When it comes to cardio there are two different schools of thought. At the basic level, do a lot of cardio… or do cardio really hard. Which one is for you really depends on, well, you.
The first school is one I don’t prefer, it’s really a foolproof way to lose WEIGHT itself: Basic theory is stop eating food and do a lot of cardio: If you stop eating and run from Anchorage to Fairbanks without stopping… you WILL be lighter and thinner when you get there. Now, whether or not this looks good and healthy is another story. For MARATHON running purposes this is ideal… for ENDURANCE training this is great. The part you need to remember with this type of cardio is that your body becomes MORE EFFICIENT at burning calories. This means, when a marathon runner is sitting down, he or she is burning far less calories than a normal person at rest. This is because his or her body is maximizing how much use it can get out of each calorie. This also means the body will drop away muscle because muscle burns calories… it’s like putting a smaller engine in your car to increase gas mileage. Now unfortunately, this also means when you stop doing cardio you have less muscle to burn calories… so your body uses LESS calories in general, and you can’t eat as much. All in all, not my favorite forms of cardio. Now the second school of cardio comes from Boxing or Sprinting training:
Which athletes hold on to the most lean and dense muscle mass? Those that do very short, very intense cardio sessions… not lasting more than 30 mins or so per session (multiple sessions can be done daily as long as they are at least 4 hours apart) This would be Boxing, Wrestling, Sprinting or HIIT cardio (High Intensity Interval Training). This would be the correct type of cardio for retaining muscle mass while shedding fat for PHYSIQUE competition. HIIT cardio consists of about 3 minutes of slow steady heart rate, followed by 30-60 seconds of the most intense activity you can do. For example: Walk uphill on treadmill for 3 mins, hop off do 150 jump-rope twists, 20 push-ups and 50 crunches… then hop back on the treadmill for 3 mins and repeat cycle until 30 mins have been reached. This is great for increasing lung capacity along with creating more veins and capillaries in your existing muscle. Also remember, with this form of cardio you will retain more muscle mass… in turn you will be able to eat MORE calories and keep larger fuller muscles. Because your body is not as efficient at burning calories as a marathon runner, you will burn a lot MORE calories sitting around watching TV and doing general activates.
My personal, recommended, cardio program goes as follows. Please remember, every person is different and every diet and cardio program will work for SOME group of people:
– 30 mins of HITT cardio either in the AM or post workout 5 days weekly.
– I alternate steady state and HIIT every day I do cardio
– I don’t do more than one session of cardio unless I am about a month away from competition or trying to make a weight class
– I always make sure to keep a certain amount of starchy carbs in my diet to increase thermogenesis and force my body to burn body-fat for energy instead of carbs.
All in all, no cardio program will work unless you’ve got a good handle on your personal diet plan. With that being said, review your goals, decide what form of cardio works for you and give it a go.
Training and cardio is only 20% of getting in shape… your diet is always about 80%!