Why not put them together? If you do the energy systems work after the lifting workout, you risk decreasing muscle growth by inhibiting mTOR via the increase in AMPK from the energy systems work.
Without going into too much complex science, mTOR is the trigger for protein synthesis (muscle growth), while AMPK is increased when you expend a lot of energy, and it can inhibit mTOR. So raising AMPK right after lifting might partially inhibit the muscle growth stimulated by lifting.
If you have no choice but to do both types of exercise in the same workout, you should do loaded energy systems like sets of farmer’s walks, Zercher carries, or pushing the Prowler. The loading will also raise mTOR, which might compensate for the increase in AMPK.
So in order of effectiveness:
- Do energy systems work in the morning (not totally fasted), and lift in the afternoon or evening if you can train twice per day.
- Do energy systems work and lifting on separate days. In this case, the whole workout would be about energy systems. You’d start with an easy warm-up (like stationary biking for 10 minutes), then you’d do a high-intensity medley, for example, a farmer’s walk for 60 meters, then 30 seconds rest, then Prowler pushing 60 meters, then 60 seconds rest. Do 4-6 sets and finish with low to moderate intensity steady-state cardio for 20-40 minutes.
- Lift then do loaded energy systems work. Here you’d do sets lasting 30-60 seconds on the farmer’s walk, Prowler pushing, rowing ergometer, or Assault Bike, for example. Do 6-8 sets with a 1:1 work to rest ratio.
Don’t purchase what’s obviously a problem.
If you can control yourself with foods commonly known for their physique-wrecking qualities, and you’re generally lean, then knock yourself out. But if you can’t stop overeating a certain food, then keep it off your grocery list.
People say that removing something from your diet only makes you want it more. Of course! But maybe that’s the psychological struggle you have to overcome in order to learn how to go without it. And it may sound crazy, but you can’t eat what’s not there even if it’s on your mind a lot.
This period of going without your favorite snack is a great time to find alternatives that hit the spot. Do they have to be textbook nutritious? No. You don’t have to snack on raw broccoli to lose fat. But they do need to be better than what you were eating. Don’t swap your bag of Fritos for Doritos. Try something else that has the main flavor quality you’re after.
Is your favorite snack salty? Wrap a couple of slices of deli meat around some pepper jack cheese or smear some guac on a popcorn-flavored rice cake. Many nutrition pros will say these aren’t perfect choices. Rice cakes, for instance, have “empty” calories. But if those 35 empty calories (topped with another 100 calories of something else) can replace the 900 calories of what you were going to eat instead, it’s a step in the right direction.
What if your favorite junk food is sweet? Find a sweet alternative—mix chocolate protein powder with Greek yogurt and a tablespoon of chopped nuts. Or consider an apple. They’re okay.
Don’t like these suggestions? Not a problem. There’s an endless amount of alternatives if you’re creative enough and willing to stop spoiling yourself the way mommy and daddy did when you lived at home.
Go to the store and walk past the stuff you know you’ll over-consume. This goes for alcohol too. Wine has become the cliché indulgence for stressed-out middle-aged women, just like beer for men. So if you’re overweight and you drink excessively, abstain for a few months. Yes, it’ll suck, and you’ll feel “deprived,” but expect that. Embrace it so that there are no surprises.
That’s exactly how exercise is. If you’re not used to physical effort, working out sucks. You feel “deprived” of comfort. But discomfort isn’t always a bad thing, and life without it makes us unable to cope with common things that shouldn’t be hard, like avoiding donuts or making it to the gym.
To succeed, you must endure the unpleasant feelings that come along with learning anything new. Train yourself to handle them, and they’ll stop feeling unpleasant. Eventually, you’ll look forward to all the better alternatives.
Big warning here: Avoiding foods you overeat doesn’t mean intentionally slashing your caloric intake. That strategy will make you ravenous and likely to overeat later on. Start with simple swaps, get satisfied with better alternatives, and quit paying for things that make you fat.
First, some background info: Muscle tissue is the engine that burns the fuel (calories). Losing fat requires the engine to burn more calories than you ingest, so it’s forced to tap into stored calories (fat). The more muscle you carry, the more calories you burn.
I’ve learned that eating too many carbs makes it darn near impossible to get shredded from two decades of competing. At the same time, the elimination of carbs makes it difficult to train with the intensity and stamina necessary to maintain or gain muscle. So the best way to lose fat is to eliminate starchy carbs in favor of lean protein and healthy fats (coconut, olive, avocado, etc.) with the exception of the workout window.
The workout window includes 30 minutes prior to your first working set until the completion of your workout. Depending on the length of your workout, this should amount to about 80-150 grams of carbs in the form of highly branched cyclic dextrin.
These carbs will provide the required material to train with intensity, blunt a prolonged catabolic spike in cortisol, and jumpstart recovery so that you build and maintain the engine (muscle mass). As for the rest of the day, limit carbs to fibrous vegetables.
Stop being a pantywaist.
Oh sure, I could’ve talked about a number of important things here:
- Stop thinking of food in terms of reward or punishment.
- Learn to cook and make healthy foods taste good.
- Get off the “strict diet” vs. “inhaling the buffet” merry-go-round.
- Stop eating all the things you dang well know are bad for you. (Duh.)
But what do all those things have in common? Ninety percent of the solution is to simply choose better foods and be consistent in the gym. So why do people get overweight and stay that way for years when the common-sense answer is right there? What’s the root problem?
Answer? Being a pantywaist. Or as we’ll define it here: Lack of self-discipline and self-control. The unwillingness to plan because planning workouts and meals isn’t a bowl of fun. The inability to suffer just a little to get a great reward. Aversion to work.
It wasn’t too long ago that being tough and mentally strong was considered desirable traits. The last thing a man wanted to be called was a wimp, a weenie, weak, or lazy. Where has that gone? Why do people choose to wallow in their weaknesses instead of overcoming them (which they’re very capable of doing)?
“Oh, but Chris, I have a medical condition that makes it hard for me to stay lean and/or work out!”
That can happen. But the strong-willed person adjusts his or her diet to compensate for that back injury, “thyroid problem,” or prescription med that’s making things harder. It’s not easy, but easy is for pantywaists. And pantywaists get tubby waists.
But the excuses pile up anyway:
- “I’m an endomorph.”
- “I’m too busy.”
- “I’m broke and don’t know where to buy inexpensive, healthy foods because I’ve never tried.”
- “I don’t know how to prepare my own meals because I’m basically an adult toddler.”
Yes, in first-world societies, it’s easy to get fat. I did it myself back in the day. It’s hard to get lean and stay that way. Takes work. Takes planning. Takes discipline and determination. But that’s what we do best. That’s what YOU do best when you decide not to be a pantywaist.
No other diet or training tip will “work” until you remember that you’re a predatory animal with massive brain power… and not a weak-willed wimp.