Is Cardio Really Necessary to lose weight?
The first thing on most/nutrition programs is cardio. You have to do cardio to get lean, right? This has been a long held belief. We’ve seen people preaching cardio first thing in the morning for 45 minutes each and every day. Let’s take a look and see if that is the case.
What does cardio ‘do’? It can help increase your cardiovascular conditioning, as well as increasing your caloric expenditure, thereby increasing weight (hopefully FAT) loss. Those on a diet, or body transformation trek are often doing cardio to increase their caloric deficit. It can also increase mobilization, and transport.
Is it necessary though? What if you just ate less, would that work? If your goal is strictly to increase the appearance of your physique, and you would prefer to not spend an extra few hours in the gym each week, simply decrease your calories. However there are those that do enjoy performing cardio, whether that be running, jogging, intervals, etc, and for the vast majority of those, especially those with large amounts of fat to lose, cardio will simply speed up the fat loss. Something to consider, is those that are lean (for men 12%, women 16%), performing additional cardio may cause muscle loss, and this is the absolute last thing that you want to happen.
If you aren’t a cardio fan, I’d recommend starting with no cardio, and adding it in later if your fat loss slows and you have cut your calories as low as you feel comfortable. Unless you are obese, or have a very short deadline to reach your goal, there is no reason to start your program with cardio, unless of course you simply enjoy it.
If you choose to perform cardio, there are a few different kinds to you can perform:
1) LISS (Low Intensity Steady State)
2) MISS (Medium Intensity Steady State)
3) HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
When doing cardio, I typically will do LISS because I like to clear my mind on the treadmill. I’ll walk between a 3.0-4.0mph at a 0-6.0 incline. My heartrate will get up to maybe 130-140, but will usually be around 110 or so. I’ll do about 30-45 minutes on the occasions that perform LISS. Any caloric burn is simply an added benefit of that alone time that I have.
If doing HIIT, I’ll typically warm up for 5 minutes, and then do a 30 second interval as hard as I can, and then rest for 1-2 minutes, repeating 5-10 times, followed by a 5 minute cool down. I usually perform this on an elliptical. If done right, and giving 100% effort, this type of cardio will absolutely DESTROY you! I burn more calories in 20 minutes of HIIT, then in 45 minutes of LISS.
Bottom line, cardio is NOT necessary to reach low body fat levels, however if you want to do it, be smart about it, don’t overdue it, and perform the cardio that you enjoy.
P.S. I have found that during contest prep, it is important for me to perform cardio. This however is when I am getting down to single digit bodyfat levels. A pure endomorph, I hold onto that last little bit of fat, and it is extremely hard to get off without cutting calories and adding extra cardio.