"I don't want to look like a wrestler or a Crossfitter. I want to look like a bodybuilder. That's why I came up with this method for fasted cardio."
Dr. Lonnie Lowery is preparing for a bodybuilding show, his first in several years. The nutrition professor and research scientist isn't taking any chances this time around. The strategy he just told me about is extreme, but he believes it'll give him exactly what he's looking for: maximal fat loss and full muscle retention, something that's nearly impossible to achieve when dieting down for a bodybuilding show.
"I know this method is crazy. It's not for everyone. But hey, this is competition time. I'm not playing games."
Lowery is a natural ectomorph, growing up a skinny, scrawny kid. His body doesn't "want" all that extra muscle, and he has to use everything in his intellectual arsenal to build it and, most importantly, keep it.
After his mass phase, Lowery found himself sitting at a too-thick 20% body fat. It was time to do something drastic: fasted cardio. But this time, Lonnie had a secret weapon.
Fasted Cardio: The Lowery Method
Not your average nerdy nutrition professor.
The premise is simple: Every morning Lowery wakes up early and performs an hour of fasted "cardio." That means this exercise is done before he consumes any type of solid food.
Why? Because body fat is vulnerable at this time. It's weak because your insulin level is at rock bottom in the morning. Fat is left unprotected. This is the ideal time to maximally oxidize fat with a cardio-type of activity, tripling fat mobilization over already high resting values. (1)
The problem? Too much high intensity cardio can catabolize or "eat up" muscle tissue. The goal here is to preferentially burn fat, not muscle.
Lowery has a unique method to avoid muscle loss while draining fat stores: Instead of steady-state running or interval-style sessions, he uses incline walks on a treadmill lasting about an hour. He calls this "non-panting cardio," though he adds that it's not "real" cardio in the technical sense of the word.
It seems easy, and the actual workout is, but performed in a fasted state with the addition of caffeine and one other tactical supplement, this method can rip off excess body fat while protecting lean body mass. Just an important, this low to moderate intensity allows him to save most of his energy for his strength-training session later in the day.
Secret Weapon and Advanced Tactics
Lowery has been using this style of "cardio" for years. When he cuts 25 pounds of weight for a bodybuilding show, typically only three to five pounds come from muscle tissue, which is quite good.
But what if he could prevent all muscle loss? He'd walk onto the stage with three to five pounds more muscle. At very low body fat, that has a dramatic visual impact. And it could mean the difference between first and fourth.
Lowery has tried several methods over the years to maximize this strategy, including pre-cardio glutamine and a small amount of whey protein powder. The results were hit and miss. He notes, "I was worried that whole proteins consumed in the middle of a workout might mess up fat mobilization and fat burning. L-leucine seemed like the solution, but it wasn't readily available until recently."
The final solution was this: a small dose of leucine-enriched casein hydrolysate consume during the cardio session. MAG-10® fit the bill perfectly.
It's not comfortable performing cardio with a big tube in your mouth, but Lowery was determined to test out this new protocol. There were a couple of things he had to know. A carb-containing drink will suppress fat mobilization a bit, even during a workout. Would a carb-free leucine-casein hydrolysate drink? Would this muscle protectant slow fat loss?
"I went into the lab early one morning, hooked myself up to the metabolic cart and tracked my fat oxidation as I sipped the leucine-casein drink," Lowery said. "I can't tell you how pleased I was to see the results in real time."
Lowery told me that respiratory exchange ratio (RER) started at 0.75 – about 80-84% of all calories burned from fat stores, which is great. Anything below an RER of 0.80 indicates a preponderance of fat burning.
After drinking the first third of the mixture in minute 15, his RER remained 0.75. Good so far. After drinking the next third at minute 30, his RER was 0.74 – just as good or slightly higher fat oxidation. A final swig at the 45-minute mark and Lowery's RER was 0.75 (see printout )! Perfect.
"These numbers confirm my theoretical training and literature reviews," noted Lowery. "With 10 grams of casein hydrolysate and a few grams leucine, my fat burning remained in high gear during my optimized aerobic session, while my muscles were fully protected! This is a prime example of tactical nutrition."
The Lowery Method, Disclosed
Intrigued? Here's exactly how Dr. Lowery uses this powerful strategy:
- Before bed, place a bottle of water and half a caffeine tablet (100 mg) on your nightstand. Set your alarm for 10 minutes before you want to get up.
- When the alarm goes off, take the caffeine tablet and hit snooze. Doze back off if you can. Dr. Lowery calls this his "caffeine snooze." Ten minutes later, when the alarm goes off again, get out of bed, mix up one scoop of MAG-10 in 16 ounces of water, and find a treadmill
- Set the incline of the treadmill at 4%. Start walking at 3 MPH. The whole workout should be kept a just-below panting level. Heart rate should never exceed 120 BPM (beats per minute) for younger guys, and should be closer to 110 or 115 BPM for older men. Lowery is 42 and shoots for around 115 BPM.
- Ten to 15 minutes after exercise has begun, drink one-third of the MAG-10. Halfway through, drink another one-third. About fifteen minutes before finishing, kill it. The idea is to spread MAG-10 intake evenly throughout the workout session. You could also do this in halves: half the drink after beginning the session, half 15 minutes before finishing.
- Eat breakfast as soon as you're finished.
- Lift as usual later in the day utilizing a good peri-workout protocol. That means once again manipulating insulin: jacking it up this time and lifting weights hard in that high-insulin anabolic state. Think Surge Workout Fuel, FINiBAR, Anaconda Protocol, etc.
Bonus! Fat Torching Day
"There's a clear relationship in the scientific literature: the longer you fast, the more fat you mobilize," Lowery told me. "I made sure to always – always! – use this method of cardio the morning after a Pulse Fast, adding 15 minutes to the session."
Currently, Lowery is doing onePulse Fast per week. On the morning after the 36-hour fast, he'll add 15 minutes to his usual hour-long cardio session.
"I'm in a maximal fat burning and fat mobilization state right then," he said. "I lose fat so fast in that state that it's scary!"
A few details that'll answer your questions so far:
Dr. Lowery usually uses a treadmill, but he does use an elliptical or stationary bike on occasion. Same rule applies: Keep it non-panting.
What if you don't have access to a cardio machine? No worries, just go for a fast walk. Lowery also suggests alternating between a light jog and a walk. If you're at a school track, walk a lap, jog a lap, repeat. You can also use a weighted vest. But remember, this is not "cardio" in the usual sense. No sucking wind.
Progression of Exercise Duration
When preparing for a bodybuilding competition, Lowery will begin his cutting phase with 45 minutes of cardio using this method. (Twenty minutes is a waste of time," he said.) As the show nears, he'll move up to 60 minutes on average, and do 75 minutes the morning after a Pulse Fast.
Progression of Incline
As the excess fat burns off and the show gets closer, Lowery becomes more aerobically fit. He'll bump the treadmill incline from 4% to 7%, and finally to 10% as the competition nears. Again, keep this at a non-panting level, below 120 BPM.
Progression of Speed
There isn't one. This is a walk, not a run (unless you're using the walk/jog method).
Lowery uses this method six days per week when preparing to step onto the bodybuilding stage. Five days would be fine too, but Lowery stresses that this method requires frequency.
Too Much for You? Or Just What You Need?
Extreme? Time consuming? Maybe.
But if your goal is pure fat loss and pristine muscle retention, then Dr. Lowery has perfected the strategy to achieve it. All you need is a treadmill, some cheap caffeine tablets, a bottle of MAG-10, and the desire to carve your ultimate body.
Set the alarm.
- Jensen, M. Fate of fatty acids at rest and during exercise: regulatory mechanisms. Acta Physiol Scand. 2003 Aug;178(4):385-90.