However, the problem with cardio is that while it does help with weight loss it’s not that great for fat loss. What’s the difference? Weight can come from water, bone, muscle and other important things that you want to preserve whereas fat loss is purely focused on the bad stuff. That’s an important distinction to make as losing weight is quite easy, all you have to do is eat less and move more.
Yet, losing just fat is an entirely different story. You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘getting toned’ but don’t quite know what it exactly means. Well, simply put, toning is losing fat while keeping muscle mass or building muscle. People who do endless amounts of cardio often lose a lot of weight but still look pretty chubby because they’ve lost an equal amount of muscle and fat. You may have experienced this yourself and wondered why you don’t look quite as good as you imagined.
The key to holding on to your aesthetic muscle is through strength training and strategic cardio supplemented with a good diet. Your diet needs to be reasonably high in protein as that helps your body hold on to it’s precious muscle whilst dieting. Aim for somewhere in the ballpark of 1.5g – 2g per pound of bodyweight. You also don’t want to be too much in a caloric deficit. 200 calories under your maintenance will be a perfect start and then if you start stalling for a long period of time (2 weeks or more) then take off another 100 calories. When you’re 300 calories into a deficit that’s when it’s time to stop stripping calories from your food and start doing more activity.
This is where low intensity activities like walking are perfect. Walking is relaxing and a great way to burn calories that people never acknowledge. Getting out in the fresh air twice a week for 30-60 minutes is a simple and accessible way to lose fat without straining yourself too much. If you’re the type that hates long runs, cycles or rows then this is ideal.
Another method you can try is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). These are short workouts but force you to give it your all which is why you can burn so many calories in such a short duration. The advantage of HIIT is that they rely on minimal equipment, time and can be performed anywhere. Perfect if you’re traveling or don’t have much time.
So, no you don’t need to do cardio in the common use of the term to lose weight and look good. However, long relaxing walks or quick bursts of HIIT can be effective after you’ve implemented a proper deficit and strength training routine.