Does cardio help you lose weight?
Growing up as a competitive swimmer, training nearly 4 hours a day I've had my fair share of cardio training. Now, I mainly do weight training with some integrated cardio and HIIT and still manage to lose weight. Cardio is a fat burner, especially fasted cardio but it also eats away at your muscle.
Exercise More Or Eat Less?
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People are constantly battling over whether they should be exercising more or eating less in order to lose fat. It seems that when people initially realise they want to make a change to become healthier they assume that simply reducing their calorie intake alone will suffice; the problem with this is that a reduction in calories through a change solely in nutrition will only help to lose fat.
Exercise, not just in resistance training but actually including cardiovascular activity causes the body’s muscles to work and adapt. For instance, a moderate intensity exercising session on the cross-trainer will burn calories, incorporate muscles mainly from the legs and arms, and cause your CV system to work within its aerobic capacity by pumping enough oxygenated blood around the body to sustain the exercise. This helps the heart and lungs grow stronger as well as the aesthetically visible muscles of the body become stronger and more conditioned to exercise.
Putting Things Into Perspective
Whatever we throw at our body, it will try to adapt to. Imagine placing two people of the same gender, height, weight and body composition together and giving them both the same nutrition plan.
i) Minus 500 calories per day from an individual’s nutrition solely through their nutrition plan
ii) Minus 500 calories per day from an individual by having them perform 300 calories worth of physical activity and taking 200 calories from their nutrition plan
One point that you may be pondering over is whether you could just solely use cardiovascular activity to lose fat and tone up. In short, the answer is yes… but please read on as I explain why this usually becomes a problem for people just starting off.
When starting your journey to a healthier lifestyle all of the changes you make are a shock to your body. People often tend to bite off more than they can chew when they begin their new quest for a summer body by setting themselves unrealistic goals in terms of fat loss. It’s common for people to jump into a 500 calorie deficit worth of cardiovascular based physical activity each day and then become shattered in the first week and give up. The elevated level of physical activity leaves people hungry & tired and this causes them to fail.
In order to make the process easier, it’s smart to use a combination of a deficit in calories through both nutrition and physical activity. This means that you’ll also spend less time on the treadmill, which wasn’t really that appealing in the first place, was it?!
However, if you’re not scared to get involved in more cardio it does have more benefits besides elevated perceptions of well-being, stronger muscles and vital organs and decreased risk of heart disease and stroke… such as allowing you to eat more calories in order to replenish your body after exercise. That’s right… just because you burn off 500 calories doesn’t mean you have to suffer and receive no nutritious rewards; let’s imagine you perform 800 calories worth of cardio.
We know that a simple deficit of 500 calories will help us to lose roughly 1lb per week so that extra cardio you performed will give you a spare 300 calories to use up any way you like (as long as it fits your macros). If you imagine trying to meet your calorie deficit solely through a deficit in your nutrition now, does it seem very appealing? Would you be able to eat as flexible, or as much? Would you feel as healthy? Would your muscles be getting enough work to improve your body composition? I’m sure you can answer those questions yourself.
Take Home Message
Performing cardio will benefit your body composition more than just altering your nutrition plan each week. Use a combination of physical activity and nutrition modifying in order to reach your calorie deficit. Exercise more to allow yourself more food to eat and don’t use too high a deficit (And this way, you won’t run out of calories to cut back on) 500 calories is by far an adequate deficit, in this case, it was used to identify how quickly you can lose 1lb of fat. In fact… you should probably start at 200 calories to ease yourself into things and take it from there!).