Why Are You Doing All That Cardio?

Cardio is a touchy subject and a lot of fitness professionals and gym goers get their knickers in a twist over it.

Do you need it? What type is the best and when is it best performed?

The answer to ALL of those questions is…

…it depends.

Allow me to explain.

We know that the best fat burner bar none is resistance training. The building or even maintenance of lean muscle tissue is expensive on the body in terms of burning kcal’s. Simply put, lean muscle tissue will burn more kcal at rest, when sleeping and just simply existing, which is why virtually every PT/coach/trainer that has one iota of knowledge will harp on about it as much as they do.

The next aspect or element of the fat loss puzzle to focus on should be your diet. We know that to effectively burn body fat whilst preserving lean muscle tissue is the key so calorie restriction is not the aim here. Focus on lean servings of protein, good quality sources of fat, green vegetables and starchy carbohydrates if and when needed. On it’s own, a good quality diet will help you burn body fat but when combined with resistance training the effects can be dramatic.

That out the way, lets go back to cardio. Cardio is the icing on the cake. It’s the finishing touches; it’s the brandy and cigar after a gourmet meal. It will burn body fat; there is no question in that but far too many people are doing too much cardio and looking at it as way to even out the edges of a sloppy diet.

Focus on getting your numbers correct. By numbers I mean your macros.

For fat loss, I like the formula 2/1/1

2g protein per/kg/bodyweight

1g carb per/kg/bodyweight

1g fat per/kg/bodyweight

If we took a 76kg man or 12 stone, however you like to look at it, you can see that he would need:

152g of protein

76g carbs

76g fat

Total kcals: 1596. Let’s round it up to 1600.

I’ve mentioned this just a few weeks ago but it’s good to go over it again. Low intensity cardio does exactly what it’s meant to. It burns body fat but at a very low rate and the calorie consumption is extremely low. Unfortunately, lots of cardio can promote the release of cortisol by the body. For some people, this is not a problem but for many that experience high levels of stress, poor sleep, poor diet and over-consumption of alcohol and cortisol levels are all ready high, slow, extended cardio sessions will just add to the problems.

The above sounds like a lot of people in the city right?

Cortisol is our fight or flight hormone, among others but it’s very catabolic meaning it can potentially break muscle down as opposed to being anabolic, which is the building of muscle tissue. The purpose of aerobic exercise is to train the body to be as efficient as possible. The body adapts very quickly to repetitive aerobic exercise with the goal of using the least amount of oxygen and energy to perform the greatest amount of work.

This WILL NOT promote fat loss.

I repeat. It will not help you burn the fat you think it does.

I don’t care if you think it does, it just doesn’t 🙂

HIIT is a far better option.

Short, sharp and intense sessions that burn body fat long after the cardio taking place due to a EPOC, but also promote hormones such as testosterone, GH and other anabolic hormones that will promote muscle gain. There is a time and a place for LISS (Low intensity steady state) aka sitting on a bike, aka walking slowly on a treadmill aka “boring as hell suicide cardio”

To start with, you are working the heart and the lungs, albeit very gently so from a general fitness perspective, it can be beneficial. Let’s look at another example; if a person has DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) from training the previous day, it might be wise to avoid HIIT for possible injury prevention and overtraining. If someone is coming back from injury, cycling on stationary bike can be a good entry level back before full training resumes. Bodybuilders that are looking to maintain as much muscle as possible and purely tap into their fat stores in the run up to a competition AND are using various anabolic steroids/GH/peptides in their preparation may utilize LISS and very effectively, BUT the average person doing hours of cardio is just wasting their time.

Why would you perform a low calorie burning protocol that is time consuming and potentially catabolic when you can perform HIIT that will burn more calories in the long run and promote muscle mass retention? All the reasons above and injury aside, there is no need to at all. But so many people are still chugging along on the cross trainer or the bike and performing far too much of it in the vague attempt to get lean and burn body fat.

So back to my original questions stated.

Yes, it can be useful but it all depends on the aim, the person and the circumstances.

The devil is the dose as they say.

Fasted or non fasted.

Interesting topic and this debate will rage on until I’m in a chair with a pipe and slippers (not that far away actually). Studies show there is zero benefit from performing cardio on an empty stomach so there you go. BUT, if it makes you feel better and you think you are burning more then do it – you are far more likely to stick with something that you think is working. Spend the majority of your time on resistance training and working on your diet and use cardio effectively. Perform the right type and amount either before you eat breakfast or later in the day. By adding smartly performed cardio to an already sound base of diet and resistance training is the key to effective and sustained fat loss.

Have a great weekend.

I’m in Aberdeen tonight and tomorrow talking at a nutrition event, which should be cool. Whistle stop trip as I’m back by 7pm Saturday evening.

What you up to?

Gav 🙂

PS. We don’t do no cardio here mate <<<===


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