Let’s be honest, there are only really two types of people in the world. You either hate cardio or you swear by it. Regardless of which side you’re on, you’re never really in the wrong!
Cardio has its benefits, that’s for sure. But there is such a thing as too much cardio.
However, when programmed correctly, cardio can help you improve your results, your body composition, and your overall health!
What Counts as Cardio?
Cardio is short for cardiovascular exercise. It includes any aerobic exercise that increases your heart rate and blood flow.
The goal with cardio is to condition your heart and lungs for better endurance which have many health benefits such as:
- Burning fat
- Better sleep
- Increased lung capacity
- Improved sex drive
- Higher bone density
- Less stress
- Better mood
- Stronger heart
However, too much cardio can lead to muscle loss, slow metabolism, excessive weight loss, and mental and physical exhaustion.
Just like anything in life, you need to find the sweet spot that works best for you. And that sweet spot depends on your goals.
Cardio for Weight Loss
When it comes to weight loss, people make the mistake of thinking that excessive amounts of cardio will get the job done. But that’s far from the truth.
See, the only way to lose weight is to be in a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit simply means that you burn more calories than you ingest. Regardless of how much cardio you do or how much weight you lift, if you are eating more calories than you are burning throughout the day, you will continue to maintain or even gain weight.
Now, that doesn’t mean that cardio is completely useless! It’s actually a great tool for weight loss if used correctly!
See, cardio is a very quick and effective way of burning lots of calories in one sitting. And if you’re just starting out, it’s a great way to start burning a few extra hundred calories, keeping you in a calorie deficit.
However, too much cardio can lead to muscle loss, which leads to slowing down your metabolism, making it easier for you to gain all that weight back.
And while strength training doesn’t burn as many calories in a single session than cardio does, it does help with building lean muscle mass, which increases your metabolism. This means that the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn just by existing!
So while strength training is better for weight loss in the long run, cardio will definitely help get you shredded when you need to be. Just don’t fall into the trap of overdoing it!
Cardio for Weight Gain
Now on the other hand, when you’re trying to gain weight, you want to be in a calorie surplus. Meaning you want to be eating more than you’re burning.
But that doesn’t mean you should just start eating anything just in order to gain weight! Your nutrition remains a crucial part of seeing good results, or any results, really!
If your goal is to gain muscle, you have to make sure to not only be eating the right amount of highly nutritious foods, but you also have to make sure you consume enough protein so that you can build muscle instead of storing fat.
And of course, once you pair proper nutrition with a proper strength training program, you’ll be able to see amazing results!
Cardio on the other hand, will increase the amount of calories that you burn… which means you’ll have to eat even more just to compensate. This is the reason why cardio isn’t usually recommended for those of you who are looking to build muscle.
That being said, cardio can still help you achieve better results from strength training if, and only if, it’s done right.
See, cardio can be used as an active recovery tool post strength training. The increase in blood flow helps your muscles relax and recover faster. So following your workout with some light cardio just as walking for ten minutes can actually help you go harder in your regular training helping you see better results faster!
The key here is to keep your cardio for the end of your workout seeing as you want to keep the bulk of your energy for your strength training. If done prior to your workout, you risk emptying your energy storage on cardio rather than your workout, hindering your energy output capacity and your results.
So, How Much Cardio Should You Be Doing?
Performing cardio two to three days out of the week, for no more than 30 minutes, seems to be the sweet spot for staying lean and reaching your goals.
If your goal is to lose weight, you really are trying to burn fat. You would want to ideally preserve your muscle mass or even gain some! And no, weight training does NOT make you bulky. Getting “too big” takes years of hard work and dedication that most people are not ready to put in. In fact, weight training will actually help you appear more toned, or “snatched” than ever, because a pound of muscle is a lot smaller and tighter than a pound of fat!
Now if your goal is to gain weight (or muscle mass), you might want to simply implement a 10 minute cardio cool-down AFTER your workout to help with recovery. Any more than that may be counter productive to your goal.
Ultimately, you want to start by identifying your goals and finding a regimen that works for you and supports your goal. Whatever you decide to do, remember to find something that you enjoy and to stick with it - the key is to be consistent, which is hard to do when you hate your workout routine. And besides, life’s too short to do workouts you hate.