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Cardio Confusion: Getting Straight On The Right Cardio Fat Loss Methods

When it comes to cardio training for fat loss, many people get confused over which method is going to be best in terms of accomplishing their goal and getting results quickly. You hear debates about high intensity interval cardio, while still seeing others state that longer, moderate paced cardio is the way to go. With the varying sides of the argument being presented, it can be consuming at times knowing which is best for your situation. Understanding the major factors you need to take into account when determining your cardio training will help ensure that you get on the right path to optimal fat loss results.

Workout Split

Split WorkoutThe first thing you need to take into account is what type of workout split you’re on.  If you’re currently in the gym pounding the weights four or five times a week, trying to add three or more sessions of intense cardio, combined with a calorie reduced diet is only asking for problems.

The big factor too many people forget about is CNS overtraining.  While cardio may not work the muscles in the same way as squats, dead lifts, or the bench press would for example, it’s still going to be an overloading stress placed upon the body, and is going to take time to recover from.

For example, doing a leg workout one day, a sprint workout the next, and a leg workout the third day would be very poor workout scheduling and should be avoided. So, if you’re going to do high intensity cardio, you’ve got to make sure you’re not sacrificing rest.  Most often, this type of cardio will work best when doing an upper/lower body split program, as you can perform it on upper body days, while still allowing for three full days of complete rest. You could try it on a full body workout program, but there again you’re hitting the legs three times a week, which gets intensive for recovery.

Time Availability

The next factor that should be looked at is what your time availability is like.  Are you able to make it to the gym for an hour of cardio three nights a week? If not, chances are pretty good that long duration, moderated paced cardio is not going to be an option for you. Even if someone told you it was the single best thing to do for fat loss, if it’s not practical for your lifestyle and isn’t something you’ll be able to maintain for a week or longer, it’s not likely to be all that useful. Finding a cardio program that you will actually stick with is paramount for getting results. After all, any workout is only effective if it’s actually performed.

Fitness Level

The next thing to consider is your current fitness level.  If you’re new to working out and cardio, it’s not going to be a wise move to jump right in and start doing high intensity interval style cardio sessions.

Your body simply won’t be able to tolerate this type of intensity and more than likely you’ll end up injured.
In this case, it would be smarter to build up a good cardio base and then from there move into performing sprints if you so choose.

Diet Variation

Finally, the last factor to consider is the type of diet you’re using.  The type of fuel that various forms of cardio utilize are much different, so diet will definitely come into play in terms of what you can perform. High intensity interval style cardio training relies primarily on muscle glycogen, so if you’re on a low carb diet and are already doing intense weight lifting sessions, trying to add in interval cardio would most definitely call for you to add additional carbs to your diet somewhere. Slower, moderate paced cardio, on the other hand, can utilize fat stores quite effectively, so since this variation won’t deplete your muscle glycogen stores, it can be performed while on a low carb diet.

So What’s Most Effective?Split body workout

Which now leads us to the question you’ve all been searching for – what’s most effective when it comes to burning off that body fat quickly? Generally speaking, if all things are set-up as they should be, interval training, done with intervals of 15-30 seconds and rest periods twice as long, does hold a great deal of promise for fat loss results. High intensity intervals will help boost the metabolic rate to a greater extent, will help to retain lean muscle mass, and will help to increase the insulin sensitivity of the body, not to mention you’ll get in crazy-good shape.

But, if you’re on the verge of overtraining due to your adding in interval workouts to your program, all of a sudden they go from being very effective to not being effective at all.
Moderate paced cardio on the other hand is a good option for those who are willing to put in a little more time and don’t want to fatigue the body as much. If you’re more focused on your lifting sessions and strength development, and not as focused on cardiovascular fitness performance, then this would make moderate paced cardio, defined as 50-70% of your max HR a better option.

Also, don’t think that you have to do one or the other. It’s perfectly acceptable to throw one interval cardio workout into your program and then perform two slower paced cardio sessions as well. For example, your week might go something like this:
  • Monday: Upper Body Workout
  • Tuesday: Lower Body Workout + Moderate Cardio
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Upper Body Workout + Moderate Cardio
  • Friday: Lower Body Workout
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Interval Cardio
In this set-up, you would still get the benefits of having a full day off between all leg workouts (since interval cardio should count as a leg workout), while also having two full days out of the week for complete rest. It should also be noted that moderate paced cardio can help to improve recovery from your workouts so once again this is something that can be beneficial to place after a hard lifting session. Cardio, however, should never be done before your lifting workouts, unless your primary objective is cardiovascular performance. So, be sure you keep these points in mind when going about your fat loss cardio training. 

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