How much cardio will help me lose weight?
I often hear from my ladies who tell me how hard they are working to get lean and toned, but they just aren’t seeing results. Here’s the harsh truth: the word “toned” essentially means “muscle,” and you can’t have tone without it.
I’m not saying cardio workouts are bad by any means. However, in some cases they can sabotage your undying attempts to get that awesome muscle tone and have your body ready for beach season.
Here are a few things to consider when gauging how much cardio you should do, as well as what kind.
There are usually two options:
- long-distance, steady-state cardio, like jogging; or
- high intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT can be applied to all sorts of things. It means going fast and slow for intermittent bursts, as with sprints.
This is important to consider, because too much long-distance cardio actually changes your muscle fibers. They go from fast-twitch fibers (which are stronger and bigger), to slow-twitch fibers (which are designed for endurance). This conversion makes the body a lot more efficient when you run long distances; however, your muscles are smaller and weaker, which is a bad thing if you want more muscle tone.
On the other hand, if you are doing HIIT training, you are working at a higher percentage of your max heart rate for shorter durations before you bring your heart rate down and recover. This does a few things:
- First, because of the higher intensities, your muscles are forced to burn carbohydrates and high energy phosphates to accomplish your quick bursts. Only type 2 fast twitch fibers typically rely on these energy sources. Remember, these are bigger, faster and more powerful muscles.
- Second, because your fuel source is different than steady-state running and you are forced to activate more muscles due to the explosive nature of HIIT training, your muscles won’t adapt by shrinking. If anything, they are going to get bigger and stronger. Think of how a sprinter looks versus a distance runner.
Get the point?
HIIT will also put you in “oxygen deficit.” Basically, during the workout your body uses more oxygen than it takes in, and you burn a large amount of carbohydrates to fuel your maximal efforts. When the workout concludes, your body has to re-oxygenate, refuel and recover. This takes energy from calories. Specifically, fat calories are burned after an HIIT workout as you recover, a phenomenon known as excess post-oxygen consumption (EPOC), or the after-burn affect. This keeps your valued muscle and burns the fat around it, giving you “tone.”
HIIT has proven to be a superior method for maximizing fat loss compared with moderate intensity steady-state training. Despite lower fat burn rates during exercise, fat loss is nevertheless greater over time in those who engage in HIIT versus training in the “fat burning zone”—providing further evidence that 24-hour energy balance is the most important determinant in reducing body fat.
Everything in moderation! Eat Clean 90% of the time and enjoy your favorite meal once a week or a dessert or 2 or a few cocktails. Once you eliminate everything…it sets your week up for disaster.
Workout: 4-5 days of interval and steady cardio 30 min and 3-4 days of weight training. Not light 5-6 lbs weights, but weight training that raises your heart rate and challenges you! You wont get “big”…Trust me!