My goal this year is to get in better shape but I also want to build muscle too. Which should I do first, cardio workouts to lose fat or weight training to build mass?
Building muscle and losing fat are not mutually exclusive and it would be to your benefit to attack both goals at the same time.
The first place to start is with the weight training. This will be the best way to stimulate maximum muscle growth. Building more muscle will help your fat loss goals because the more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate.
To lose fat you’ll need to pay close attention to your nutrition and watch your daily caloric intake. You’ll also need to use intelligent nutrient ratios with your allotted calories to ensure your body is getting the fuel it needs to build muscle.
Topics Covered In This Article
- Cardio Workouts To Increase Calorie Burn
- Cardio Workout At Home With No Equipment
- Burning More Calories in Less Time
- Cardio For Abs
- Doing Cardio After Weight Training?
- Best Types of Cardio- High Intensity Is The Key
- Elevating Your Metabolism
- Before or After Weight Training?
Cardio Workouts To Increase Calorie Burn
You’ll want to include some cardio workouts to increase your energy expenditure and help with your fat loss goals. I suggest keeping your cardio sessions between 15-20 minutes and making them very intense. Shorter, more intense cardio will have a bigger impact on the fat burning process and less of any detrimental effect on muscle building.
How Often to Do Cardio for Fat Loss
It’s important to spread your cardio sessions 8-12 hours apart from weight training or perform cardio on off training days. Start with 3 or 4 cardio sessions a week and you can increase from there if necessary; depending on you fat loss goals.
Don’t think that you can only focus on fat loss or building muscle. With an intelligent approach to training and diet, you can go for both at the same time.
High Intensity Cardio Explanation
Could you briefly explain high intensity cardio? How many sessions per week should I do?
High Intensity cardio basically means keeping cardio short (15- 20 minutes) and intense, as opposed to the more traditional long duration (45- 60 minutes) moderate intensity cardio.
Usually when people approach their cardio they simply “put in their time” on a machine. I used to be the same way. I would do my mandatory 45 minutes at a moderate pace and never give intensity or improving my performance a second thought.
Cardio Workout At Home With No Equipment
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Burning More Calories in Less Time
With high intensity cardio you strive to improve your output each session. Rather than simply completing 15- 20 minutes, you work to better your previous output by going further or burning more calories in the same 15- 20 minute time span.
Shorter, high intensity cardio has a bigger effect on the fat burning process by raising your metabolism and keeping it elevated for a longer period of time after exercise as compared to long duration cardio. Plus, it has less of any negative impact on the muscle building process.
Frequency of Exercise Depends on Your Goals
The frequency (days per week) depends on your goals. The leaner you are trying to get, the more sessions you would do. If you’re mainly concerned with building muscle while staying in good shape I would say 3 days of high intensity cardio per week would be good. If you want to increase fat loss do 4 or 5 sessions per week.
Having specific goals (distance completed or calories burned) to shoot for on each cardio session keeps you working hard and you’ll be progressively increasing your intensity. No more sleep walking through cardio when you’re doing it with intensity!
Should You Take Supplements After Cardio?
Do you recommend supplementing after cardio? What exactly do you take?
Here’s the deal. Cardio training gets your body all geared up for increased nutrient uptake and utilization. Intense cardio depletes nutrient stores and glycogen. Therefore, supplying nutrients after cardio will be anabolic to muscle and not doing so will be catabolic.
With that in mind it is clear to see the importance of supplementing after cardio to halt any muscle breakdown and increase recovery. This ensures you get all the positive effects of cardio without impeding the muscle building process.
After my weekday cardio sessions I take 1 scoop of whey isolate with 15 grams micronized glutamine and 2 grams of taurine mixed in water. Research shows 8 grams of glutamine supplementation is as effective as 61-grams of glucose for restoring muscle glycogen levels.
That means the whey/glutamine mixture will effectively replenish glycogen and supply taxed muscles with the highest quality protein immediately after cardio while adding minimal calories.
Cardio For Abs
I was wondering if I should do cardio every day to see ripped abs? I really have a lot of fat to shed. On non training days, can I do cardio twice: once in the morning and once at night? Thanks for the help.
I love your drive and willingness to work hard for your goal. No more sitting around and thinking about getting into shape any more. Once you get rolling you have taken the first step towards a level of fulfillment words can’t describe.
It sounds like your primary goal is losing fat and you feel you have a way to go to reach your optimal condition. That being the case, I’d suggest attacking cardio full go at this point.
I would go ahead and add daily cardio sessions starting today. Make sure to spread them apart from your weight workouts by at least 6 hours.
Timing Your Cardiovascular Workouts
This timing is important to ensure that you are getting the full benefits of your cardiovascular workouts and minimizing any potential negative effects on recovery and the muscle building process.
If you have a lot of fat to shed then go ahead and add the extra cardio session on your off days. One session in the morning and one at night should really crank up your metabolism and help you melt away the fat.
I’d suggest a mixture of intense and long/slow cardio approach. That means keeping your sessions 15-20 minutes and working hard the whole time on intense days and walking for 30- 45 minutes on other days. The more you huff and puff the better.
Distance Goal or a Caloric Expenditure Goal?
Shorter and more intense cardio sessions will have a bigger effect on your metabolism and elevate it for a longer period of time after exercise, so that’s the biggest bang for your buck. However you need to give your body a break every other day, so a long slow, leisurely walk is great.
Don’t waste any time and start elevating your standards. You have a clear goal in front of you and it certainly sounds like you are highly motivated and committed to reaching it. Now you just need to focus and execute!
Doing Cardio After Weight Training?
I have been doing cardio four times a week directly after my weight training for 20 to 30 minutes. I have read that a person should not do cardio after weight training because it kills gains. Is this true and what would you recommend?
If you’re trying to get as big as possible- efficiently, cardio directly after training isn’t a great idea. Performing your cardio as soon as you are done working out can have a negative impact on recovery and muscle growth.
Immediately after training there is a very important window of nutritional opportunity where your body is craving nutrients. You want to take advantage of this vital time period with intelligent supplement timing so you can start the recovery process immediately.
Your focus should be on nutrition directly after training and not on cardio.
It is more effective to separate your cardio sessions by more than 6 hours apart from weight training or perform cardio on off training days.
Minimizing Negative Effects on Muscle Building
This may not be the most convenient way but it is the best way to ensure you get all the benefits of cardiovascular exercise and minimize any negative effects it may have on the muscle building process.
I’ve been doing high intensity cardio and loving it. You say you use the interval setting on the bike. Does that mean the resistance varies as you go like random hills? I’ve been using the manual setting but I want to do what you are doing.
I am glad to hear you are implementing high intensity cardio. As I have said before, you’ll be working harder than you ever have while doing cardio and your results will definitely show the effort you’re putting forth.
On the Recumbent Bike
The interval setting on my recumbent bike does vary the resistance as you go. It is split in 3 sections of 4 progressively harder “hills.” After each hill you return to a baseline resistance that is determined by the difficulty level you choose.
I keep my RPM’s as high as I can throughout 15- 20 minutes and the lower intervals give me a chance for slight recovery between hills, however, after a couple big hills even the lower intervals are tough.
Varying Resistance Levels
I prefer programs with varying resistance levels but the bottom line is make sure you are working hard no matter what setting or machine you choose. If you can carry on a conversation during your cardio, you are nowhere near fat burning intensity.
I see you mainly use the recumbent bike when you do cardio. Are there any advantages to a recumbent bike over a regular stationary bike or other cardio machines?
Best Types of Cardio- High Intensity Is The Key
I used to believe that the recumbent bike would not work me hard enough to get an effective cardio workout so I never used it. Boy was I wrong.
The problem wasn’t that the bike was not working me hard enough, it was that I wasn’t working the bike hard enough. That was a lesson I learned very quickly after my first true high intensity cardio session.
With high intensity cardio the duration is shorter (15- 20 minutes) and the intensity is HIGH. That means you are working as hard as you can for 15- 20 minutes and you try to better your output each time by passing your highest distance at the same or greater resistance level.
I choose the recumbent bike because I feel I can work the hardest on it. I think the fact that I don’t have to balance my body or endure any impact on my joints allows me to go as hard as I can and even as I am getting winded I can still keep pushing.
I think it boils down to whatever machine you feel you can work the hardest on because true fat burning cardio is all about intensity. Greater intensity over a shorter time will have a bigger impact on the fat burning process and less of any negative effects on muscle building.
So if a cardio machine is somehow impeding the intensity you can put forth then it is not the best choice.
It is hard to put this in words but if you are truly busting your butt for 15- 20 minutes you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. It’s tough but very effective.
I no longer view cardio as simply putting in my time. Now each session is a physical and mental challenge to better my last performance just like each weight training session.
Does It Matter What Time of the Day You Do Cardio?
I don’t think there is a right or wrong time of day to do cardio as long as you space it at least 6 hours apart from your weight training sessions.
Cardio directly before or after weight training is not a good idea.
Cardio before training will zap your energy and limit your ability to achieve maximum overload. Cardio after training will greatly interfere with critical post-workout recuperation.
Elevating Your Metabolism
I feel the intensity of your cardio sessions is more important than the time of day you complete them. Intense shorter duration cardio has a greater elevating effect on your metabolism and keeps it elevated for a longer period of time after exercise.
Time your cardio intelligently and keep your sessions intense. That along with heavy weight training and smart nutrition will make you a fat burning, muscle building machine.
I’ve seen you recommend an added 10- 15 minute cardio session each day for some people trying to lose fat. Isn’t 10 minutes too short to be beneficial?
The effectiveness of cardio from a fat burning standpoint has less to do with total duration and more to do with intensity.
Shorter time spans like 15- 20 minutes allow you to work at an ultra-high intensity level for the entire cardio session and that is what fat burning cardio is all about, high intensity over a shorter span of time.
High intensity, shorter duration cardio has a bigger impact on elevating your metabolism and keeps it elevated for a longer period of time after exercise.
It is all about how you attack those 10/15 minutes. If you are doing cardio at the same intensity level as bird watching then 10 minutes will do nothing.
Quick Cardio Sessions for An Extra Metabolism Boost
If you go with all out intensity for 10 minutes to the point you are working well outside of your body’s comfort zone and challenging yourself to go further each time, you will be giving your metabolism a boost that will last for a few hours after the session.
Occasionally I’ve added the quick cardio blast to give my metabolism an extra kick in the morning and then I attack it again with another quick cardio session later in the afternoon. This keeps the fat burning process going strong all day.
Is Too Much Cardio Possible?
Can doing too much cardio affect muscle gains? I really want to lose that last bit of body fat from my waistline but I don’t want to limit muscle gains by doing too much cardio. What do you suggest?
I think too much cardio can affect muscle gains in a negative way but that depends on how you approach your cardiovascular training sessions and how you time them in relation to your workouts.
I suggest using the high intensity cardio approach which means your sessions should be short (15- 20 minutes) and intense. Shorter more intense cardio sessions have a bigger impact on elevating your metabolism and keep it elevated for a longer period of time after exercise.
Plus, the shorter and intense cardio approach will have less of any negative effect on the muscle building process and not break down muscle tissue like long duration cardio can.
Before or After Weight Training?
It is also important to space your cardio apart from weight training workouts by at least 6 hours. That’s right, you should NOT do cardio immediately before or after weight training. I know this is not the most convenient way but it is the BEST way to maximize the positive effects of cardio and minimize any negative effects.
Cardio directly before training will zap your energy and vital nutrient stores, thus impeding the amount of overload you can achieve during your weight workouts.
Another important factor to enhance the benefits of cardio and minimize negative effects on muscle building is supplementing after cardio, similar to how you supplement after a weight training session.
With an intelligent approach to cardio you will not have to worry about any negative impact on the muscle building process and can reap the fat burning, muscle building rewards heavy weights and intense cardio.
I started doing High Intensity cardio close to 8 weeks ago and lately I’ve been having problems beating my previous day’s distance. I’ve been working hard to get there but sometimes come up a little short. Am I still boosting my metabolism and burning fat even though I don’t always go further?
As you continue to raise the intensity of your cardio sessions and set new high distance marks you will likely find it harder to keep beating your best distances every time but that does not mean your cardio session was ineffective.
If you do not pass your distance goal but end up close to your target, you can feel good about the work you put forth. You were no doubt working well outside of your body’s comfort level and giving your metabolism a boost for the next several hours.
Specific numbers to try and increase like distance traveled or calories burned are important. They are motivating tools that push you to work harder and they are an excellent gauge of your intensity level.
I don’t always beat my distances either but I work hard to reach them and as long as I get close, I know I had an effective session.