Q: Can you compensate the calories burned during cardio on a bulking phase? I really want to gain some mass and have been leaning towards eating more and lifting heavier weights. However, I do not want to sacrifice cardio time because I do Brazilian jiu-jitsu daily for 2 hours and I cannot afford to neglect it. Is it possible to make up for the calories burned during jiu-jitsu to still see gains from heavy lifting? – Ephraim
A: It’s hard to imagine working out for two hours a day and going back for more. You rock!
For those who don’t know, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a combat sport and self-defense system using grappling and ground fighting (Wikipedia). In other words, it’s a serious workout. Many smaller guys and girls can use jiu-jitsu to pack a serious punch… or chokehold.
Jiu-jitsu puts the body in a catabolic state, which is the opposite of an anabolic – or muscle-building – state.
“As a general consensus in the strength training industry, medium to high intensity cardio with a duration OVER the 1 hour mark is seen as an instigator for the body shifting into a muscle burning state,” trainer Reuben Bajada explains.
To keep from burning up all your muscle through a mega-cardio workout like jiu-jitsu, you need to do three things in your strength training program:
- Eat more
- Lift more
- Rest more
Pile Up Your Plate
To up your caloric intake, ready your fork… you’re going to be eating at least 5-6 meals a day. You should already be doing this anyway, in order to supply your body with ample energy for your jiu-jitsu sessions. To build, you can even ramp it up to 7 or 8 a day, like followers of John Berardi’s Massive Eating Plan do.
Of course you need to consume plenty of protein to build up those muscles. But in order to send that protein straight to your muscles instead of letting your body tap it for energy, try to get the bulk of your calories from carbs.
Further increase your carb and protein intake before and after your workouts. If you’re exercising for over 1.5 hours, drink carbs during your session, too. Certified Professional Trainer Skyler Meine also suggests having a power-packed protein shake before you strength train.
To get progressively stronger, lift big and make those numbers climb, says Jason Ferruggia in an interview with Craig Ballantyne. “The numbers have to go up on the squats, the deads, the cleans, the chin ups,” he says. “Keep pushing those up and keep pushing the calories up.”
Ferruggia recommends full body workouts for beginners, and split routines (upper and lower) for advanced. If you’re looking for direction on what to do, read his “Best Exercises for Body Parts.”
You might want to squeeze your lifting in before jiu-jitsu, in order to get the most power out of your muscles.
The primary muscle repair time is when you’re resting, so pencil it in. Overtraining will get you nowhere fast. Allow at least a day between strength training sessions (or refrain from working the same muscle group two days in a row).
Many builders swear by active stretching and foam rolling, which preserve muscle quality and make for a better workout. In addition to conditioning your muscles, stretching and “rolling out” your muscles can help you achieve focus and get in synch with your body before you start lifting. That will save you from overtraining, or pushing your muscles too hard and getting injured.
Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night, and squeeze in a little extra rest with the fine art of napping. I also recommend Nate Green’s instructions for perfect sleep (see, guys can wear eye masks too!).