If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they just need to do more cardio to reach their weight loss goals … I would have quite a few dollars.
Many people, more often women, believe they need to do cardio in order to lose weight. For years they’ve believed activities like running, aerobics and the elliptical are the way to get leaner and the weight room is the way to get “bulkier.”
Sadly, this often leads to an overabundance of cardio, and an under abundance of strength training.
What you’re left with is a softer, squishier appearance, little lean mass and a body that is really good at conserving energy.
When you do a ton of higher intensity cardio your body learns to expend less energy. You actually burn fewer calories.
Strength training, on the other hand, makes your body better at using energy. It burns more and better. You become stronger and tighter. That “toned” look so many women are after is actually from a combo of strength training and body fat loss.
Body fat loss will be primarily driven by diet.
So where does cardio fit into this picture? How much cardio do you need for weight loss?
This answer is somewhat specific to the individual, but here is what I usually tell my clients.
Do as little cardio as you have to. If you like it a lot, do a little more. Be careful not to overdo it.
This means if you hate doing cardio, two short sessions a week are probably fine, as long as you are strength training another 2-3 days and being diligent with your diet. You can absolutely lose body fat this way.
If you love cardio, try to keep a balance of high and low intensity (such as 1-2 days of circuits and 1-2 days of walking or jogging) and be sure to get your 2-3 days of strength training in as well.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is doing all cardio, no strength training and then thinking you can eat more because of all your cardio.
This is why many women struggle to understand why they don’t lose weight.
Your body adapts to cardio pretty quickly, and the only way to challenge it is to do more. And more. And more.
With strength training, you can vary the intensity, the load, the time under tension, the volume and so on. You can continue to make it harder and make your body continue to adapt.
You can reach a plateau with cardio pretty quickly. You will never plateau from strength training as long as you continue to make it more challenging.
In order to lose weight you need a small amount of cardio, but less than you think.
Start with 1-2 days of cardio and 2-3 days of strength training. Eat just enough to be satisfied but not starving, eat smaller portions and avoid processed foods, refined sugar and liquid calories.
If you do not get results after 6-8 weeks, add in one additional cardio session.
Lather, rinse, repeat.