So people ask me, “Am I doing too much cardio?” And I always answer “It depends.”
It depends on what is the person’s goal. I will address this in two ways –
Case 1) the person wants to lose fat (primary goal) and retain/build muscle.
Case 2) the person wants to build muscle (primary goal) and minimize fat gain.
Case 1 person (Sam) should do cardio to assist in fat lost. Cardio can help put Sam into a caloric deficit. But how much!? Some of the factors to consider would be Sam’s recovery time, general fitness level, and diet.
Recovery time and general fitness level goes hand in hand. If Sam built her muscles using 3 full body gym sessions primarily, the cardio she should do has to be an amount whereby it does not hinder her performance in the 3 full body gym sessions.
Sam has to recover well enough to still push as hard or even harder during those 3 gym sessions. This is to ensure that the muscles are retained.
Now, to tie in diet, it is my opinion that if one is going for a 500 calorie deficit, one should reduce 300 calories from food and increase 200 calories in exercise. This tends to lead to better results for people as the total volume of food consumed does not drop significantly.
Based on my own personal experience, dieting in this way gave me better performance in the gym when compared to taking a 500 calorie reduction in food and not increasing calories burnt from exercise.
This is something everyone who hopes to shred fat will have to test and find out for themselves what works best for their individual body.
If Sam’s body is used to doing lots of cardio, then continuing with that same type and level of cardio is good as long as it does not hinder performance in the gym.
However, if Sam never does cardio then cardio should be introduced and then slowly ramped up as the body adapts.
Cardio is essential for heart health and a healthy heart can help with moving weight in the gym!
In general, low intensity cardio is best for one who is cutting fat. This is because low intensity cardio is easier to recover from. Also, cardio should be used to assist in maintaining the required calorie deficit.
Do no cardio and build those rock hard muscles? No! Nope! Wrong.
Cardio is still essential for people in Case two. There are people who advocate no cardio for those who want to build muscle. I STRONGLY DISAGREE. The heart muscles are the most important muscles in the body. Do not neglect them.
Although it is true that too much cardio can hinder muscle growth, we still need to do cardio.
We should aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. Moderate aerobic activity can also mean a brisk walk.
Trust me, these first minutes of cardio as recommended above will help give you a stronger heart to move more weight in the gym.
Think of it this way, Cardio can reduce muscle and it can help you to build muscle – depending on the amount you do. Each of us will have our own unique versions of the below chart which applies to us:
Thus, our job as people in the case 2 category is to find and test for ourselves what is the sweet spot of cardio for us.
The ideal amount of cardio depends from person to person. What is for certain is that we should ALL be doing a certain amount of cardio in our weekly routine. Fitness IQ +2!
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