cardio for weight loss


ı APRIL 2009

By Alissa Carpio, NASM-CPT

ove it or hate it, most everyone is aware of the need to engage in cardiovascular activity as part of an optimal health and fitness plan. But over the years cardio has been stereotyped into two groupings, both extreme. On one hand, you have diehard proponents who profess their love and credit their tight abs and thighs to logging hours on the elliptical, treadmill and arc trainer. On the other hand, you have death-beforecardio lifting addicts who consider a five-minute warm-up an adequate cardio session, and claim their super-intense weight routine is the sole tribute to their rippling six-pack. So, who’s right? Believe it or not, they’re both right. The popularity of cardio is built on the premise that aerobic activity burns fat. And, there is good reason to believe that statement. It’s true! However, true weight loss comes not only from fat burning, but from a total caloric deficit that all comes down to a tried and true cliché nearly everyone’s heard: calories in versus calories out. That little phrase can’t be closer to the truth, and it’s the best kept secret in weight loss. While the solution is simple, it’s far from easy to identify an individual’s metabolic rate and daily caloric output. Without extensive, expensive metabolic testing, the best solution is a very controlled and closely monitored trial and error period.


Before drafting the cardio component of a program, consider your current routine and how much available time you have to dedicate to a program. Also, unless you’re training for a specific event such as a bodybuilding or fitness competition, consider that you will not be able to maintain an extremely rigorous and time-consuming program for the rest of your life. It should be livable and enjoyable, above all.

Nutrition and supplementation need to be addressed, also. All the training in the world won’t help you lose weight if you’re consuming too many calories, not enough calories, or the wrong types and amounts of food. Get into the habit of eating 6-8 small meals daily. If it’s difficult, start with 3 meals and 2-3 snacks. The key is to get your body used to receiving food and burning it for fuel, instead of hoarding it for energy and survival. Meals should be balanced, consisting of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, fibrous vegetables and fruits and healthy fats. Portion control is important. By logging your food in a journal or diary, it’s easy to see exactly what areas need improvement. Without tracking, it’s impossible to monitor, evaluate and make necessary changes. Recommended caloric intake is a complex subject in its own right. Try to give yourself as much food as possible to get the results you want. Cut slowly and consistently. When it comes to dietary restriction, less is more. Supplements that boost energy and help with appetite control and fat burning are useful during times of strict dieting. However, in regards to maintaining a lifestyle, they should not be used on a constant basis.

By Jennifer Lee, CN

Weight Training Rule #1
Eat carbs and protein before you train. This is vital! If you don’t have enough available and stored carbohydrate (glycogen) to fuel you through a workout, your body will break down its own protein and convert it to glucose for energy. This means you will be breaking down your hardearned muscle in an attempt to build new muscle – very counterproductive! Good pre-workout snack ideas: a banana with all-natural peanut butter, a protein bar that includes carbs, yogurt or any Max Muscle Protein shake with some Carbo Max or fruit added to it.

Weight Training Rule #2
Feed your passion. Do you realize that it takes your body about 5,000 calories to grow one pound of muscle? Now, I’m not advising you go out and eat 5,000 calories right now; rather I’m suggesting that you make sure your diet is structured to include some calories to support your strength training (300 to 700 per day depending on the individual). Don’t worry, if you’re training hard and often, the extra calories will not be stored as fat but instead will be used to build new muscle, which in turn helps you burn fat. This is a tough one for people to swallow because it goes against so much of what they’ve been told, but it’s true. You may find that the right balance is adding calories in the form of a pre-workout snack and a post-workout recovery snack. Then continue with eating small frequent meals loaded with quality protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats the rest of the day. I highly suggest talking to a Max Muscle Certified Fitness Nutrition Coach to make sure you understand the importance of this rule.

Weight Training
Never consider a fat loss program without a weight training component. There are far too many benefits of weight training to miss out on this awesome activity. Plus, weight loss will be more difficult as it will become harder to burn calories through other means of action. Metabolic shutdown is a risk, too. Weight training will burn up to 500 calories per workout. It will help build lean muscle, which will in turn burn more calories at rest. Finally, resistance training will shape and tighten your body, something that is impossible with cardio alone. At a minimum, engage in 2-3 weight training sessions every week. Be sure to work every major muscle group at least once weekly. For more of a cardio effect, keep rest periods between sets under 60 seconds. Other options include super setting (performing 2 or more exercises back to back without rest) or circuit training. (See the sidebar for more tips.)

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic
Cardio is typically referred to as “aerobics.” But what does that really mean? Aerobic means “with oxygen.” While your body never truly relies on a single energy source, most of the energy during aerobic exercise comes from oxygen. Oxygen is quickly replenished and this is why you can perform cardio for such a long duration without having to rest. Anaerobic exercise (meaning “without oxygen”) takes the body into the training zone where sugars are recruited for energy. Typically, this style of exercise is weight training. Stored carbohydrates in the muscles are quickly depleted and take longer to replenish. This is why you have to rest after a very short time when weight training, but can then resume and continue the workout after several minutes. Why should you care about all this? Through anaerobic training the metabolism is elevated for up to 38 hours postexercise. Studies have shown that high-intensity interval

Weight Training Rule #3
Keep your body guessing. Results come quickly when you start weight training, but if you don’t change your routine once in a while you will definitely hit a plateau and become frustrated. If you’re a novice to weight training, talk to an experienced trainer for help. If you decide to go it alone, then buy a good book about training for your fitness level and take the time to design your workouts before you hit the gym. If you’ve been weight training for a while, mix it up a little by incorporating supersets, circuit training and “pyramid” workouts to keep your body making positive changes.

Weight Training Rule #4
Don’t sleep walk through your workout. Intensity intensity intensity! Intensity translates into a higher metabolism both during and after your workout.
APRIL 2009




Cardio Type

Cardio Time

Ideal HR Range


Interval Training on Treadmill: 2 min. sprinting at 8 mph alternating with 3 min. jogging at 5mph LSD – Incline Walking on Treadmill 3 on, 2 off, Intervals on Elliptical LSD – Arc Trainer

30 minutes*

80% Max HR “on” 60% Max HR “off”

2 3 4

45 minutes* 30 minutes* 45 minutes*

65-70% Max HR 80% Max HR “on” 60% Max HR “off” 65-70% Max HR

*Does not include 3-5 minute warm-up and 3-5 minute cool-down.

training helps burn more fat than aerobic exercise. So if you’re trying to lose weight, anaerobic training is a must! While people typically assume that being on a cardio machine is aerobic and lifting weights is anaerobic, it’s the way you train that dictates the energy source used and type of training being performed. That being said, you can alter both your cardio sessions and your weight training sessions to be more anaerobic or more aerobic, respectively. Cardio that is more aerobic in nature is called long slow distance or steady state. Cardio that is more anaerobic is typically referred to as interval training or high-intensity interval training. While the benefits of anaerobic training would seem superior, it’s important to include aerobic exercise as well. Aerobic cardio helps the body recover from intense training, prevents overtraining, and continues to improve heart health and endurance.

to burn calories, which of course will aid in fat loss. It’s extremely important to track training heart rate during cardio. Most gym cardio machines have this feature built in, but if it’s not available to you, invest wisely in your own personal heart rate monitor. This will take out the guesswork in figuring out which training range you’re in. It also serves as a safety feature to prevent your heart rate from getting too high. Ideal training heart rate ranges are outlined in the above chart.

Program Design
A great way to approach your cardio program is to keep it varied. This keeps things fun, but more importantly, allows you to reap the benefits of different types of cardio. Other factors to consider are frequency of weight training, and allowing adequate time for rest and recovery. The chart above is an example for a fit person working out with weights 3 times weekly and taking one complete day of rest every week. This person would follow a 2-on, 1-off, 2-on, 2-off cardio routine.

Cardio Variables
With any type of cardio, the key to continual fat loss lies in progressively overloading the body as it continually adapts to the challenges placed before it. This can be done by altering one or more of these four variables: frequency, intensity, time, type. Frequency – the number of times cardio is performed in a given amount of time (usually one week)/ Intensity – the level of difficulty of a cardio session. Generally related to time (higher intensity coincides with shorter length of time). Measured by heart rate or Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). Time – the length of a cardio session. Type – the style of cardio, determined by length and intensity. Two main categories are high intensity and long slow distance/steady state. Remember, the body will efficiently adapt to the challenges placed upon it, so they have to continually increase in difficulty to force the body to continue

Find Your Heart Rate Zones
Subtract your age from the number 220. This is your max HR. You should never train at this level of intensity. Multiply that number by .8 for 80 percent of your max HR. Multiply your number from step one by .6 for 60 percent of your max HR. A 29 year old would yield the following results: 220 – 29 = 191 max HR 191 x .8 = 153 (80 percent max HR) 191 x .6 = 115 (60 percent max HR) As part of a well-rounded nutrition and fitness plan, cardio can assist you in reaching your health and fat loss goals. Like all components of fitness, cardio should be part of a complete plan coupled with weight training, proper nutrition and rest. Take your fat loss to the next level by addressing your cardio program. Love it or hate it, the results will speak for themselves! MS&F

Available EXCLUSIVELY at MAX MUSCLE Sports Nutrition


ı APRIL 2009

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