Craig Ballantyne Interviews Erik Ledin (Part 2)

December 29th, 2009 by

YOu can read Part 1 here.

CB: Moving over to training, how and when do you use cardio and intervals for fat loss? What about when gaining muscle, do your clients still do cardio? 
EL: For fat loss, it really depends on the person, their goals, how far away from their goals they currently are, the amount of time they have to invest, how I have their training set up, etc. Generally speaking however, I put the emphasis on interval training and use lower intensity cardio as more of an ‘adjunct therapy’. Perhaps to top off off energy expenditure. Actually, I tend to fall into the camp that says to do as little cardio/interval work as necessary to see results. I prefer to put the fat loss focus on nutrition and look to optimizing and fine tuning what a person is eating before I’ll suggest more cardio or interval work.  

For an average client I might have them doing anywhere from 1-3 interval sessions per week with varying interval or work/rest ratios. Again, it depends on the training as well. If someone is using a full body program, I might go as high as three weekly sessions. For someone doing an upper/lower split, I probably won’t go past two weekly sessions and I’ll put them on leg days so that the lower body gets more full rest days.  

For lighter individuals, and this basically refers to lighter females, I find I generally have to have them do a little more cardio than their heavier counterparts. The lighter the person the more likely they’re going to have to do more cardio because they simply can’t create the necessary deficit from dietary restriction alone, without calories becoming painfully low.  

For example, let’s take two individuals,   
Person 1 – 230lbs 
Approximate maintenance of 3450 
Person 2 – 110 lbs 
Approximate maintenance of 1650 
So, a reasonable place to start is to create about a 20% deficit and then adjust from there based on results, or lack thereof.  
So, continuing with the examples,  
Person 1 – 2760 calories (690 calories deficit) 
Person 2 – 1320 calories (330 calories deficit) 
So, you can see, Person 1 has created a big enough deficit, all else being equal, to lose over a pound of fat a week. Person 2, however, with the same 20% deficit, has not. For her to match Person 1’s absolute deficit she’d have to eat only 960 calories. (again, lots of general assumptions in these numbers).  
Hence the fact that lighter individuals typically have to add in some expenditure work to get the caloric deficit up high enough to get a reasonable rate of fat loss. 

For muscle gains, I remove the interval training entirely and I just have a few optional low-intensity steady state sessions in. I don’t really see much benefit to it during phases devoted to mass gains as those calories lost could be directed towards gains instead. As for those that cry ‘what about my heart’, I’m sure they’re getting enough cardiorespiratory benefits from their weight training. I had a client tell me they wanted to do some low intensity 15-minute bike riding for heart health. Now, I’ve got no problem with remaining active, but I objected to the reasons behind the 15-minute stationary bike ride, and asked this person to stop and take their heart rate the next time they’re training legs.  

CB: What supplements do you use with fat loss clients? 

EL: I’m really not a big supplement guy. There’s so little on the market that really has any significant impact on results. They might enhance progress a little, but they don’t create progress. So the cost-to-benefit ratio just isn’t very favourable for the consumer. Most of my suggestions stem from more of a health or convenience position. For example, I generally recommend the use of a protein powder, since many busy people just don’t have the time to sit down to 5-6 meals per day. The other reason is that for many new clients, I have to suggest they raise their calories and I’ve found that many don’t have the appetite for so much more food when they’re used to eating less. Getting some liquid calories early on can help with this. So, I think of protein powder as convenience food. I still prefer as much as possible to come from solid food, but I do like to see protein powder around, or at least following, resistance workouts.

Beyond that, I suggest everyone use a fish oil supplement as the list of benefits seems to be growing daily. Maybe a multivitamin as an ‘insurance policy’ if you’re not eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and perhaps some antioxidants. So as you can see, pretty basic.  

I’ve also used BCAAs with some competitor clients towards the end of their diets when they’re very lean, calories are low.

CB: What’s in Erik Ledin’s postworkout shake for his fat loss clients?

  EL: This might be where I go a bit against the grain so to speak. I used to be all over the whey protein and maltodextrin and/or dextrose postworkout concoctions, but I’ve moved away from that with many clients. It’s still an option but I pretty much leave the postworkout period up to the client. What I mean, is that my recommendations these days are basically whey protein and some low fat carbohydrate – and what that low-fat carbohydrate is, I leave up to the client. I tell them how many carbs I want them to have and give them a caloric ceiling for those carbohydrates and then let them choose what they want. I’ve got some clients that stick with the liquid carbs like dextrose and/or maltodextrin, while I’ve got others that use flavoured rice cakes, popcorn, cereal, bagels, and even candy every now and then. I really don’t think it makes that big a deal provided you’re getting some quickly digestible protein and carbohydrates in during this period. I know some might argue this point, but in terms of real world fat-loss results which is what I care about, I just haven’t seen it make a significant difference. The other advantage it provides is the flexibility to have some ‘fun carbs’. People like this.  

I also pay more attention to pre-workout nutrition as well, ensuring that there’s some carbohydrate in the pre-workout meal.  

CB: And for his clients trying to gain mass?

EL: The same rules as above would apply in terms of allowing clients the freedom to choose. So again, whey protein and some quickly digestible carbohydrate. The primary difference here when compared to someone with fat loss goals, would be quantities. Programs designed for mass gains would have a greater amount of carbohydrate and calories here. I’d also consider adding a little creatine to the mix. I also might have them use a protein/carb drink to sip on during their workouts.

CB: What type of training split do your male clients use for muscle-building?  
EL: It would depend on how advanced an individual is, but again, most of the time it’s either an upper/lower split or a full body program. The only time I’ll use a bodypart split is if we’re specializing on a specific muscle group and trying to bring that up. During that set up, we’ll train that muscle (there may be two) with greater frequency and a lot more volume. Everything else gets put on maintenance. So I guess it’s a pseudo-bodypart split or something.

But outside of that case, I think upper/lower and full body splits make the most sense. I like the idea of increased training frequency at least in part due to what we know about how soon protein synthesis returns to baseline. I think if you’re doing 100 reps a week for a particular muscle group, you’re better off doing 50 reps twice per week instead of 100 once per week. I think you’ll experience less gains on a bodypart split than you will on upper/lower or full body splits.. Continuous gene expression is just as important for hypertrophy as motor learning is for strength. Training a bodypart once/week will not lead to any kind of optimal gene expression, unless you’re part of the genetically elite, for which anything works.  

Training for mass gains doesn’t need to be that complicated. We want high tension, a high workload and high fatigue. So, more weight and more work, but all the while making sure to manage those same variables (intensity, volume, and fatigue). Focus on the big movements, get stronger and add weight to the bar over time and chances are, you’re going to find yourself bigger and more muscular.  
CB: And for fat loss? 
EL: For fat loss, I stick to upper/lower splits or full body programs. Even for the competitor, I just can’t come up with a good reason to use a bodybuilding split when you stop and think about what the goals for resistance training while dieting for fat loss are – namely to keep the muscle and strength you’ve built.

I tend to avoid a lot of high-rep, low-load training while dieting. Your body already has a limited capacity to recover due to a lack of fuel when on reduced calories. Light weights while in caloric deficit will likely run the risk of more muscle loss, especially the leaner you get. What builds muscle is what keeps muscle, and if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. A person trying to lose fat needs to give their body a reason to hold onto the muscle and this requires them to be training above a minimum intensity threshold. I strongly feel that they’re should be a strength emphasis to one’s training.

The other thing to keep in mind and this was touched on earlier, is that your capacity to recover from training is decreased on reduced calories. As a result, the volume of training should be reduced. People simply aren’t going to be making significant muscular gains while in a caloric deficit – no matter what anyone says. If a person tries to keep the volume as high as you might have it when calories are above maintenance, they’re going to find themselves burning out, getting weaker, and regressing. I’d typically err on the side of caution and suggest doing less when you want to do more. 

That said, I do include blocks of training where I’ll switch things up and perhaps train with shorter rest intervals, non-competing supersets, etc, but the brunt of my training philosophy revolves around keeping a strength focus, compound exercises, etc.

CB: Do men and women use the same type of splits for both goals?

EL: Yes. Generally speaking, I don’t believe men and women need to train differently. What works to build muscle for a man works to build muscle for a woman. Get stronger on the basic exercises and add weight to the bar over time and you’re going to improve your physique whether you’re a man or a woman. The same goes for fat-loss training. What keeps a man strong, will keep a woman strong. I don’t see the need to deviate from full body or upper/lower splits based on gender and the effectiveness of compound exercises isn’t affected by gender either. I might fiddle with other aspects of the program, for example, volume or exercise selections based on specific requirements and goals but in the grand scheme of things, men and women should be doing similar things in my opinion. I think that about covers it.