Cardiovascular conditioning is essential for the Fat Adapted Athlete

Cardiovascular Conditioning is a foundational piece in optimizing your fat metabolism. . .

So, in today’s video, I’m going to share the ‘whys’ of cardio for those seminal ‘ahh, hah!’ moments you need to recognize just how crucial developing your cardiovascular potential is for health and performance.

Now, if you are an endurance athlete, I don’t need to impress upon you why you need to do cardio, but, there are a host of additional benefits when cardio is based upon a fat-based physiology.

On the other hand, in most strength & conditioning, crossfit and resistance training circles optimizing cardio is downplayed. Sure, I’ve seen the studies on how High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) can achieve the same benefits as cardio.  Frankly, these studies and the confirmational bias they re-enforce miss the point precisely because HIIT training is one integral component for optimizing cardiovascular potential.

Then there is a small anti-cardio camp which will tell you chronic cardio is actually unhealthy. They cite examples of athletes who’ve dropped dead of a heart attack like Jim Fixx or died of cancer or an infection and, of course, the GI issues common in endurance sports. There are even a few studies which suggest a lot of cardio is actually unhealthy . . . and guess what? In part, I agree with them but it’s not the cardio itself that’s the problem. . . I’ll get to that in a minute.

Let’s simply face it. Cardio sucks. As an ultrarunner I ‘get’ that. We want the quick and easy. We want to and like to ‘see’ results and, ironically, this has spawned an entire social media phenomenon of selfies, which, at their core, are nothing more than primitive animal courting rituals.

We tend not to care so much about what we don’t see and don’t really understand, but, after this vlog, you still won’t see what cardio is about but you will understand why.

Let’s start with that trite old saying, “Nobody does your pushups for you.” As athletes we all intuitively know this is ‘why’ we put in the time and effort to train. Doesn’t matter if we are doing crossfit, Zumba, bootcamp, circuit training, or training for a marathon, ultra or Ironman, we all know training is necessary to achieve our performance goals. Same goes for optimal cardio. Sure, by default your cardiovascular system will improve through training but it won’t be optimal and allowing your cardio training to tag along is actually a backwards approach. . . yes, it’s backwards.

Your cardiovascular system FEEDS your muscles, it is that 2 way pickup and delivery system which feeds your cells, the oxygen, energy, fluid and nutritional elements required for muscle function and health. Similarly, this same systems removes CO2, waste products and heat from your muscles. Why wouldn’t you want to optimize this system first and foremost to optimally supply your muscle cells with what they need to perform at the highest level?  Think about this for a second. (pause)

This is ‘Ah, hah’ moment #1 . . . and there is a sound scientific basis for this, it’s called EVOLUTION. Consider this . . . from our relatively lack of hair or fur, our sweat glands and ability to sweat, our frontal eye set and bipedal motility to our single stomach and relatively small hindgut humans evolved to be the optimally aerobic apex predator with a cardiovascular capacity like no other mammal (relative to size).

Now you know the reason ‘why’ but, of course, there’s a fly in the ointment the naysayers point to for cardio; enlarged hearts that seize up, cholesterol and saturated fat clogged veins and arteries and even cancer implicate chronic cardio as the problem. . . and guess what? I am going to agree with this at the same time I am going to encourage you to optimize your cardiovascular potential . . . yep, you heard that right. . . but here is why.

The problem with doing large volumes of cardiovascular training has nothing to do with chronic cardio per se. The problem lies in our meddling with Nature.

Until the rise of fat adaptation in endurance sports virtually all cardiovascular exercise was fueled by MASSIVE amounts of carbohydrates; essentially SUGAR. . . this gives rise to the rhetorical question ‘Are the heart attacks, cancer, GI issues, injuries, etc. due to cardio or the carbs? It is now well established doing massive amounts of exercise fueled by massive amounts of sugar (glucose) creates massive amounts of oxidative stress, lactate, free radicals, INFLAMMATION, and Advanced Glycated End Products (AGE) . . therein lies the issue with ‘chronic cardio’. 

Millions of years of evolutions made humans supremely robust and when you make the switch back to the aerobic energy substrate we are meant to use as our fuel, our own body fat, you not only dramatically reduce to a fraction the oxidative stress, lactate, free radicals, inflammation and AGE’s but you actually increase arterial/vascular distensibility, capillary and microcapillary bio-genesis and synthesis of Type 1A slow twitch and Type 2 A Fast Twitch aerobic muscle fibers which also increases mitochondrial bio-genesis. Hormonal and Enzymatic balance are restored because everything is operating as it should. Cardiovascular training done on an optimized fat-based metabolism is a 180 degree paradigm from the conventional carbohydrate based one. Everything changes when you use the energy evolution shaped us for. . . This is ‘Ah, hah’ moment #2.

That is not the end though . . OFM leverages ALL modalities of training; Long duration, HIIT and Tempo/MAF (MAF=Maximum Aerobic Function) in a periodized structure to develop cardiovascular potential. It’s not comparing one type of training modality with another but leveraging and synergizing the benefits of all. . . doing so not only optimizes your fat metabolism by increasing your fat oxidation rates and shifts your ‘Crossover’ point  to a much higher level but it vastly improves your aerobic glycolytic performance at threshold intensities! . . . ‘Ah, Hah’ moment #3 . . . got it?

The ‘Take-Home’? You simply cannot gain the full benefits of fat adaptation nor optimize your fat metabolism without optimizing your cardiovascular system. The two work synergistically with each other for optimal health and performance.

And finally there is an added BONUS: Based upon our work with athletes the window of carbohydrate tolerance opens WAY UP virtually eliminating a highly restrictive and structured diet allowing for a much more intuitive and natural way of enjoying food..

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. We are here to help you get you back to burning fat as fuel the way Nature intended.  Thanks for listening.

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