You want it…In fact, everyone wants it. And nothing generates more angst and confusion!
“What should I eat?”, “How much cardio?”, “What is the best type?”
Argh, I want more FAT LOSS!
There are many aspects that go into effectively burning body fat, from the foods we eat to the movement we do; though often we tend to fixate on one variable as if that will be the sole instigator of pleasure or pain.
“If only I did an extra cardio session per week… I know that would make all the difference”
As a competitive bodybuilder, I have gotten into shape with a high volume of cardio and no cardio at all. I have cycled my carbohydrates, and I have gone both high and low. I have hit the weights 6 times per week, and other prep’s I have only done 4.
- So the question may be, is there actually a right amount?
- Is there a perfect macro split?
- Is there a best amount of cardio to perform, or an ideal number of times to hit the weights per week?
I believe, for everything there is!
But, I can’t tell you exactly what it is because it depends!
What do I mean “it depends”?
If you think of everything that we can implement (be that your nutrition, your supplementation and training etc) as tools of your transformation toolbox, and your goal is to get as lean as possible, then your end result will be a matter of selecting the right tools to do the job.
That’s it, case closed, get to the gym then get home and GROW!
Probably the best way to explain this is if I can present to you a practical example of how it “can depend”.
In the red corner, we have a labourer on a building site. And in the blue corner, an Uber driver.
As you would expect, the daily physical demands are going to vary drastically and therefore, energy requirements for the two will be vastly different.
For someone engaged in a physically demanding job, your energy requirements will be greater. You are going to need more food, more often to satisfy the demands of your activity. Compared to someone who works of a sedentary nature, so to speak (intro our Uber friend).
Now if you want to get tricky, also start to factor in the demands of the job once the day is done as well.
After a long, physically demanding day, getting to the gym may be harder for some than others. And fatigue doesn’t just need to be related to actual physical effort either. I know some of my most exhausting days have been sitting at a computer screen for 10 hours plus.
The job may very well have a demanding aspect on your whole lifestyle!
So, the real solution is going to be in how you understand the challenge.
Getting lean will be very much an act of looking at the ‘bigger picture’. Though as cardio is often thought of as the “Fat Loss Key”, how could different types of cardio be more advantageous than others, depending on these lifestyle factors?
We know the benefits of High Intensity, Interval Training for fat loss. It’s really effective in getting the job done!
And depending on the type and duration of the session, can also be quite potent in terms of stimulating muscle growth (have you ever seen a scrawny and fat 100 metre Olympic Sprint athlete)?
But not only can you burn a lot of energy in a short duration of time, it can have detrimental effects if your nutrition is not up to par.
Also, it can hamper your recovery from previous resistance sessions, and also affect your performance in upcoming sessions if it is not balanced appropriately.
So before implementing any HIIT sessions, you will first need to determine why you want to!
If it is to burn more fat, that’s cool… but first, understand why you’re current programming is not delivering the fat loss goals you are after.
Once you have made that assessment, ensure that your nutrition will support the additional physical demands that you are about to place on your body. Yes, HIIT is quite demanding.
Plus, I would spend some time looking at your overall weekly training split to determine the best time to include this session (yes, don’t just throw it in willy nilly… you would not do that with your resistance work and neither should you here).
With your traditional low-intensity steady state (LISS) cardio, this too can offer different advantages compared to your HIIT. LISS is going to place less physical demands on your body compared to HIIT, and will not be as mentally demanding either.
Plus, I find if during your time for “lean gains”, if you are a little under the pump with life and dealing with some increased stress, getting out for some fresh air (yes, off the treadmill) is also good for the soul.
The only obvious downside is that it takes longer… but if you have the time it can be a great variable.
The BIGGER Fat Loss picture
I know I keep coming back to this, but unfortunately, it is all too common to see people busting their rump with the cardio and not getting the results, because of the fixation on the outcome without acknowledging how this game is actually played out.
It’s really about creating the right environment (lifestyle) for fat loss.
Everything plays a part, and all works synergistically together to create the desired outcome. And if you are not achieving the outcome, before you drastically manipulate one variable look at the bigger picture.
- “Can I eat better”?
- “Can I get more rest”?
- “Can I simply do a better job each day”?
There are many paths that lead to the end result, focus on that (the steps that make them successful) and you too, will have great success!