Updated: Sep 17, 2018
The most effective way to utilize cardio for weight loss/fat loss.
If you are not training for a Marathon, Tour De Fance, or your Triathlon A-race. Why are you spending hours on the treadmill or bike doing cardio?
It is a well studied and documented fact, that cardio is the slowest way to lose weight or change your body composition. Long bouts of cardio are great if you are seeking to improve your overall cardiovascular endurance. If you are doing cardio to lose weight you are wasting your precious time. In the end it will take you 2-3 times as long to achieve your weight loss goal. Furthermore, most beginners will give up long before they can even reap the benefits of their training.
To shed a little light on the overall benefits of cardio, here are some basics. Cardio, AKA "Steady State Cardio" only affords you and expenditure of 7 kcal per minute, which is only about 420 kcal/hr. This is a good start if you are just beginning a fitness regimen, but it's simply not enough to move into the fat burning zone as it is a very inefficient way to burn fat in a short period of time.
During the first 20-27 minutes of cardiovascular exercise training you are utilizing mostly glycogen, which is stored in the muscles. It's not until after this time do you even tap into the fat stores and only if you are in the upper rages of your targeted HR zone.
SO WHAT'S THE APPROACH?
Cardio should be use as a tool and not the standard approach in changing your body composition. Fat is fuel and muscle building burns more fat than cardio.
1. Set a target to raise your caloric expenditure from 7 kcals/minute to 10 kcals/minute or greater. Example: Using a stationary bike, try to shoot for 10 kcals per minute keepng a consistent cadence. You should be able to burn 100 calories in 10 minutes.
2. Increased your intensity level. "Push little harder". This type of training should feel a little uncomfortable and challenging.
3. Shorten your cardio time from 60 minutes to 30 minutes or less. By doing so you should be able to reach an expenditure of 300 calories in 30 minutes or less, but only if the intensity is there. If you find this formula difficult, don't be discouraged, stick to the plan it will get better over time. This is why we call it "Targeted". Focus on hitting the target like an archer focuses on hitting the bulls-eye. Attaining this goal may take several weeks of dedicated effort and practice. Setting a one month goal is an adequate time frame to accomplish this.
4. Although cardiovascular training is different for everyone. It is recommended adults get 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week for overall general health benefits. If you want to change your body composition, less is more. 10-15 minutes of cardio 5 days a week can be conducted prior to a well thought out weight training session. 30 minutes of targeted cardio 3 days per week is an ideal recipe for body composition modification using the targeted cardio method. You can also use targeted cardio as a recovery day tool.
THERE"S A BUT
Variety and muscle confusion is the spice of fitness life. However, you should never do targeted cardio prior to a hard-core weight training session. It will reduce your energy levels, thus decreasing your strength gains. More reps with weights will foster more calorie burn and build more lean muscle mass, which will improve your overall body composition. So put the weights before you attempt to perform targeted cardio.