Question & Answer: Is Cardio Good For Weight Loss?
I’ve heard a lot of different theories as to whether or not cardio is good for weight loss … probably you have too. So, is cardio good for weight loss?
Cardio has gotten a bad wrap over the last few years. Some say that it is inefficient for fat loss while others say it actually makes you soft and flabby around the midsection. What I’ve found is that it is not cardio’s fault. The REAL problem is that not everyone knows how to implement it properly into their routine.
I wish my gym had a view like this … it would be much easier to do cardio with this view!
Over the last two weeks I’ve been following a new cardio program that is coming out in a month or two … or three. I’ll talk more about that later. 😉 What I have found first hand is that YES, cardio is good for weight loss … as long as you know what to do and when to do it.
I have been talking about the benefits of combining HIIT with steady state cardio ever since I started my blog. That method does still apply, but I have found that good old fashioned steady state cardio does have it’s place as well
Is Cardio Good For Weight Loss?
There are actually several benefits to doing cardio. Here are some just a few.
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Lower risk of stroke
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower bad cholesterol
- Lower risk of breast cancer
- Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- Strengthens bones
- Controls joint swelling
- Weight loss 😀
In this article, we’ll talk mainly about #9 and we’ll answer the question: is cardio good for weight loss?
How To Lose Weight
In it’s simplest form, weight loss is a result of burning more calories than you consume. Since losing a pound of fat requires a 3,500 calorie deficit that is what we’ll look at. Every 3,500 calories you burn is one less pound of fat you weigh.
So how much cardio to burn 1 pound of fat? Unfortunately the answer is about 6 hours!
That’s no good, I know. The average amount of calories you burn doing cardio for one hour is about 600. Yes, there are other ways to burn more than this. When you consider the EPOC, HGH release, etc., you can lose a bit more fat. For now though, let’s just say 600 calories per hour.
“Other” Requirements To Weight Loss
In addition to cardio, you HAVE to be eating a good diet in order to lose weight. Now, there have been studies that show you can eat CRAP (not literally) and still lose weight so I won’t harp on that too much. Bottom line is you need to watch the amount of calories you take in.
I STRONGLY recommend that you not get your calories from junk food.
The initial and most important calorie deficit needs to come from your diet. There are many different peices of advice floating around … some work, some do not. For a pretty hardcore dieting approach, I like to follow this rule on calories.
Eat about 10 calories per pound of your GOAL body weight, per day.
That means that if you are weighing in at 180 pounds and want to cut fat and get down to 170 pounds that you should eat around 1,700 calories per day. This seems low … and it is. You don’t want to do this diet for extended periods of time but it is great for a one or two month push to shed fat.
Think Long Term Weight Loss With Cardio
After your diet is on point … that is when cardio plays a significant role in losing weight. You can only diet so much before your body will start to work against you. So how do you continue to lose weight when you reach a sticking point and your diet is already dialed in? Cardio!
If you are going to the gym 3-4 times a week and doing 45 minute sessions of cardio after your workout that is 2.25 – 3 hours of cardio, or and EXTRA 1,125 – 1,500 calories per week. If you bump that up to one hour sessions you could be looking at a 2,400 calorie deficit just from cardio … and that’s the least effective type of cardio.
If you do this over the course of just 3 months (12 weeks) you will have burned 28,800 calories … 8 pounds of fat.
What is important to remember about dieting and working out is that you will lose MORE than just 8 pounds during those 3 months. You will be amazed at how much water weight you lose in the process. 8 pounds of fat is A LOT of fat. Once you shed that you will be able to see a significant difference in your physique.
Coming Up Soon-ish
I mentioned in the beginning that I have been following a new cardio course over the past two weeks. I’ve been eating according to this formula (with some more specifics that I’ll talk about in another post) as well as doing strength training followed by the strategic cardio workout.
The results? In two weeks I’ve dropped 8 pounds and OVER 2% body fat.
I am going to stick to the cardio course for a while longer. After I am done giving it a thorough test I will post a new article about it on this site, recommending it … or not. So far, it’s been very effective.
Final answer … is cardio good for weight loss? Absolutely!
January 25, 2012 @ 10:31 am
great article once again
are you going to share what type of cardio are you doing?
i am 18 mesomorphish ectomorph 6ft
i am 12% bf i am fasting on sunday only and skipping breakfast everyday and eating only at 2 pm lunch with very low calorie diet with HIIT with steady state cardio 4 times a week after workouts (visual impact)
i had droped from 13% – 12 % in 2 months
this is painfully slow progress can you please help me on this i have always been 12-13% bf
January 25, 2012 @ 11:18 am
Thanks for reading … I know you’re one of my regulars and I appreciate it!
1% in 2 months is a bit less than what you should be getting. A few questions:
How much do you weigh now?
How many calories are you eating now?
Do you know how many carbs you are eating?
Are you following phase 3 of Visual Impact … strength training as well as cardio?
PS – The cardio workout I’m following is Visual Impact Cardio … Shhhhh … it’s not out yet but Rusty hired me to do the graphics for the book and website (I’m a web/graphic designer by trade) so it just so happens that I get it a little early 😀
January 26, 2012 @ 8:20 am
Thanks for replying
i weigh about 70kg
i am eating around 2000 cals a day sometimes really low as in 1000 and sometimes 2500 i make sure my weekly cals are really low
i tried every single diet you name it i have tried it low carbs low fat high fat low carbs high protein high fat low protiein etc
i have always stayed 12 – 13% bf
i stopped doing visual impact from middle of phase 1 because of my exams i havvent done an exersise at all for one month and been eating like crazy because of holidays still no gain in body fat or loss in bodyfat%
i have always been this % except in my childhood i was very fat kid but extremly atheletic
even now i am extremly fit and athletic even if i do not exersise but i can not seem to loose last layer of fat i applied all my knowledge of estrogen lowering, testosterone and hgh boosting tricks including intermittent fasting by brad pilon etc none have a dramatic effect
January 26, 2012 @ 2:56 pm
Try skipping straight to phase 3 if you’re biggest concern is dropping body fat.
I’d recommend low carb, high protein, high fat diet. Use a diet tracker like http://www.myfitnesspal.com/ or http://www.fitday.com/ to make sure you’re hitting your numbers each day.
What I’ve found to work good is to eat 10 calories per pound of my goal body weight, .7-1g of protein per pound of my current weight and make up for the rest of my calories with healthy fats like nuts, avocado etc.
Eat like this Monday – Friday, cheat day on Saturday (ups your level of Leptin) and then fast on Sunday.
I think the cardio in phase 3 will work just fine. Hit the HIIT for the lower end of the recommended amount and the steady state for the upper end.
Let me know how it goes … and make sure to stay consistent with EVERYTHING.
January 28, 2012 @ 3:35 am
cheers kevin for the reply
just want to ask is the new cardio diffrent from phase 3 from visual impact?
January 28, 2012 @ 7:24 am
It is different. There are different routines, times, strategies etc … it’s pretty cool. Even though my results were pretty darn good following phase 3 exactly, my results following phase 3 strength training with the new cardio protocol have been noticeably better.
January 25, 2012 @ 8:23 pm
There is no denying the numerous benefits of steady state cardiovascular training but the key lies in making the most of your efforts in the gym, in other words, focusing less on what is burned inside and more on what is burned outside. Anaerobic exercise is certainly one of the most efficient methods of increasing the efficiency with which your body burns body fat and calories out of the gym. “Cardio” is absolutely a great additive but it is relied on too heavily for weight loss. It is not nearly as mandatory as many think. I have seen many a client lose body fat and inches with full body, weight training workouts 3times a week with no cardio, assuming of course the proper nutritional modifications. All this on top of the fact that their strength, flexibility, balance and coordination improved as well. Muscle is live, metabolically active tissue and is the best means of effectively losing body fat. There have been studies that show the “afterburn effect” of weight lifting elevates your resting metabolic rate and amount of calories burned following exercise for a significantly longer time that cardio (unless you happen to be doing sprints or interval work). Cardio is a fantastic tool for health and weight loss but one must also keep in mind the tremendous benefits of full body, functionally focused weight training and devote the majority of efforts to this endeavor. All in all this a great look at how to effectively make good use of cardiovascular training. On the nutrition front, Power Eating by Susan Kleiner is a great (although dense) look into how to make the most of your nutritional efforts.
January 26, 2012 @ 2:43 pm
Hey Lorenzo, I completely agree. When it comes to weight loss, diet is the most important. From there you should also incorporate some type of strength training or even body weight exercises.
I have found that cardio is an awesome ADDITION to a diet/workout program … especially if you are at a sticking point.
Jonathan | WorldOfDiets
January 28, 2012 @ 1:40 pm
Finally someone who doesn’t harp about HIIT cardio all the time and realizes that old-style cardio works. It’s all about calories, really. It may not be the most time-efficient workout, but more cardio means more burned calories which means less body fat. Simple as that.
January 30, 2012 @ 10:57 am
Ha! Thanks Jonathan. It is easy to get excited about HIIT cardio since it is more efficient for a lot of scenarios, but sometimes good ole steady state cardio is better for weight loss … it just depends upon the circumstances.
Mitchell - Home Fitness Manual
January 30, 2012 @ 1:34 am
Kevin, I typically think of cardio as anything outside of my central resistance training. If I’m going to do a few rounds of HIIT, then I think of it as cardio. If I want to take the dogs on a run through the park, I think of it as cardio. In my mind, one being shorter and more intense than the other is less important than actually getting my butt to move.
January 30, 2012 @ 10:58 am
That’s definitely where it’s at … just getting your butt of the couch makes a BIG difference. Thanks for the comment Mitchell!
January 30, 2012 @ 11:00 am
Good post Kevin,
When it comes to losing weight, I believe that dieting should come first and foremost like you said. After that you should focus on weight training, then cardio.
Too many people have it the other way around and just focus on cardio without dieting.
January 30, 2012 @ 11:05 am
Yeah, it’s frustrating when you hear ones say that cardio doesn’t work for weight loss and you go out to lunch with them and they’re chowing down 1,700 calories in one meal thinking that they’ll just “work it off” on the treadmill … doesn’t work like that!
PS – good luck on your new site, looks great!
February 13, 2012 @ 10:31 am
I agree 100%. I think we need to take a step back sometimes and look at the application of a given type of training before we neglect to use it. I’m a big advocate of HIIT, but I also understand the benefits of traditional cardiovascular training. You’re right, it’s all about implementation. Most types of training can be effective if it’s applied correctly.
BTW, your recommendation of 10 cals per pound and 0.7g-1.0g protein is EXACTLY where I start my clients! 🙂
February 14, 2012 @ 7:43 am
Thanks Chad, good to know you’re on board with my dieting advice as well … it really does seem to work great for MOST people.
March 6, 2012 @ 9:44 am
“In addition to cardio, you HAVE to be eating a good diet in order to lose weight. ”
You are absolutely right. I find this is one point I have repeated over and over, and yet people still want to overlook how important diet is. If you eat junk, you’ll look like junk. So the key to losing weight and looking great at the beach or anywhere for that matter is to eat the right kinds of food and don’t eat too much of them. Keep everything in moderation.
I don’t do a whole lot of steady-state cardio, because I like HIIT for just about every reason possible. It’s more time-effecient and more effective in my opinion.
March 6, 2012 @ 3:34 pm
Thanks Robert … yeah, sometimes it can be a bummer but in the end you get WAY better results by eating right.
I too prefer HIIT over steady state but I have come to appreciate that steady state really is effective for burning a lot of extra calories and body fat.
Michael @ somebodylied.com
March 6, 2012 @ 10:55 am
Like Brad Pilon says in Eat Stop Eat. Low card diets worked, low fat diets worked, cheat days for leptin diet worked. All that mattered was the calorie deficit.
Just like diet, the same applies to burning calories. Whether you do, circuit training, interval training, zumba etc the key is moving around to burn calories. Yes some are more superior to others but all have their pros and cons. For example steady state cardio is better for weight loss than circuit training and HIIT simply because an overweight person would not be able to perform most circuits or HIIT.
March 6, 2012 @ 3:35 pm
Very true Michael, good comparison. In then end, it’s just about getting your butt off the couch and moving!
February 21, 2013 @ 1:38 pm
Very true. I have to say I have lost more wt doing cardio and sticking to a healthy diet than doing insanity for 9 weeks. My sister was doing everything you have said and she has lost 60lbs in a year. But again diet is a big factor to the whole losing wt.
Thanks for the tips.