Cardio is a great addition to any fitness/weight loss program.
The problem is that in an attempt to lose weight, most women do WAY TOO MUCH.
The 2nd problem is they don’t do enough weight training
Those too problems together make it almost impossible to lose weight and get in shape.
The reason is that after too long, instead of your body utilizing fat for energy, it goes into a state of like “emergency” as its working too hard and too long and it starts to PRESERVE FAT to use as energy.
When it does this, it starts to break down your muscle to use for energy.
This slows metabolism, lowers calories burned and you lose muscle tone.
Cardio is any activity that you keep your heart rate elevated for an extended amount of time.
Cardio is great for:
- Increasing endorphins (Better mood)
- Burn calories
- Lowers cholesterol and triglycerides
But as I mentioned above… in excess it will negatively affect metabolism and muscle.
There are 2 main types of cardio:
- Steady State
Steady state cardio is where you do cardio for a long period of time keeping your heart rate elevated at a steady rhythm where you are challenged but not dying.
The problem with the old school mentality of doing steady state cardio is that even for a whole hour working at 50-60% of your max, you are not challenging your body enough to burn more calories than if you worked at a higher capacity.
So best is working more at like a 70-75% where you are challenged but can maintain that pace for 30-40 minutes.
With this, if you do too long, you can burn muscle.
HIIT is where you do intervals of high intensity working close to your max capacity with bouts of low/rest intervals to recover.
With this kind of cardio you burn more calories overall.
Its also more time efficient as you can burn more calories in a 20-25 minute workout than in a 45-60 steady state cardio workout.
It also promotes a better hormonal environment by increasing adrenaline and growth hormone which also increases testosterone which helps you gain muscle and burn fat.
Personally, I enjoy interval or HIIT cardio better and also find it more effective.
But a good approach would be to do a little of both.
I currently do 4 days of weight training and 2 days of cardio (interval) for 20-30 minutes
If you are in the process of weight loss, I would still do more weight training than cardio (at least 3 per week), and I would increase the cardio to maybe 3-5 and do maybe 1-2 steady state and the rest interval.
I also wrote a post on 5 tips that can help you lose weight when you’re feeling stuck.
When Should I Do My Cardio?
As far as what time, I always say… “whatever time you can be most consistent with”.
I always do my workouts in the mornings, first thing in the morning because I have the most energy and I can be the most consistent because once the day begins, things come up and its harder and harder to get the workout in.
If you are doing cardio on a weight training day, I would do it after the weights.
Because when you do weight training, your body uses primarily carbs (glycogen) as fuel/energy.
When you do cardio, your body uses carbs and/or fat as fuel.
So, if you start with weights, you will burn first the glycogen (carbs) and by the time you start your cardio, you will be burning fat for fuel.
A question I get a lot is about fasting cardio.
This is when you do cardio on an empty stomach.
For most people it is effective and the premise of this is that you will be in fat burning mode when you begin as you have been fasting all night and have no available carbs to use for energy.
But the caveat here is that you have to do it within 30-45 minutes of you waking up.
If you wait too long, you will begin to use muscle for fuel/energy.
You also want to make sure you are careful with how long you do on an empty stomach so that you don’t get into a catabolic state where you start burning muscle.
20-30 minutes is more than enough on an empty stomach and I would do intervals not steady state.
At the end of the day, remember that different things work for different people.
The best thing you can do is test all these things and see what works best for you.
But what you don’t want to do is get stuck doing the same thing if its not working.
Don’t settle, try different kinds of cardio at different times, at different intensities.
Try doing more weights than cardio if you normally do more cardio and see if you can find the right combination that works best for you.
And don’t forget my rule of thumb….
If you are pressed for time and need to figure out whether you do cardio or weights… choose WEIGHTS, every.single.time.
It will promote a better hormonal environment for you to burn fat long term.
If you need HIIT cardio workouts to do and would like to have a game plan of weight workouts to do and how to eat around your workouts, those are all the things that are inside FIT MOM FOR LIFE… plus so much more.
Check out this quick fat burning workout workout (no equipment needed).