The period of muscle mass gain is when we adapt our workouts and our diet to increase as much muscle as possible, gaining strength, volume and density. However, in doing so, we also end up gaining a little fat… And this is something that practically nobody likes to do.
To try to reduce this fat that is gained during the period of mass gain, many bodybuilders end up using aerobic exercises to try to "grow only muscle". But is this a valid strategy?
We know that in order to gain muscle mass we need to eat more calories than we expend, and to lose fat we lose spending more calories than we eat.
So, is it worth it to sacrifice your goal of gaining muscle mass by putting aerobic exercises (running, cycling, stairs) in your workout? That's what I want to talk to you about in this article and give you some tips that can help you a lot!
Aerobic exercises vs. lean mass gain
We know that weight training is the main and most important exercise to stimulate the increase in muscle mass. This is because, the physiological and neurological adaptations imposed on the body in the face of resistance training with weights causes the body to develop aspects related to this purpose.
In general, we can say that bodybuilding promotes microlesions which are redone and, therefore, allow the increase of muscle tissue, allow an overcompensation of glycogen, allow an increase in neuromotor capacity, allow better anabolic hormonal synthesis, supercompensatory among other aspects .
However, in the same way that we have this knowledge, we know that, contrary to the gain of lean mass, are the aerobic exercises, because they normally aim at an energy consumption of the body, which could be used for the gains of lean mass (since , to build muscle, you need to be in energy surplus).
Likewise, aerobic exercises can cause the body to stimulate the production of catabolic hormones, such as cortisol, glucagon and even catecholamines, which have degrading aspects in muscle tissue.
Contradictorily, we can say that even presenting these individual characteristics, both types of exercises are important. This is because, in the same way that weight training brings all its benefits of movement gains, strength gains and increased lean mass, aerobics are also important, especially for better cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory health.
As we know, no matter what period you are in, keeping your cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory health up to date is essential. And that is why we can say that aerobic exercises are important in terms of gaining lean mass, especially because you are increasing your weight (and often even gaining a little body fat, which is normal), causing that their systems have to work harder, and in order for them to be efficient, they need to be properly prepared.
Heavier individuals still need a greater contribution from the cardiovascular system, further justifying the practice of systematic aerobic exercises. Therefore, you must include aerobic exercises in your routine.
However, there is still a question for us: Would this not harm the gain of lean mass? Roughly speaking, we can say that no, as long as there are correct protocols for both training sessions, as long as there is adequate food and a good rest, it will not harm. For this, I want to leave some small tips for you to make the most of aerobics in your period of gaining muscle mass.
Tip 1: Beware of the intensity of aerobic exercise
When we talk about aerobics, many understand this only as running, doing intense exercises and so on. However, we should not consider this for people who want to increase their lean mass, or even for individuals who need to reduce the percentage of body fat, but are of high weight (whether lean or not).
Regarding aesthetic and functional gains, without aiming to increase aerobic performance (as it should occur in corridors), people should do aerobics more slowly and with less intensity. This is because, if it is heavy the overload in the joints by very intense exercises may not be interesting.
If she is underweight and is in the process of gaining lean mass, intense aerobic exercise can consume a lot of energy which, obviously, could be better used to build lean mass in an energy surplus in the diet.
Aerobic intensity should be low or moderate. You don't have to run like crazy or ride like crazy. An accelerated or moderate walk is more than enough for most people.
Tip 2: Watch your aerobic exercise duration
Just as intensity is important, the duration of aerobics is also. I see men and women spending 60, 90, 120 minutes on aerobic exercise daily. This is too much! Not even people in a period of fat loss need such long-lasting aerobics.
When we do lasting aerobics in the period of muscle mass gain, in addition to shedding unnecessarily large amounts of energy, we still end up stimulating the production of catecholamines and cortisol, which are terrible for lean mass. In addition, we can suppress important hormones such as testosterone and reduce insulin levels (which must also be adequate for an efficient gain of lean mass).
The duration of aerobics can vary greatly depending on the number of days you will practice them in your routine. For example, if you are going to practice aerobics daily, you can think of something around 25-30 minutes. However, let's say you are going to choose only 3 days a week, so your sessions could be 40-45 minutes.
The important thing is to always maintain a balance so as not to spend too much time on aerobics and jeopardize your muscle mass gains.
Tip 3: The diet must meet these energy costs
Remember that it was said earlier that more energy is needed in the body than is spent when the goal is to increase muscle mass? Well, if we spend more energy than we consume, how can we expect there to be energy to synthesize the increase in lean mass? Basically, just as a car does not run without fuel, your body will not function properly in these processes without its fuel, which is the energy obtained through food.
When we perform aerobics, even with moderate intensity and duration, there is an energy expenditure and this expense can impair the period of gaining lean mass. So, the only way to prevent this from happening, of course, is by improving the diet and giving a little more nutritional support.
Of course, you don't have to clog up with food because the expense won't be that big, however, a little more calories will be needed. You can, for example, consume an additional 20-25g of carbohydrates in a meal close to your aerobic and around 20-25g of carbohydrates after training. Depending on the case and if you are an individual who is very easy to lose weight, it may be necessary to use a supplemented carbohydrate such as maltodextrin, waxy maize or even dextrose. However, only if you are prone to the ectomorph biotype.
Another tip is to provide some glutamine and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) before and after your aerobics. Something like 10-15de of glutamine and 5g of BCAAs are enough.
Also remember that water and electrolytes are essential. During aerobics, we lose a lot of water and minerals, which must be replaced with the use of denser foods and salt and vitamins and with possible supplementation.
Tip 4: Aerobics should not be used for extreme weight control
We know that aerobics can help in the period of muscle mass gain to control the levels of body fat, and that is a good thing. However, when you want to control fat levels too much or even when you want to keep reducing them, your results of increasing lean mass will certainly suffer.
Therefore, aerobics should not be a “counterbalance” to your energy intake.
It is necessary to understand that the period of muscle mass gain is for increasing lean mass and for that, a little fat gain may occur, water retention may occur, and this is absolutely normal. So, bake seeing aerobics as just ways to improve the cardiovascular system.
Tip 5: The best aerobic is the one that suits you best
Running machine? Bike? Transport? Rowing? Swimming? Walk outdoors? Bike outdoors? Well… there are countless options that we have available in our day-to-day to do aerobics.
And, of course, each of them can be considered better for a certain person, that is, we cannot say that in general one is better than the other, but rather, that one can be better than the other for a specific person. with their specific needs and, mainly, with their preference, after all, most bodybuilders do not like aerobics very much.
Therefore, you should choose the aerobics that you like best and that you feel the best, in order to make that habit easier to be followed with discipline.
For example: suppose that when doing a treadmill and walking continuously, you have a lot of pain in your knees, so how about the bike to minimize it a little? Suppose you love cycling, but hate transport, so why not opt for the bike itself? If you don't like walking in the same place, why not take a walk outdoors?
There are many possibilities, just see the ones that best suit you.
Is there a better time to practice aerobics in the period of muscle mass gain?
Unlike specific fat loss strategies with fasting aerobic systems, HIIT aerobics, prolonged aerobics etc., in the period of muscle mass gain this is more free and you can choose to do them after your fasting training, at a time opposite to that of training, among other possibilities.
The only thing that cannot happen is to do aerobics less than 5 hours before weight training. That's because, we will deplete glycogen and, a nutrient that is essential during anaerobic exercises.
Another point to mention is that fasting aerobics normally have a very strong impact on metabolism and, in the long run, which will necessarily start to impair muscle mass gain and may impair total performance (physical and neurological) and cause unnecessary stress on the body.
Therefore, if you opt for fasting aerobics, do them on alternate days and always remember to rest properly before your practice.
Given these established facts, we can think that aerobics are very important in the phase of muscle mass gain as well as in the phase of reduction of body fat.
However, despite their importance, if they are not done properly, either in intensity, duration or even in frequency, they can have a totally negative effect and do more harm than help. Even so, due to its importance to the cardiovascular system, we emphasize the need for its practice for better levels of health and even for optimization of gains as a whole.
Aerobics should always be in accordance with your preferences of practice, choosing the one you like best and providing possibilities for disciplined continuity.