There’s a lot of confusion on the role of cardio. I’ll have to save some ammo for another day to address the school of thought that it makes you gain fat, cause today is all about the belief that cardio is needed for fat loss.
So IS cardio needed for fat loss? Unequivocally, the answer is NO. Can it be helpful? Sure. Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start (A little Sound of Music reference for you this morning, got a problem with that?).
What is needed for weight loss? A calorie deficit. Plain and simple. Assuming you’re starting at maintenance calories, this can either be achieved by reducing calories consumed, increasing activity, or both. You need more energy out than in.
To maximize percentage of weight lost as FAT, resistance training (and likely an increase in dietary protein too) is certainly in your best interest.
So this simply points to the only things being required are a) a calorie deficit for weight loss, however that calorie deficit is achieved and b) some muscle preservation to make sure you’re losing as much fat as a percentage of total weight possible.
Cardio can be a really great tool to help you burn some extra calories, but you could always choose to eat less calories instead. That certainly works. However, for many people from a consistency perspective, it’s simply easier to move more than eat less. Let’s face it, most humans don’t burn nearly as many calories as we used to per day. Most of us have plenty of wiggle room in terms of being able to add more exercise to the mix. And if you’re burning very few calories due to an extremely sedentary lifestyle, you may have a hard time eating less to get underneath that calorie output. Your appetite though may let you eat your normal amount as you increase energy output from cardio, though. It’s worth stating though that this increased energy output can come from other forms of exercise too, however.
Speaking of appetite, for some people high intensity cardio can help reduce appetite (thus making it easier to reduce calories). For other people, it has the opposite effect and makes them hungrier. Pay attention to YOUR response so you can make an educated decision on how to best use it.
And certainly if you have a desk job, it’s in your best interest from a health perspective to be consistent with getting a variety of exercise approaches in, even if cardio isn’t needed for fat loss. Getting 5,000 or more steps per day is in everyone’s best interest for insulin sensitivity and reducing cardiovascular risk factors.
We as a culture don’t move much. Cardio is a tool to help us move more. It’s not required for fat loss, but it can help us create or further a calorie deficit especially if we’re sedentary.
Just create that calorie deficit and keep your muscles, and you’ll be good.
I hope that helps. I know a lot of people are scared into doing more cardio than is realistic or necessary because they’ve been told it’s magical for fat loss.
Before I go, I should mention that my 4-Week Home-Training Program is designed to help you burn extra calories and shape your muscles with minimal equipment, in 25-40 minutes, and for only $7!
You can learn more here: http://seanflanaganwellness.com/4weekhomeprogram
Related post: Are High Intensity Workouts Stalling Your Fat Loss?