Cardio and Fat Loss

Just the other day, I got off the phone with a friend I’ve know for years.  He told me how many times per week he’s doing cardio (spin, zumba, etc) and does some weight training but not much.  He’s frustrated that his fat loss seems to have come to a complete halt.

In fact, in the last month, he’s fluctuated about two pounds!

I tried to explain cardio as a tool that he could use to put himself further into a calorie deficit but that his main goal should be to focus on weight training and building muscle.  As usual, the advice I willingly gave was met with endless debates about the necessity of cardio.  After which he told me he thinks he’s been in a 50% deficit! (that’s 50% below what he needs to maintain his current level of activity).

My advice was simple.. reduce the cardio, start eating more and focus on the weights.  Maybe even consider eating at his maintenance level for a bit or even go into a surplus!  He wouldn’t hear of it.  He was willing to consider less of a deficit but there wasn’t a chance he’s ever think of eating too much more as it might put on fat.

To give you some perspective, he’s a 201 lb male eating about 1600 calories a day.

To give you some perspective, I’m 190 lb male eating about 4000 calories a day and I do one “cardio” session on Sunday for about 30 minutes.  It’s nothing more than a warm up for 5 minutes, followed by 6 all out sprints and a cool down.  Not much but it keeps me as lean as I need to be right now.

Why do I dislike cardio!

I don’t.  Not at all.  In fact Tom Venuto of the Burn the Fat Inner Circle says it best.

“Fat Loss is not a function of cardio. It is a function of a calorie deficit.”

Unless you are training for a specific endurance type event, I advise most people to do as little cardio (low intensity steady state) as possible and use it as a tool to put themselves into a calorie deficit (deeper if necessary).  For the record, when I mention cardio I’m not talking about daily movement or brisk walking.  I’m usually referring to some activity that gets your heat rate into a moderate zone, has you sweating but able to talk.  It’s more than hiking but less than a 400 meter relay pace for sure.

Focus on weight training, tighten up your nutrition to meet your goals and use cardio as a tool to put you into or further into an aggressive calorie deficit to burn off fat.  Used improperly, it just leads to too much of a calorie deficit which can result in a slowdown or a halt of any fat burning progress.

If you want something fun to do this month, try the holiday challenge!  Registration closes on November 21, 2012.

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