What we eat affects weight loss or gain – we all know this – but did you know that it can also have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your training?
This is because of two key pathways in the body: mTOR and AMPK.
The acronyms stand for:
mTOR – Mammalian Target of Rapamycin
AMPK – Adenosine Monophosphate-activated Protein Kinase
Activated by nutrient-rich conditions, mTOR regulates cell growth. It’s the pathway that recognises your training stimulus as appropriate for an adaption towards strength and hypertrophy gains.
AMPK is an enzyme found inside every cell. It regulates energy intake and expenditure – and therefore promotes homeostasis – and influences the composition of your body fat. Abdominal fat is reduced when AMPK is boosted.
Why are mTOR and AMPK important in training?
If you want to activate and maintain mTOR for up to 24-36 hours, you will need to ensure that you are well fed and not glycogen depleted in the run up to, during and after your training session.
This is particularly important if you are lifting weights at high intensity – not necessarily the heaviest weights, where you are carrying out one to five reps, but for any rep range where you go to true failure.
AMPK is the opposite. It is activated when you carry out endurance training, which breaks down substrates like stored fat and glycogen.
AMPK will tend to override mTOR, as when your body is depleted of energy it cannot favour using energy to repair or build new tissue, one of the aims of resistance training.
What if you train cardio and weights together?
Combining cardio and resistance training in one session can eventually result in a diminished return, as the mTOR and AMPK pathways will compete with one another.
What training options are best to increase returns?
For gym goers looking to develop good all-round fitness, your best option is to train for different objectives on different days.
If you are an athlete or competitive sports team player, you should consider what you want to achieve from your training and adjust your mTOR and AMPK accordingly.
Example of a schedule effectively combining cardio and resistance training
It’s a good idea to consult with a personal trainer or other fitness professional to help you work out the best training schedule for your fitness levels and goals.
However, here’s a suggested programme for combining cardio and resistance training.
Monday morning: cardio/skills training – this will trigger AMPK. Once you eat and recover, AMPK will turn off.
Monday afternoon: strength/power training – this will trigger mTOR as long as you have the appropriate intake of carbohydrate and protein before, during and after your training session, in order to prevent the activation of AMPK. It’s possible for mTOR to remain switched on for 24-36 hours.
Tuesday: either take a day off or train at low activity levels, for example work on skills, mobility or mental rehearsal. This will prevent AMPK being activated and your energy levels from being depleted. Your mTOR will stay activated, while advancing your training.
Wednesday afternoon: cardio/skills training, as Monday morning and repeated to the appropriate level.
Wednesday afternoon: strength/power training, as Monday afternoon, and repeated to the appropriate level.
Thursday: either take a day off or train at low activity levels, as Tuesday, and repeated to the appropriate level.
What about diet?
Increasing the amount of water-soluble dietary fibre you consume can boost your AMPK levels and help you lose weight. Examples include: porridge, nuts and seeds, peas, beans and lentils, carrots, cucumber, apples and citrus fruit.
In all cases, consulting a qualified fitness professional or dietician can help you train and regulate your weight in a safe manner.