If I exercise, how does that NOT let fat clog my arteries?

I was wondering how bodybuilders do it. I mean (at least off-season anyway) they have pretty bad diets - high in carbs and pretty high in fats (compared with the average person).

But now I haven’t really ever heard about any of these guys suffering from adverse heart conditions due to thier eating or lifestyle.

What exactly does the exercise do in terms of preventing thier arteries from getting clogged with (if I’m correct) low-density lipoproteins? I mean I know that if you exercise you will burn fat off, but how does that prevent the LDL from chugging up your arteries whilst you are consuming such a high quantity (or level) of fat (particularly saturated fats)?

I know they can balance this by eating more (poly)unsaturated fatty foods and thus increasing thier proportion of HDL in thier bloodstream (which evidence indicates lowers the risk of heart disease). But off-season, many of them consume large quantities of atrocious foods.

–My interest in this OP was inspired after seeing the WWE wrestler The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) say in an interview that although normally he likes to eat a healthy balanced diet, he also like to “treat” himself. This involves him consuming (for example) around 24 cream doughnuts. I remember thinking, “how the heck doesn’t he drop dead of a heart attack”?–

So what does exercise do for the heart? (specifically, if you could point out the differences that aerobic and anaerobic exercise play in keeping the heart healthy - I mean I have trouble thinking that these bodybuilders do lots of anaerobic exercise off-season).


Carbs, per se, do not increase your LDL cholesterold and are not bad for you. Saturated fats and trans fats will. Exercise, in and of itself, will also increase your HDL. As will alcohol. :slight_smile:

There is no food that is “bad.” But all things in moderation. Two dozen doughnuts is a bit much, but one episode of that will not kill you.

Aerobic exercise will build up your heart muscles slowly and dilate your coronary arteries, supplying shunts if necessary. Anerobic exercise is quicker if done on a regular basis. During interval work is the fastest way to improve your cardiovascular status.

What makes you think bodybuilders don’t lift weights during the “off-season”? They lift just as hard but concentrate more on building muscle mass.

Someone help me out if I’m wrong, but it’s always been explained to me that a healthier person will be pumping a higher volume of blood through their arteries than a less-healthy one. Essentially, your blood is moving “faster.” This will cause some of the LDLs that would otherwise stick to your arteries and harden them to dislodge and…go wherever it is that they go (to the lymph system for excretion?). With slower heart rates, you’re allowing that LDL a greater opportunity to stick and eventually collect, narrowing the diameter of your arteries, etc.

A couple of pages on exercise and fat:

Fat Burning During Exercise: Can Ergogenics Change the Balance?


I think you

I’m not a professional bodybuilder but I’ve been in the bodybuilding thing for 10+ years.

And I know MANY professional bodybuilders and personal trainers et cetra. I talk out of my ass on a lot of things, but when it comes to this I’m pretty knowledgable.

Firstly, the standard suggested diet for bodybuilding is a 40-40-20 diet. That means 40% of your calories come from carbs, 40% from protein, and 20% from fats.

As an addendum to the fats category, saturated fat is reduced as much as possible, to 0g a day in some cases if at ALL possible.

There is no “off season” for most bodybuilders. There is a time when professional bodybuilders aren’t in competition, and some of them do “let themselves go.” But the vast majority of bodybuilders (hobbyists to professionals) typically follow a nutrition plan every day of their life year round.

For example I personally eat an 2100 calorie diet every day (except one, explained later). And in general most bodybuilders consume roughly the same amount of macronutrients and calories every day.

[I consume the 2100 based on the fact that I weigh around 215-220 with a body fat % of around 9, so its a good caloric level to maintain muscle growth while not generating fat stores]

The one day of exception is a weekly “cheat period.” Now, this has nothing to do with wanting to eat bad foods or anything like that. There’s a theory (that I’ve seen in action so I tend to believe) that if you eat exactly the same amount each day your metabolism will reach sort of a stable point where you cannot lose any more fat or gain anymore muscle. A cheat day seems to keep your metabolism from plateauing and stopping muscle gain or fat loss (depending on what your goal is at the time.)


I think you’ve got a false premise. Athletic people eat far more calories than sedentary folk, but their ratios of protein: carbs: fat are probably within the normal range.

So yeah, the Rock can eat 2 dozen donuts on any given Sunday, but if he’s burning 3000 calories during his workout, it’s not that bad.

I read in a National Geographic a couple of years ago about alcoholism in Russia, and how the medical examiner remarked how utterly plaque-free were the arteries of hard-core alcoholics.

Does the abundance of ethanol somehow dissolve the plaques?

No…its mainly a case of starvation; the alcoholic is consuming more booze than food.

Most bodybuilders don’t burn 3,000 calories in a workout. And most only do lifting three times a week (or every day, but typically using a different muscle as most people let each muscle group rest one whole week before working it out again.)

Be glad to help you out. A higher volume of blood flowing through the arteries does not mean that the blood is moving faster. It means that your heart is pumping a higher volumer per stroke. In fact, trained athletes have a very low HR, not a high one. (I’ve heard that Lance Armstrong has a resting pulse of 32.) What helps to remove plaques in your blood vessels are HDL cholesterol. LDL tends to stick to the blood vessels, and if their are irregularities in the vessels, such as scarring, it will stick more. Correspondingly, a slow HR means wider arteries in trained individuals. A fast HR means that your heart is not pumping a high volume of blood per stroke and the heart has to beat faster, unless you are exercising. During exercise, of course, the demands of your body for oxygen are increased and the heart beats faster to provide that demand.

Yeah a lower resting pulse is definately an indicator of a healthier heart. It tends to mean that the heart muscle does not have to contract so many times in order to pump (force) blood around the system, because each time it dilates (fills up) it can hold a greater volume of blood.

Nobody does that. The Rock would have a pretty high active metabolic rate, but nowhere near that.

btw, a certain amount of saturated fat is important for your heart, so cutting it to 0g/day is not a good idea.