With 2015 already underway, many people have made New Year’s resolutions to get in shape by losing body fat, improving muscle tone or both.
The most effective way to accomplish these goals is through a sensible diet and combination of both weight training & cardio known as concurrent training. Most people have the weightlifting down, but are a bit confused when it comes to cardio. I’ve listed & busted the top 5 cardio myths below…
Myth #1 - Low intensity steady state cardio is the best way to lose fat.
You’ve probably heard of the two main forms of cardio; low intensity steady state (LISS) done for longer durations at 60-75% of your max heart rate, and high intensity interval training (HIIT) done for shorter durations at 80-90%of your MHR.
Although both types have benefits, they are not created equal. While it’s true you’ll burn more calories from fat while doing longer durations of low intensity steady state cardio, performing shorter bouts of HIIT training can actually elevate your metabolic rate so that you burn more fat during the rest of the day when you aren’t working out, thus helping you lose weight faster. Plus who wants to do spend countless hours of doing cardio when you could hit it fast & hard and be done. Do note however, HIIT training is very intense therefore you should treat it like a weight training workout and fuel up similarly. Also due to its intense nature, HIIT can only be done limited during the week and combining with LISS would be best as well as a good way to mix up your training.
- LISS: cardio done at 60-75% of MHR (which can be calculated by 220-age). Speed walking, slight jogging, slow swim, cycling, elliptical etc.
- HIIT: cardio done at 80-90% of MHR. Sprints, or all out bursts of effort for 30sec -1min followed by an interval of at least the same amount of time in rest or active recovery which is basically LISS
Myth #2 - Doing cardio means you can eat whatever you want.
When you do cardio, you are essentially burning calories. So it’s also like saying a few slices of pizza are equal to nearly 2hrs of cardio! I’m not saying that you can’t eat pizza, in fact as long as it fits into your diet, feel free. But I am saying that cardio is very catabolic or muscle-wasting. So if you eat an “extra” 2 slices of pizza on top of your allotted caloric intake then you will have to do cardio to burn it off which can lead to overtraining as well as muscle breakdown which may slow your metabolism and fat loss efforts. This is a lose-lose situation. So stick to your diet and don’t do cardio to justify ‘unplanned’ cheat meals.
Myth #3 - You have to use the cardio machines in the gym to make it effective.
If you’ve been watching football recently or the Olympics in the past, you’ll notice few of those elite-athletes use machines to do their cardio. Instead they are doing countless drills, practice runs, etc. and for the most part it’s outside in their element.
Don’t feel limited or obligated to use the machines to do your cardio. Rather go outside and go for a run, dust off that bike and take it for a ride, go swimming with the kids, play a game of basketball with some friends, you can even complete a few rounds of a barbell complex (fun, especially if you like lifting weights) etc. The best way to do cardio is if it’s enjoyable, that way you’ll stick to it and make it a habit.
Myth #4 - Doing cardio on an empty stomach is the best way to burn fat.
Performing actual ‘fasted’ cardio is not an optimal way to trim down. When I say fasted I literally mean fasted, nothing in the tank before going at it. It’s not smart to drive out of town on empty so don’t expect any different from your body. Yes, it’s true that when you do cardio on an empty stomach it will turn to fat for fuel but it will also look to your tasty hard-earned muscle to use for energy. Instead, give it some fuel. If you are doing LISS morning cardio on an empty stomach, make it more effective by taking a few scoops of something like USPlabs Modern BCAA+ to feed your muscles. If you are doing HIIT cardio training, fuel up the way you would a weight training workout; some carbs and protein to give you energy as well as prevent the catabolic catastrophe that can occur.
Myth #5 - If weight loss is your goal, doing cardio before weights is best.
If you decide to do 15min of HIIT before you begin leg day do you really think it’ll be effective? Didn’t think so, now if you decide to do 30min of LISS that’s your choice but truth be told any type of activity uses energy and when it comes to concurrent training (weights and cardio) prioritizing is huge. Do the more intense training first, hence the weights and then follow it with cardio. Note: if you are just doing a light warm-up of cardio for 5-10min that is fine but save the majority for post-workout to get the most out of your session.
Prepared by Victor Egonu
The information provided in this article, as well as this web-site blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice for any condition. Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. By reading this disclaimer, you hereby agree and understand that the information provided in this column is not medical advice and relying upon it shall be done at your sole risk.