You want to be toned, so you lift weights. You drink your protein shake and eat your egg whites and oats. You’re doing it right, you think.
But you want to be skinner, so you have to eat at a deficit, right? So you keep your calories low and do a load of cardio too.
But you’re just spinning your wheels, making no progress. Why?
Because muscles can’t grow without enough fuel. You’re giving them the stimulus in the gym, but not giving them the nutrition to repair themselves by always trying to be in a caloric deficit.
Add to this that a by-product of aerobic exercise (cardio) called AMPK inhibits mTOR, the molecular trigger for hypertrophy (muscle growth), and you can see that, unless you’re going to eat enough food and stop trying to cancel out calories with cardio, you’re basically wasting your time lifting those weights.
Decide what your goals are. Do you want to be fit? Be able to run for hours? Be toned? Be strong? If you want to recomposition your body then consider doing not a lot of cardio. It is possible to lose weight and build muscle at the same time in the first year or so of lifting weights, but you’ll severely inhibit yourself if you do lots of cardio too.
I’m not suggesting doing NO cardio. It has a myriad of benefits and everyone should do some aerobic exercise. But don’t start or finish your lifting session with lengthy cardio and don’t use it to create a massive deficit, especially on the days you lift. If possible, do separate sessions with proper nutrition in between, or alternate days lifting and cardio. And eat enough food to support both these activities.
It is, of course, possible to be a super-shredded endurance athlete, and if that’s your goal then you will have to time your sessions to account for the chemical reactions instigated by the different activities and to have a proper nutritional plan to make sure that you eat enough to support your training, but also maintain a level of leanness for athleticism.