Hey Chad. I was hoping you could help me decide what approach I should take to get ripped. I’ve been lifting and running on and off for the past 15 years. I’m strong and I have decent muscle size, but now I’m to the point where I want to get that layer of mush off my body and see what I have underneath. In other words, I’m going for the 6 pack abs! I was thinking of continuing with my weightlifting, then incorporate some long-distance running to help shed off the fat. There’s a marathon coming up in my home town at the end of October that was thinking about training for. I was thinking that might be a good target for me because I could kill 2 birds with 1 stone. Finish a marathon and get ripped! Depending on how I look, I may even consider competing in a bodybuilding contest. Do you think this sounds like a good plan?
Hello, Don. I completely appreciate your desire to want to unzip the “fat suit”, and take it off to see what’s underneath. I’ve been there before, and I will say that, in my case, putting forth the extra discipline of eating clean, along with proper and consistent exercise was definitely a worthy sacrifice!
When you feel good about how your body looks, that builds confidence. That confidence will transcend into other facets of your life, making you more efficient as an individual.
Running and Bodybuilding
In regard to your plan to get ripped, I have to tell you long distance running and bodybuilding just aren’t compatible. From a bodybuilding perspective, long-distance runners are overtrained as a result of the thousands of reps they perform every time they go for a run. People have a tendency to think “the longer I move, the more fat that I’ll burn” not even considering the negative implications too much exercise has on their hormones.
I want you to consider the appearance of long distance runners compared to sprinters. The sprinters almost always look full and muscular, yet very lean. On the other hand, the physiques of long-distance runners tend to appear much more flat, less shapely and withered. Sometimes to the point where they actually appear sickly.
There are biological reasons for this. Because long-distance runners exercise for such a long duration, their bodies produce excessive levels of cortisol. This causes testosterone and growth hormone levels to plummet. This hormonal shift leads to incomplete protein turnover in the body.
In other words, your muscle and other healthy tissues will break down at a faster rate than your body can rebuild those atrophied tissues. The end result will be a reduction of overall muscle mass, a slower resting metabolic rate, a weakened immune system, and quite possibly adrenal and/or thyroid disorders over the long term. Obviously, any of these scenarios are adverse to your primary goal of having a lean, muscular physique.
A much better option would be to incorporate shorter bouts of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) instead of long distance running. Because of its explosive nature, limited duration, stimulation of fast twitch muscle fibers, and limited production of lactic acid— HIIT can trigger some positive effects on total testosterone, free testosterone, DHEA, growth hormone, and dihydrotestosterone.
There is a significant amount of research to back this up. Just 15-20 minutes of regular sprinting, hill sprinting, HIIT cycling or HIIT elliptical training would be much more conducive to your overall goal than long distance running, or doing marathons would.
Of course, when it comes to fat loss, the greatest segment of the battle is maintaining a healthy, reduced calorie diet. Avoid processed foods, fast foods, alcohol, juices, sweets, pastries, prepackaged dinners, sweetened dairy products, and strictly limit your consumption of bread products, rice, potatoes, pasta, cereal, and unsweetened dairy products.
Try to also focus on consuming fresh lean meats, cage-free eggs, quality whey protein, lots of veggies, and a limited amount of healthy fats like almonds, avocado, extra virgin coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil. Be sure to keep yourself well hydrated throughout the day by drinking plenty of water between meals.
I hope you found this information helpful. I wish you all the best of success in achieving your goals!
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