EXCELLENT method to burn calories as well, so yes, it does work.

Unless your weight training routine consists of you swinging some light dumbbells around like a magic wand, for all other purposes, it is still recommended that you do your weight training FIRST and then followed by your cardio. For me personally, i don't like doing too many things at one go. I like to keep my workouts to an hour or just slightly less. Hence this is why i have muscle gain days and weight loss days. On muscle gain days, i focus on just building muscle and on my weight loss days... well i focus on burning fat. Meaning i don't mix cardio and weight training on the same day, let alone one after the other. However, there are some times, when i do go for a jog on my muscle gain days, but it is done much much later in the evening. Spreading out your workout like this would be the best technique, rather than one followed by the other. But if you lack time and want to spend 30 minutes on weights and 30 minutes on the treadmill, go with the weights first.

What is your take on this big question? Or which one do you prefer? As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Poll Results - Weight Loss Options

It's time for the much awaited discussion on our recent poll. Let me apologize for not updating anything in over 2 weeks, been busy traveling and just never got a chance to sit down and type this out. I know its a Friday... and i could wait till Monday to post, but i decided, lets not wait that long. So here you have it.... a post on a Friday. so do enjoy.

Anyway, lets get down to business. There was a total of 68 votes this time around for the question "If you had to spend RM 2,000, to lose 10kg, which weight loss program would you choose?" The options were
  • Taking a miracle pill for 30 days
  • Exercise with a qualified PT for 30 days
  • Meal Replacement
  • Slimming center solution

The answer, much to my surprise was Exercising with a qualified PT. Well i definitely voted on this, but i am surprised that over 64% of the votes were for this option. Why am i surprised, because almost everyone i meet is always asking me for some shortcut to lose weight. So i personally felt that this option would be the least popular one, but turns out i was wrong. Oh well. This is why we run polls to test our guesses. So i was proven wrong again. But then again, the answer could be skewed because most readers of this blog are already actively working out, so for them, hands down, this is the most sensible solution. I am just guessing. anyone care to share your thoughts?

2nd place goes to meal replacement. Though far away from exercising with a PT, meal replacements received a total of 13 votes. Guess more and more people are opening up to the idea of meal replacements. Again, i am in support of using meal replacements, but i disagree if you replace all your meals with meal replacements and don't exercise at all. Exercise provides you with a whole host of other benefits besides just burning calories.

Slimming center received a total of 7 votes. Honestly i thought this would win hands down. Looking at the number of slimming centers sprouting out everywhere, they are like mushrooms after a rain storm. If you go to Damansara Uptown, you can easily spot about 5 or 6 different slimming centers in that area. But only 7 out of 64 felt that this would be their choice. Again, i am guessing this could be due to the fact the readers of this blog are fitness-a-holics.

Lastly, the ever popular (or not so popular) miracle pill only received 4 votes. My guess, most people are just not comfortable with this because of the constant horror stories we hear about slimming pills causing drastic side effects. Honestly, if i had to rate which one is my least likely option, it would be this compared to the rest. YES, i would choose a slimming center over a miracle pill... but ONLY if i absolutely had to.

So there you have it folks. The votes are in and the people have spoken. What was your vote and what was your reasoning behind that. Do share your thoughts wit us. As usual, look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Thor's workout

I originally planned on doing a review of the poll results for this weeks post, but then i changed my mind. I just watched Thor last night and the movie was absolutely brilliant. I had my doubts about Chris Hemsworth playing the mighty God of Thunder, but i must say, he did a good job and pulled of the role really well. If i had to initially choose who should have played Thor, i would have said WWE superstar HHH... since he is already really BIG and has the long blonde hair for the role. But nonetheless, i felt Chris Hemsworth did an awesome job and they did manage to bulk him up for the role. I mean really bulk him up.

So now the BIG question on everyone's mind is, how did manage to bulk up so much. The secret:-
1) Intense weight Training
2) Lots of high protein meals and shakes
3) Enough Sleep

Lets go through each one to give you a better idea of what he did.

1) Intense weight training
Chris Hemsworth is an active guy already, but he never did much weight training prior to preparing for his role for Thor. So weight training was relatively new to him. Most of his activity was surfing, so he had the typical lean surfer's body rather than the big built body you saw on screen. To prepare for the role, his trainer Michael Knight (no relation to Knight Rider) had to train him hard and helped him gain 20 pounds of muscle mass in just 3 months. That's really astonishing. The secret to gaining so much muscle so fast - Chris's workout was mainly made up of compound exercises. Compound exercises are exercises that utilize more than one muscle group to complete the full movement. Exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench press etc are great compound exercises that hit a few muscle groups at once. So the first phase of his workout was to bulk him up. In fact his trainer did such a good job at bulking him up that 3 weeks before shooting began, the directors said that he was too big they had to make him cut down as he was too big and could not fit into his costume anymore. To lean him out, his trainer used a technique called the shrink wrap effect, which basically tightens the skin around your muscles to give you that ripped look which looks awesome on camera.For a full picture of his workout, you can check out the link below:-


2) Lots of high protein meals and shakes
As we all know, exercise is just one part of the equation and the other BIG part of it is nutrition. To bulk him up, Chris was put on a super high protein diet and he had to consume a lot more food than he is used to. His diet was about 40% protein, 40% complex / good carbohydrates and 20% fat. Chris admits that he is not used to eating such huge amounts of food everyday.

"The eating was the biggest thing; since stopping shooting I probably work out the same but don't eat as much, and I've probably lost 15 pounds or something. Chicken breasts and protein shakes, boiled chicken . . . clean meats, the right carbs. Sickly stuff." - Chris Hemsworth

Chris also made it a point to eat 6 meals a day or every 2 to 3 hours that he was awake. An example of what Chris's meal would look like is as per below:-

* Breakfast: 2 eggs a slice of avocado, small steak, and 1 cup of oatmeal
* Snacks: a protein Bar
* Lunch: tuna wrap or chicken salad
* Snacks: a whey protein shake, protein bar and an apple
* Dinner: broiled fish or chicken, brown rice and vegetables
* Snacks: protein shake

3) Enough Sleep
The third piece of the puzzle which most of us urbanites ignore or take lightly is sleep. I'm guilty of this too. Chris Hemsworth says that he ensured he got plenty of rest and sleep to allow his muscles to rest and grow. As we know, your muscles don't grow in the gym, but actually grows once you are done. It gets broken down during your work out session and grows while you are resting.
It was purely eating, eating, eating, working out and working out, trying to sleep as much as you can — that's the other third of the equation." - Chris Hemsworth

Why is sleeping so important to this equation? Proper sleeps helps your body prepare for its future workout sessions. Also during sleep, our hormones (namely growth hormone or GH) are at its peak production and GH is extremely vital for stimulating muscle growth and maintaining the muscles mass we have already put on. So if you are always feeling tired and feel like you are not getting enough sleep, here is another reason why you SHOULD give sleep a priority, just like you do with exercise and diet. Most of us just focus on exercise and diet and give sleep the least of our priorities.

So there you have it. How Chris Hemsworth built his body for the role of Thor. Looking back at this as i write, i am also re-evaluating my workout routine, nutrition and sleep habits. Off late, i have been losing weight regardless of how hard i train in the gym. I am guessing that i may need to get some extra hours of zzzzz to let my body grow again. Oh well.... will try to fit into my schedule. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.