“How much cardio should I be doing?”
“What’s the best type of cardio for fat loss and for how long?”
I want to start this post by saying there is no magic type or amount of cardio you “should” do for faster fat loss. Fat loss is achieved by being in a calorie deficit.
Cardio recommendations are one of the most frequently asked questions I get as a coach. When you’ve made the decision to finally start a training program or to join a gym, it’s very common to start your training regiment by doing cardio – lots of it, at that! While there is nothing wrong with cardio, as it has several respiratory and heart-health benefits, I want to share with you why starting your fat loss phase doing moderate-higher amounts of cardio may not be as beneficial for you and your goals in the long run! To simply answer the first commonly asked question, “How much cardio should I be doing to lose weight?” the answer is this: it depends. In fact, it depends on several things, including: How much weight do you want to lose? What is your weekly weight loss targets per week? How much cardio are you already doing? What’s realistic for you to adhere to each week? The answers to each of these questions will vary greatly person to person, which is why there is no one-size-fits-all cardio recommendation I give out to my clients. Generally speaking however, I wouldn’t suggest adding in loads of cardio until you’re already a few months into your weight loss journey.
If your primary goal is to lose body fat, you must be in a calorie deficit. Calories in < calories out (CICO). Period. As you continue to diet, your body can and will plateau at some point on the amount of calories were once losing weight at. If you've ever started a diet and got to a certain weight and then you stopped losing weight, this could be why. Plateaus almost always happen and it's a very normal adaptation to occur as you diet. In order to continue on the path of losing weight, you must create an additional calorie deficit. This can be done one of three ways: (A) you can reduce your calories further, (B) add in some cardio, or (C) do a combination of both.
I'm going to go on a limb and say the majority of people would like to diet on as high calories as they possibly can, while still being able to lose weight. So in this case, it may be feasible for a person like this to start adding in some cardio in order to push passed this plateau they've hit. Great! But how much you ask? Well, that will depend on what you are already doing and what your body is already used to doing. Ideally, someone would have began their diet doing a conservative amount of cardio. In todays dieting culture however, and with cardio somehow being the magic answer to weight loss, a lot of people find themselves doing several hours of cardio a week. Just as your body will adapt to surviving on a certain number of calories, your body will also eventually adapt to the stress (aka amount of cardio) you place on it as well. Whatever you are currently doing, remember, you would need to add additional cardio on top of what your body is already used to doing. You can see why it would be smart and beneficial to start conservatively in the beginning so you have some room later down your dieting road to add more in without it becoming unrealistic or exhausting.
If you start a diet program, and you're already doing - let's say - 60 minutes/day, 7 days/week, that's 420 minutes/ week. That's fine - but when the time comes that you need to either make a calorie or cardio adjustment to your program, adding in even more cardio/day on top of that 60 minutes would likely be unrealistic and unmanageable for most people. In this case, it would be smarter to create that additional deficit by cutting back their calories.
Regardless of the type, amount and duration of the cardio you like to do, just remember that you may want to add more into your routine as you continue your diet. So keep this process conservative to start, so you give yourself some "wiggle room" later down the road without completely exhausting yourself with hours and hours of cardio!
I did a video on this topic as well, click here if you'd like to take a listen!