Do You Need Cardio For Fat Loss?

Should you be doing cardio if you want to burn fat? If so, when should you be doing it? How often should you be doing it? What are the advantages and the disadvantages? In this article we’ll look at whether or not cardio is the best use of your time when it comes to fat loss.

A lot of people, when they want to lose weight, think long cardio sessions are the way to go. So they get on that treadmill and start running. If that’s all they do… they are destined to fail!

The problem with doing too much cardio is that… is that you’re going to get better at cardio! This is because, as you become better at it, you actually burn fewer calories in the process of doing it!

Also, if all you do is cardio without doing anything to maintain muscle mass you will end up burning muscle during your cardio workouts! You will end up having this kind of shapeless, toneless, skinny fat kind of physique… which is probably not the end result you had in mind.

Fat loss… not weight loss

When it comes to cardio you want to be thinking in terms of fat loss, not weight loss. Your goal shouldn’t be to lose weight. This is because weight can be lost in the forms of body fat and lean body tissue such as muscle.

You don’t want to lose muscle! The key is to try to maintain as much muscle mass as possible, as this is what’s going to allow you to have a high basal metabolic rate. It’s also going to help get that toned body.

So, do you need cardio in order to lose fat? The answer is no! However, it can be useful tool in the process of speeding things up in order to burn fat and get the body composition you want. But, it’s not essential when it comes to fat loss. You want to use a number of different approaches in order to reach your goal:


It’s much easier to eat less calories than it is to burn more! This is why you nutrition should always be your primary focus when it comes to fat loss. Your diet doesn’t have to be complicated either. Making some simple changes and switching some foods for healthier alternatives can make a huge difference…

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You want to try and reduce your body fat by doing as little cardio as possible and usually you just need to sort out nutrition. This means, stop eating crap like processed foods, refined sugars and start eating more whole, natural foods.

If you’re over consuming calories look at your daily intake and drop it a little bit. Be a little more sensible about the types of foods you’re eating. If your diet is made up of 70% carbohydrates and very little protein you change that around. Start including more thermogenic foods in your your diet.

So, bump up protein, lower your carbs, maybe up your healthy fats. You can also try some metabolic cooking recipes. These are designed to boost your metabolism and help you burn fat faster.

Resistance training

Resistance training is another thing you should be doing if you want to get rid of fat without ending up with a weak, skinny fat physique. As mentioned before, fat loss is often accompanied by muscle loss. This is especially true if you do a lot of steady-state cardio.

We’ve covered the importance of resistance training a lot of times before. See:

Interval training

Research has shown that high intensity interval training is much more effective than steady-state cardio when it comes to fat loss. It can burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time… making it a lot more efficient than low intensity cardio.

HIIT also keeps your metabolic rate up for hours after you’ve finished your workout, causing you to burn more calories even after you’ve left the gym.

So, you want to be doing resistance training as well as some high intensity interval training if you want to maximize fat loss.

See also: HIIT Workouts At Home For Beginners

Advantages of steady-state cardio

Advantages of low intensity, steady state cardio are:

It’s easy to do: You don’t need a lot of skill to jog, walk a treadmill or use an elleptical machine.

It’s unlikely that you’ll injure yourself: It’s not as if you’re doing a deadlift or heavy squat where incorrect technique can cause injuries that will prevent your from working out for the next couple of weeks or even months.

Low intensity: Steady state cardio is low intensity, so it’s not very stressful on your central nervous system. This can be extremely advantageous if you already follow a pretty rigorous protocol like weight resistance training or high intensity interval training, which are very taxing on your central nervous system. So, something like low intensity cardio is great to do on rest days

Low impact: Another advantage of low intensity cardio like walking, cycling on a cross trainer or using an elleptical, is that it’s low impact. It’s not going to cause much stress on your joints. It’s not like jogging, which can cause problems with your knees. Many people who aren’t taught how to run properly end up doing some permanent damage to themselves from excess jogging.

Multitasking: Another benefit is that you can actually multitask when you do low intensity cardio, listening to a podcast and learning while you’re taking your power walk. Or you can just be free with your thoughts and for once not be distracted by social media! Use the time to think about your goals.

Cardio for fat loss?

So, how would you implement low intensity, steady-state cardio into your regime? First of all you need to decide what your goals are!

If your goal is to get toned or even put some size on then cardio isn’t really going to assist you with that goal. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do any cardio whatsoever, but low intensity cardio isn’t going to be on the top of the priority list for that goal. Instead you should be focusing on resistance training, maybe in combination with HIIT.

If fat loss is one of your goals you need to sort your nutrition out first! That is the number one priority. Don’t start thinking about the type of exercise you need to start doing in order to burn body fat.

After you have your nutrition sorted out you can then start thinking about your workout plan. Start by aiming for three 30 minute workouts per week using moderate weight, high fatigue resistance exercises. Then, on days between workouts start doing some low impact cardio, like taking a brisk 30 minute walk.

After that you can maybe add one high intensity interval training session per week. The key is to gradually increase your output each week. You don’t want to drastically cut calories or drastically increase your output because it’s unsustainable. And, like with everything that’s worth the effort… consistency is key when it comes to fat loss and body transformation.

So, steady-state cardio can be a great thing to include in your fat loss and fitness plan. But it shouldn’t be the only thing!

Do you need cardio for fat loss? How effective is steady state cardio when it comes to burning fat?

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