This is a question I get asked A LOT by clients and friends alike!
Cardio seems to be the age-old answer to losing weight.
The main thing you need to take into consideration when balancing your cardio with your resistance training is your primary training goal. First, ask yourself what the end result needs to be.
If you're training to lose fat, your balance is going to be very different than if you're trying to gain muscle or if you're training for a specific sport.
TRAINING TO GAIN MUSCLE
If you’re trying to gain muscle, and have no real reason to maintain any cardiovascular endurance, I’d suggest you swerve cardio altogether.
Ideally, during this muscle-building phase you will want to stay in a calorie surplus - too much cardio can actually hamper your muscle gain by slowing recovery and burning up calories that your body needs for the process of building muscle.
If your goal is to build muscle, why go to all the effort of eating all those calories if you’re going to drop them doing cardio. It’s counterintuitive. Yes – your body fat % may increase as a result of being in this surplus, but remember the bigger picture, with a correctly planned cut, you’ll retain the majority of muscle you’ve gained when you drop the fat.
TRAINING TO LOSE FAT
If you want to lose fat - your primary goal should be burning calories while sparing as much muscle as possible.
If you’re trying to lose fat the assumption is that you’re most likely eating fewer calories (rather than trying to out train a bad diet!). On fewer calories your body is not going to be eager to build muscle, therefore it's best to focus on keeping what you've got.
Cardio is not the best way to get lean if you have limited exercise time. Intensive weight training would always be my preference if my client can only get to the gym three times a week.
Stick to it too … the more often and the harder you weight train, the better. Resistance training is the main exercise form that improves insulin sensitivity (this regulates muscle growth and fat storage) and your body’s ability to handle carbs (to minimise fat storage).
Cardio is a variable I’d advising saving until all other variables have been exhausted in the quest for fat loss. If you’ve been in a controlled calorie deficit for a period of time agreed with your coach; your body fat % is already very low, and you need to lose the last bit of fat, but can’t comfortably bring your calories down any further; perhaps then you might start adding in cardio.
SPORT SPECIFIC CARDIO
If you are training for a specific sport, any cardio sessions you need will depend greatly on the cardiovascular/muscle mass/strength requirements of your sport.
Naturally, a long-distance runner is going to have far different requirements than a hockey or footballer.
The type of cardio training you do will also come into play, i.e. low intensity steady state cardio, or interval based cardio like fartlek or HIIT.
If you’re in that mindset where you feel like you HAVE to do cardio, but really don’t want to - give me a shout the next time you’re at MYPTstudio to find out more!
Mike Kelly is a Head PT at MYPTstudio - Find out more about him, here.