Cardio for fat loss
Cardio is the most misunderstood exercise in the world.
Having a zero cardio approach can mean we have to eat low calories on days we aren’t strength training to still be in a calorie deficit for fat loss to occur. (fat loss happens when we burn more than we consume) and we all burn calories at rest..
But .. If you’re in a situation where you don’t move about much in your day.. you drive to work, sit on your butt all day then you’ll be burning a lot less calories throughout the day compared to someone who is relatively active but may not realise it!
Many of us are lucky to get a combined 30 minutes of walking per day. This results in very low energy expenditures. To even tap into a calorie deficit, we have to eat a small amount of food. (a deficit for the most will be roughly 12x your bodyweight in pounds)
I would always advise to increase movement to give your body 45-60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, where you can burn 250-350 calories!
This of course, gives you more room in your diet to eat more calories while still being in a deficit for fat loss.
From my last 6 years of coaching I’ve also found this daily exercise helps with diet adherence… ever noticed you feel more positive, focused and more motivated after exercise? This is more likely to keep you on track with the food side. You’ll be much more satisfied as you’ll be able to consume more food and lose weight (win win)
This amount of cardio shouldn’t have impact on your appetite and hunger.
Alternatively if you really are too busy very short bursts of high intensity cardio can be a great way to burn fat. I’m talking 5-10 minutes. from 10s sprints (all out) with 1 minute rest between sets for 8 sets or even explosive squat jumps and mountain climbers on a tabata workout.
TOO MUCH CARDIO STOPPING YOUR FAT LOSS? .. Watch above where I explain why this may be the case for some of you…
Performing too much cardio can hurt your goals of fat loss… lets say you go on 1 hour 30 run.. you burn say 650 calories… you come back in and begin to feel hungry.. this is where it’s very easy to un-do a whole 1 hour 30 of your precious time & hard work! Which is the main reason why I preach to keep cardio to a minimum…
This is much more likely to happen from longer 1-2 hour cardio workouts.
These long cardio sessions tend to increase appetite… as said above it’s very easy to undo an entire cardio session with one meal or desert!
For me the main reason cardio gets such a bad rep is because it’s so easy to undo an entire cardio session if you’re not careful.
Let’s say that you did cardio for one hour and burned 400 calories. One serving of food can completely undo your hours hard work!!
This is why cardio alone is a bad strategy for fat loss. For the most part it’s a lot easier to not eat 400 calories than it is to burn it via cardio (and less soul destroying)
So to sum this up – pay close attention to your diet and to use cardio as a tool to burn more calories without it feeling like a ‘workout’
To change your body shape you should aim for 2-6 strength workouts per week (this depends totally on your lifestyle, time and so many other factors) All of my clients go from having stubborn belly fat, love handles and lack of time (90 hour work weeks) so can only train 1-2x per week but end up achieving amazing physiques, energy levels, sex lives, focus & promotions at work through the other benefits of putting themselves first.. so it can be done whatever your situation… but i would always advice 2+ strength workouts (plus getting strong is more fun than boring cardio!)
If you’re doing cardio to get lean then it’s a matter of burning calories while NOT overtraining and increasing hunger.
Also important to understand if you currently track the calories you burn during cardio – watch the above video!
So now I’m going into 4 of the best cardio protocols for FAT LOSS.
1. Just Walk
You’re probably thinking this is the worst form of cardio ever, but it works…. it works so well….
Simply finding opportunities to walk more is an amazing way to burn more calories without even thinking about it.
A 3 mile walk will burn roughly 5 calories per kg of bodyweight.
So if you’re 75kg (165 lbs) that’s 375 calories.
If you walk just an extra 40-50 minutes per day, that can add up very quickly in terms of calories burned
The main plus of walking as that it doesn’t feel like exercise and won’t impact your recovery to perform in your strength sessions (where the true transformation happens)
Walking is particularly good if DON’T enjoy high intensity cardio workouts like the cardio protocols below!
2. Play a sport with your friends
This is great, as you don’t think about it burning calories as you’re playing (and it’s fun)
Ever played 5 aside football with your friends? That is good cardio…. short sprints non stop for a good length of time.. boy that will burn a lot of calories.
Play badminton, tennis, squash? Awesome.. get your heart pumping and have FUN. This makes dropping fat easy 🙂
3. Sprints for fat loss
Now sprinting is an amazing way to burn fat quickly and burn a lot of calories. This is very high intensity so i’d recommend to start only with 1x per week and build your way up! These can be done anywhere …
one of my favourites is to perform deadmill sprints (shown below) at the end of a leg workout. Aim for 4 sets of 10seconds as fast as you can with a good minute to recover between sets.
4. Metabolic Strength Workouts
Metabolic workouts involve doing traditional exercises like squats, pull ups, rows but in a circuit fashion…
By doing this, you’re increasing your heart rate and working your cardiovascular system much more than simply lifting something heavy for 5-8 reps… This is very advanced and I’d always advice to lift carefully to avoid injury if lifting fatigued!
This is also very beneficial for your muscles and the shape of your body (if lifting heavy enough with sound technique)
So start slow with this (1x per week) and work your way up to 3x a week max for fat loss.
Here is an example of one I performed the other day
5 reps on the barbell shoulder press
10 reps on the barbell row
and 20 deadlifts with as little rest between sets repeated 3x round – follow along to the short intense workout below!
So to conclude
- Cardio shouldn’t be your main driver for fat loss. Use cardio to “supplement” your strength workouts and use your diet to create the calorie deficit 🙂
- Walking is an incredibly easy way of burning more calories without increasing your appitite to eat more.
- Sprints and metabolic circuits with weights (which are still heavy for the reps you’re lifting) are a very effective way to burn fat but due to their high intensity level BUT should be used sparingly to avoid burnout. Start with doing them 1x per week and work your way up to 3x MAX per week
- Go play a sport and do something fun outside!