Cardio- Good, Bad, Indifferent?
I am the first to admit that I tend to give steady state cardio a bad rap when it comes to its effectiveness as a weightloss tool.
I still stand by the fact that it is not the most effective tool for fat loss and getting fast results. In fact, steady state cardio is at the bottom of my list in the fat loss hierarchy.
Here is my heirarchy of activity for fat loss:
1) Metabolic Strength Training (boot camp type workouts, strength intervals)
2) Strength Training
3) Interval Cardio Training
4) Steady State Cardio
On top of all these things you must have you nutrition in order to get great results. The hierarchy of nutrition could be an entire post on its own so we won’t get into it at the moment, but our Fit NOT Fat Meal plan listed in a early November post is perfect for quick fat loss.
The key to using steady state cardio for fat loss effectively is making sure that you have all the other aspects in place. You want to make sure that you are doing your metabolic strength training or intense strength training to get your metabolism revved up and maintain muscle mass.
The metabolic strength training tops my hierarchy because it encompasses both aspects of strength and metabolic conditioning (hence the name, duh). Right now I am doing this type of training with different interval focuses 6 days per week. This really keeps training enjoyable and fun for me at the moment.
Strength training alone can serve the same purpose of maintaining muscle mass, but it is tougher to get the same metabolic effect from this alone. The fact that you are using large muscle groups and forcing them to break down and recover will enhance your metabolism enough to see changes.
After these two types of workouts I would implement interval cardio exercise. This could be jogging, biking, sprinting, rowing or any other type of typical aerobic activity that can be done at intense intervals and rest intervals. It is even possible to structure your metabolic strength training to fit this type of workout. I often times do bodyweight intervals that serve as my cardio intervals due to the nature of the exercises.
The final piece of the puzzle that you may need to add is steady state cardio. The only time I will add steady state cardio is when I have dialed in my nutrition and made as many changes as possible, included at least 4-6 days of workouts of metabolic strength or strength work. Adding in a day or more of interval work is the next step in increasing your activity.
Once your diet is on point and you are training right, it might be necessary to burn a few extra calories. This is where steady state cardio comes in handy. Once my metabolism is revved up and I know I am not over eating the goal is to simply burn more calories. To do this the easiest way, without overworking your body, is steady state cardio.
I would start with adding in 2-3 days per week of 20-30 minutes just to get a little boost in calorie burning!
While this won’t take you to the promised land of fitness if that is all you use, I can promise that if you have dialed in everything else that burning a few extra hundred calories will help you reach your goals.