First let’s start with honesty, some of us workout to earn food (or keep the scale at bay) this article will change that but don’t worry because I was right there with you in the beginning. So let’s start at the beginning, the only reason you exercise is for two reasons which I will get into in a second but there is only one reason to exercise
That reason is to get better at exercise
There are really only two things you are trying to accomplish with exercise, you are trying to make your heart stronger or you are trying to make you stronger (with potentially more muscle). On the edges is how you get better at both but most people do some form of hybrid. So let’s get into those two things because a lot of folks do it wrong and that makes their end goal of losing stored bodily fat more difficult.
Cardio strengthens your heart, it also allows you to eat a metric ton of food depending on how long you run or what you do. Is that what most people do though? Not really, let’s look at the edges to prove the point. It used to be running a half marathon or a marathon was a big deal (and it still is, I have always said that runners are hard core, think about it, they could leave the course when it starts to hurt and they don’t) now that’s just the entry point and ultra marathon’s and super long obstacle courses are gaining steam. I think that’s human nature right. What am I capable of and how much hurt can my body take? Like I said earlier, these folks not only CAN eat flexibly they have to, if they didn’t they would waste away or get very sick (often people seek out nutrition help at this point). While you won’t waste away the more you move to the edges you are likely to be catabolic much more, if you say that word in a body building gym people lose their minds but it simply means tearing down tissue to use for energy. So fat loss as an example is catabolic. Tear down too much and you are at risk of losing muscle, so you want to be smart about what you do and why you do it. This is why slower is better as it relates to fat loss, the more aggressive you are the more you are at risk to lose more than just fat.
Muscle building makes your muscles bigger, it might seem like the edges of muscle building are things like powerlifting or strongman/strongwoman competitions, that is false. It’s body building. Not like the kind of body building that is common (which is basically just an excuse to diet all of the time) I am talking about actual body building the way that actual body builders do it. The best example of how to build your body to it’s biggest is going to be to spend a lot of the time in the gym working your muscle to failure, eat a lot of food and use performance enhancing drugs (technically this is the case with cardio also but that would be more muscle preserving). The discussion we are having is what is anabolic? Once again, anabolic simply means adding tissue from nothing, this is a very difficult thing to do, especially if you are dieting non-stop and if you think “that’s okay, I just want to lose fat and I don’t really care about muscle” that’s the wrong answer. The majority of people don’t live on the edges and they don’t take PED’s, even the people taking hormone replacement drugs aren’t really taking PED’s, not in the way that would make them anabolic. For most of them it’s simply a way to be less catabolic as they age, which has health consequences. This also why dieting all of the time isn’t healthy.
With too much cardio you are at risk of losing muscle. With too much muscle building you are at risk of gaining fat. This is why most people do some sort of compromise that involves both.
Here are some basic rules I have related to working out:
1. If I had a bad nights sleep I don’t work out
2. If I haven’t eaten much I don’t work out
3. If I am having a stressful day sometimes I will skip a workout and focus on recovery. Sometimes working out helps that stress relief, so I play those moments by ear and if 1 and 2 are okay I workout.
4. I don’t work out to punish myself for something I ate.
5. I don’t work out to lose fat acutely.
That’s the short list, if working out provides your life with order good for you, that’s awesome but most people workout and don’t understand why they do it. You do it because it makes you a better human being and yes you should probably love it, that way you keep going.
If you use it as punishment to lose weight or lose fat and you break the rules I described above then you miss the point of why you do it in the first place.
Lastly let me say that people often take issue with my number one rule. They often throw out excuses of why they can’t sleep or why their life is some much harder than mine and therefore they have to work out without sleep. That’s fine, I don’t mind you needing to tell yourself that story so you feel better for not making sleep a priority in your life but if you knew that exercise was stress and that stress is probably a component of why you aren’t sleeping doesn’t it make sense to address the sleep part first? I just think it’s so funny that everyone breaks all of the other rules without a blink but that’s the one everyone concentrates on while they drink their sixth copy of coffee at 5pm just to get through the day.
Oh by the way, working out when you haven’t slept 8 hours a day is catabolic because you are more likely to use muscle as energy because the hormones that are muscle preserving need you to sleep longer. So when I said rest in the title I meant days off for recovery but it does apply to sleep as well.