Do you need cardio to lose fat?
(I’ve purposely used the phrase ‘lose fat’ as opposed to ‘lose weight’ in the title of this blog – the former is exactly what we want, the latter may be less desirable for reasons outlined later).
Before I start, let’s just clarify the following:
Diet is the main driver of fat loss.
In order for weight loss to occur, you must be in a caloric deficit (A caloric deficit means you are taking in less calories than you are expending (i.e. dieting))
Making sure the quality of the food you eat is good is also of vital importance.
Now with that said, let’s get back to cardio – do you need it to lose fat?
The answer, like most questions in fitness, depends.
I’ve had clients lose fat with minimal cardio, and some who only lost weight once formal cardio was introduced.
I will, however, always stick by the idea that lifting weights is the major key to losing fat, keeping it off, and looking good in the process.
Lifting weights helps preserve muscle tissue.
Dieting of any type puts you at risk of losing fat AND muscle as your body fights for resources.
If this happens, the number on the scale will go down, but you will look ‘soft’ and sloppy. You won’t look good despite having lost weight.
Muscle gives you the toned and sexy look of somebody in shape.
Therefore the aim of any successful weight loss campaign should be to lose fat while keeping muscle.
Now let’s not get it twisted, cardio is very good for you from a health perspective. No doubt about that. It is very important actually.
Certain types of cardio are also very fun. I love sprinting, boxing, and playing football. Once the summer starts, I’ll be hitting the hills again.
Boxing, like above, is an excellent form of cardio.
But we are talking about whether it’s necessary for weight loss here, not whether it’s fun or good for you.
The fact is, some people can get away with doing pretty much no cardio, yet have abs all year round. All they do is lift weights and go about their daily lives.
For these lucky people above, there may be several reasons why they can get away with this. They may be genetically blessed. They may have a tightly controlled, clean diet. They may be so active outside the gym that they naturally expend a lot of calories without realising (i.e. walking, moving and standing a lot).
For these guys, cardio is not required to stay lean.
Someone else might be the complete opposite.
They may have poor genetics. They might be eating at Star Chicken every night. They may move less than a slug throughout the day, thus not spending any calories.
These people definitely need cardio.
General guidelines to determine whether you need to do less or more cardio:
(Assuming you are lifting weights at least 3 times a week, as this pretty much covers muscle retention).
The cleaner your diet and the more active you are during your daily life, the less specific ‘cardio’ you need.
The looser your diet and the less active you are during your daily life, the more cardio you need.
If you fall in to the second camp, cleaning up your diet &/or becoming more active in general will start to reduce the amount of cardio you need.
In terms of intensity of cardio you need to do, here are some good guidelines:
The more active you are in the gym (i.e. the more you lift throughout the week), the lower the intensity of cardio you need to perform.
The less active you are in the gym and daily life, the higher the intensity of the cardio you need perform (i.e. interval training). (Of course, you will need to work up to this as it is very demanding).
It’s also worth noting that you both types low and high intensity cardio are important for weight loss and health.
So do you need cardio to lose fat? Look at your diet and lifestyle, then judge from there.
Hope this helps guys
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