One of the most basic and simplest concepts of working out is, eating. You need to eat to grow and you need to eat to perform. It’s something I learned very, very early on in this journey. Which is why, when I read or hear things like “you can’t ever do cardio if you want to gain” or “absolutely no cardio if you want to bulk” it really gets my rolling my eyes and laughing.
It is possible to make gains and do cardio at the same time. What do you have to do? EAT. The reason why you’re having a hard time making any gains or adding bulk to your body when doing both a cardio and weight program is, you’re not consuming enough. To gain weight, you have to eat more calories than the amount required to sustain. To lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories. Simple, basic math. Case in point: I’ve got a friend who is about five-ten, maybe 190? His goal is to decrease body fat and bulk up. All is good and well… except he isn’t seeing any gain. On his 3,000 calorie a day diet, he’s falling short. He’s doing cardio almost every day, often twice a day and doing weights every day. At bed time, his body has technically consumed just enough for it to keep “running” because he’s burned off the other portion. So it’s like he’s only eating half of that calorie amount and not exercising other than walking to the car, or up a flight of stairs.
The three months out of the year I train for the marathon I run annually, my grocery bill more than doubles. It nearly triples. Why? Because I want to keep my muscles and keep making progress. I don’t want to make the mistake I made the first year I marathon trained, and step backwards. That year, I kept my calorie consumption near the same as it always was and on top of adding to my weight training, I was running upwards of 10, 15 and some days 20 miles. I lost weight, I lost muscle, and I looked like hell. Lesson learned. That following year, I added about another 1,500-2,000 calories a day on my running days. I maintained my weight, didn’t lose any of my muscle mass I’d built back up that I had lost after the previous marathon. AND the added calorie intake after that first year also gave me huge improvements in time, proving that the Eat to Perform adage holds true as well.
Do cardio. Even if it’s in the form of intervals, do it. Endurance, stamina, a happy healthy heart… three GOOD reasons to do it. It also does wonderful things to your body. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t if you want muscle, because it’s not true. Just make sure you eat, eat, eat.
Which rounds me out to committing. If you can’t commit, results are going to stay tucked away in that box and you’ll never see them. One of my sisters is the classic case of never fully committing. Every year, it’s something new. Trying this diet, making this food lifestyle change. Doing this workout, or that one. Barely six weeks in to each thing she does? Quits. Gives up. Thinks she has a gluten allergy, goes gluten free. A week later, that’s back on the shelf. Wants a stomach like IFBB Pro Erin Stern, but can’t stick to a healthy, clean diet, or stick with a workout program long enough to really see the change.
The key is pushing through and sticking with it. It takes four weeks to become habit. After six weeks, everyone will start noticing that something is different. By eight weeks, you see a slight change (photos for progress people!) and by twelve? You’re looking in the mirror probably saying “Holy crap” because you finally see that hey, that really DID work.
Start small, simple. Don’t pick a ridiculously small goal, pick one that will give you a bit of a challenge, but isn’t going to kill you in the process. It will help get yourself wrapped around committing. Then, work up to the bigger goals. I started with wanting to change the basic shape of my ruler-straight body. It took two years, a lot of trial and error, and 8 different workout programs to keep my progress on track. After that, my goals started changing, becoming bigger. But I will admit, I’m a goal oriented person and I’m a fighter, I HATE giving up. So for me? It’s admittedly easier.
I didn’t dive right into clean eating either. I started at the age of 19, slowly weeding out the bad and replacing it with the good. By the time I was 20 (a full year), I’d successfully become a clean eater. Now, nine years later, I don’t think twice about it, it’s natural.
Pace everything out, ease into something. Diving right in, headlong, will only increase the odds that after a few weeks you’re going to throw in the towel. Don’t think you can do it alone? Find a buddy who has the same goal, work at it together. Or, find someone who you can use as a support system. Someone to cheer you on from the sidelines. And remember, anything is possible.