How Much Cardio to Lose Fat/Build Muscle | Time Saver Gym Workout
How do you lose weight and build muscle at the same time? And how often should you do cardio?
Losing weight is very different from losing fat. You want to lose fat, not just weight. In short, the combination of aerobic training + resistance training will lead to the most fat-loss while gaining muscle, and the longest lasting improvements in body composition.
Muscle mass matters. A lot.
Muscle helps you lose fat and stay lean. The more muscle you carry, the higher your resting energy expenditure (REE or basal metabolism). Muscle is constantly being broken down and re-constructed, or synthesized. Your body uses energy to break down and remake muscle. How much energy? That depends on how much muscle you have.
1. MAKE A SCHEDULE
Once you have your goals, figure out a schedule to accomplish them and give yourself enough time to healthily accomplish the goal, but not too long that you lose motivation.
An example would be, "My goal is to lose 20 lbs."
1-1.5 lbs per week is fat loss at a healthy rate, so give yourself 20 weeks to lose 20 lbs (keeping in mind that weight loss is not linear, so there will be ups and downs)
2. WEIGHT TRAINING FIRST
Then, decide how many days a week you are going to do weight training. The most important part of any workout plan is to create a stimulus for your muscles, aka. lift weights. Weight training impacts hormones and metabolism positively, and also builds strength, structure and function that you can use for many years into the future.
Apply the “opposite rule” here (in other words, the opposite of what you were doing before that didn’t work). For example, if you were training every day, twice a day, then start your program with once a day, only 4 or 5 days a week and increase from there to give your body time to rest and recover. If you were only lifting weights two or three days a week, double your efforts.
3. ANAEROBIC WORK SECOND
Now plug in your anaerobic or interval progression. Think sprints, burpees, bike sprints, ect. Start with 1 interval training session a week for a total of 12 minutes each session, and work up to three, 20 to 30 minute sessions weekly.
The duration of your interval can be anywhere from 15 to 45 seconds and your rest is relative to the intensity and duration of your interval.
- 15 seconds HIGH intensity work such as burpees or 100 m sprints at the track – 1:00 REST – Repeat until your total time is completed.
- 30 seconds MODERATE-HIGH intensity upright bike sprints – 1:30 REST – Repeat until your total time is completed.
- 45 seconds MODERATE-HIGH tire flipping or elliptical sprints – 2:00 to 3:00 REST – Repeat until your total time is completed.
Ideally do intervals/sprints after upper body days OR at a separate time from strength training. As the weeks progress, it’s better to move them away from your strength training sessions all together.
4. FINALLY… IT’S TIME FOR “CARDIO”
Now we’ve taken care of the components that get optimal results — the strength training and anaerobic work, only after that’s happened should you add a “cardio” component. In fact, some people may not need any cardio, as they are metabolic furnaces — genetically gifted machines who respond very well to strength training and anaerobic work. However, those who have had issues with their weight much of their life, and would not define themselves as genetically blessed or fortunate, will benefit from the additional cardio. But remember, it is progressive and part of the entire plan. If you are doing five 40-minute strength training sessions a week and follow each of those with 12 minutes of either steady state or interval training (anaerobic) “cardio” sessions. This results in much less total “cardio” time, plus more metabolism and hormone boosting strength training – thus, better results in less time!
5. ASSESS AND RE-ASSESS — FOLLOW THE EVIDENCE
Throughout this period, follow the evidence. Take regular measurements of body composition, athletic performance and health to keep track of how this works for you. Aim for a combination of aerobic and resistance training and working out 5 hours a week for fat loss and cardiovascular fitness. This combo will also help lower dropout rates and will improve cardiovascular performance.
Are YOU a cardio abuser?
Do you try to negate a bad food choice or less than stellar nutritional day with extra steady state cardio session to “even out” the calories?
Is the duration of the session more important to you than intensity (e.g., you’ll choose 50 minutes lower intensity over 20 minutes of intervals)?
If time is short, do you scratch off resistance training before cardio sessions?
If you want to drop some weight, is your first choice a 10 km or half marathon event?
If a coach gives you a goal-specific program, are you quick to ask “where’s the cardio?” or “when will we be adding in cardio?”
Do you track and record “calories burned per session” on a stationary piece of equipment?
Do you feel fat or out of control when you go a day or more without a cardio session?
Do you find your cardio time inching up and up?
Are you putting in more than an hour a day trying to lose weight or make progress?
Do you find yourself progressing to longer endurance events — eventually hoping that events such as ultramarathons will help you lose fat?
Do half-marathons seem like not enough and a full marathon just getting warmed up?
Do you keep using cardio well beyond when it stops being useful or productive — for example doing cardio many times weekly for months and even years with little or no change in stimulus?
Does the thought of dropping cardio make you feel distressed, fearful, and/or anxious?
Have you even refused to stop doing it after a trainer or health professional expressed concern about what effects so much cardio may have on you?
Have you had blood test results that suggest you’re under significant physical stress (e.g. depressed sex hormones, disrupted thyroid, very high or very low cortisol, etc.)?
Are you afraid or reluctant to do resistance training, or increase the intensity or frequency of resistance training, in case you “get too big” or “bulk up” — even though endless cardio sessions haven’t helped you accomplish your goal (of reduced weight, body fat and/or girth measures)?
Strive for Progress