We know that cardio can help us burn calories and shed fat, it will also make our heart more efficient and can help increase our lung capacity. These are all amazing benefits or cardiovascular training.
A common myth is that cardio will make you skinny and not bulky while lifting weights will give you large muscles. A common misconception is the more cardio you do the skinnier you will be. It is true you can shed body fat and lose weight doing cardio but if you use high intensity cardio often and use a calorie reduced diet chances are the weight loss you see will be muscle loss as well which is not healthy long term.
A well balanced program for losing weight includes strength training, proper nutrition and cardio. Even for building muscle or “toning” cardio can be beneficial.
How can you implement cardio properly into your routine to help achieve your results?
For weight loss or decreasing your body fat to improve your body composition you should aim for a minimum of three strength focused days per week. Then, the additional two or three days you can supplement your cardio in. Aim for two high intensity days and one steady state (long easy) day. Too much high intensity cardio or any exercise can over stress the body and diminish your results.
When it comes to gaining muscle, easy steady state cardio will help on off days once or twice per week to help promote muscle recovery. As we get blood flowing throughout the body it helps remove waste and toxins from your body and improves recovery time. When looking to increase strength or build muscle this means you can lift more frequently in order to achieve your results.
Let’s also remember cardiovascular training can also be achieved through strength and condition workouts or circuit style workouts. You do not need to run or bike to work your heart, lungs and burn more calories. You can use full body movements grouped together to achieve a metabolic affect. This also means maintaining your muscle mass as you do cardio.
Muscle can be broken down by doing excessive cardio but this is only common if you are doing extreme endurance sports, you are not eating properly before and after your workouts or you are on a calorie restricted diet. For the average fitness enthusiast this should not be something you need to worry about.
When designing a program for weight loss or changing your body composition aim for three strength days, then two days of high intensity cardio or two days of HIIT or circuit style workouts, then one day of a long easy run, bike ride or method of your choice.
This is a guideline to start with but one size does not fit all. Listen to your body and alter your program as needed.
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