If you’re looking to burn fat, cardio is an unfortunate must.
What I cannot stress enough though is the importance of DIET. If you slave away drenched in sweat and feeling like you’re going to die for half an hour, you may as well reap the rewards instead of backtracking by eating a cheeseburger. The myth that if you exercise you can eat what you want and still get abs is total crap, diet is #1, exercise is #2, results are #3!
If you couple exercise with a spotless diet and you are CONSISTENT, the results will amaze you.
So, here’s what cardio you should be doing and when, in order to burn those stubborn fat stores:
STEADY STATE CARDIO: Steady cardio is basically long walks, jogs and runs. Going for long periods of time at a steady pace is definitely going to improve your fitness levels, and is a great option if you are a beginner. The best way to do SSC is with some form of resistance; so uphill, on the cross trainer or the rowing machine. However, if you are already fit and are looking to really blast the fat, you need to move on to…
HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING: HIIT is the best form of fat burning activity there is. Period. What HIIT means is fully exerting yourself for 30seconds-1minute (depending on your fitness levels) and then stopping completely or slowly recovering for the same amount of time. You do this over and over for 20-30 minutes, again, depending on your fitness levels. Like steady state cardio, if you are new to this then any form of HIIT is great, sprinting, skipping, burpees…but if you are slightly fitter than most, try it resisted. So find a hill or put the treadmill on an incline before you sprint, get on the cross trainer and ramp up the resistance every other minute. You’ll know you’re REALLY fit when you’re doing 30 minutes of resisted HIIT!
There are 2 good options when to do your cardio:
FASTED: Let me start by saying fasted cardio is NOT a must, and in the beginning you will find it particularly challenging. Like all things fitness though, it does get easier and become second nature. Fasted cardio means doing cardio first thing in the morning, before breakfast, with nothing in your system. The idea is that if you have nothing for your body to draw on for energy, it has no choice but to burn fat for fuel. I didn’t do fasted cardio for a long, long time and I still got incredible results. However, I do fasted cardio now and it has to be said that my results come quicker. You don’t need to do fasted HIIT, going for a 20 minute jog will be really effective. However, HIIT is always a better option, you may just need to work up to it. The best thing about fasted cardio is that by the time you’re eating breakfast, your cardio is done for the day, your metabolism is skyrocketing and you do feel pretty great.
AFTER WEIGHTS: Another great time to do your cardio is AFTER weight sessions. This is because when you lift weights, your body uses it’s glycogen (converted carbohydrate) stores for energy. So by the time you hit the treadmill, your body’s preferred use of energy is going to be fat. I would recommend doing cardio after all your weighted sessions, except on leg day. Legs are your biggest muscle group, therefor exercising them burns the most calories and requires the most energy from your body. On top of this, leg exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges and step ups are ALL compound movements and incorporate a lot of cardiovascular activity. Use leg days as your rest from cardio.