Want to lose weight? Get in line for the cardio machines. But, before you do, read this. We’ve got the info you need to help you decide how much cardio should I do?.
We all want those rock hard abs, toned thighs, and buff arms. That’s a given. But the road to this lean and toned body is no easy journey. One good place to start is with cardio. You might have always been a runner or swimmer, but if you haven’t incorporated cardio into your workout, then better late than never.
Cardio has always had the reputation of being the best way to shed unwanted weight quickly. Running, jogging, walking, swimming and biking are always that fitness junkies can get that blood flowing and that heart pumping. But what a lot people don’t know is the details about how much cardio to do, what kind of cardio to do and how much time a day you should spend on it. Not to mention cardio before or after weights.
Obviously, any cardio is good cardio, but if you really want to tone and get fit then there is a method to this cardio madness.
Antioxidants For Cardio
Before getting right into cardio training, we need to tackle this related subject. This is a subject that isn’t widely talked about and most people don’t know whether antioxidants and fitness mix.
First off, what are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are a substance that removes potentially damaging oxidizing agents in the body. They also act to neutralize free radicals.
Free radicals are unpaired electrons that can damage cell walls and cause disease. They sure do get a bad rep, with good reason. But, certain free radicals play an important role in a healthy immune system. A study done on worms (yes, worms) showed that the worms with more free radicals actually lived longer than those who had less free radicals.
Antioxidants include glutathione, arginine, citrulline, creatine, selenium, taurine, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and tea polyphenols. These are generally all very good for your health. Because antioxidants neutralize and remove these free radicals that your body produces, one might conclude that they would be good for fitness lovers.
A study done with endurance athletes looked at the results when they consumed large amounts of vitamin C and vitamin E. They found that it resulted in a lesser training response. In other words, when the athletes took these vitamins, they had lower enzyme levels that help your muscles cells create energy so they were unable to work out longer and harder.
Another study found the same. The Journal of Physiology published a study done at the Norwegian School of Sport and Sciences in Oslo, Norway. This study looked at 32 men and women. Half of the group started taking two different antioxidant vitamin pills a day, one before and one after exercising. These antioxidant pills had 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C and 235 milligrams of vitamin E. The other group did not take any vitamin supplements.
The program lasted 10 weeks and consisted of both groups doing the same resistance training. By the end, the group that had taken the antioxidant supplements had not added as much strength as the group that didn’t take the supplements. The group who took the supplements also had reduced levels of substances that initiated protein synthesis in their muscles. The study concluded that the supplement group was getting a less overall response from their workouts than the group who did not take any supplements.
We aren’t saying you should avoid orange juice and green tea like the plague.
So what are we saying?
Make sure your antioxidant intake is moderate so your muscles can be in tip-top shape.
The Reasons Cardio Is Important
Aerobic exercises strengthen muscles, improve lung function, strengthen the heart, reduce stress and increase circulation. All of this can, in turn, boost self-esteem.
Cardio is also vital to heart health. Researchers found that heart attack patients who did cardio had a reduced death rate of as much as 20 to 25%. Doing cardio every day also improves your body’s ability to take in and use oxygen. This is important because your body needs oxygen not just to breath, but also for its muscles to properly work. When you do cardio, it helps with regular, everyday activities because you won’t feel as fatigued as you would without cardio.
There have also been studies done that measure muscle strength before and after a cardio session. These studies found that flexibility increased, as well as bone health. This also helps in the prevention of back pain and future disability.
Your Fitness Levels Play A Role
With all of that said, there are certain ways of doing cardio that are best for you. For example, when someone goes from not working out at all to being moderately active, this is when the greatest amount is gained. But, research has shown that not much is gained from cardio when someone goes from being moderately active to very active.
One study looked at 6,213 men over a six-year period. The focus of the study was on risks of death (such as if they smoked, did not work out, etc.), as well as physical fitness levels of the men. It showed that fitness level was a better predictor of death than their established risk factors like smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
So, it is easy to see why cardio is so important and the large impact that it can have.
Types Of Cardio
A low, steady rate cardio workout is one where you do your exercises for no less than 20 minutes at 60 to 70% of your body’s maximal capacity. The speed you do them at should remain constant during the workout. Some examples of a LISS workout would be walking, cycling, swimming, jogging, and elliptical work. Steady state cardio has proven to be very good for those trying to lose weight. It is also better for those who have joint problems.
How much time should you devote to a low-intensity cardio workout?
The best results seem to occur when doing it for periods between 30 and 90 minutes. In fact, research has shown that 45 minutes or more of running is ideal.
It is the best amount of time to run if you want to use fat as a source of energy. It should also be pointed out that fat loss, in fact, occurs in the hours after you’ve finished your cardio workout.
So what about HIIT?
It’s all the rage. High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, workouts are ones where you give your best effort when doing an exercise for a short time period.
It could last just one or two minutes and then you rest for as much as double the amount of time you spent working out. You should repeat this cycle no less than five times.
Some examples of HIIT include using the treadmill, burpees, battle rope, jumping jacks and mountain climbers. This form of cardio will boost the metabolic rate during and after the exercise. HIIT workouts allow you the chance to burn lots of calories in a shorter timeframe. And, because you’re using a mixture of muscle groups, getting lean and toned is a likely result. As a bonus, it could also help prevent osteoporosis.
With all the perks stated, keep in mind that there’s a higher risk of getting hurt doing HIIT workouts.
The Time Of Day Does Matter
It’s true. When you choose to do your cardio workout will also impact how much fat you’ll lose. Try to get up early and do your cardio workout before breakfast. If you do your workout then, your body will use fat as energy because you don’t have any other form of energy for your body to draw from.
But, you do have to be careful when doing this.
Your body can go into a catabolic state where it starts burning muscle as a source of energy instead of burning fat or nutrients.
You don’t want that!
In order to not lose muscle, you should strive to consume ¼ grams of carbs and ⅛ grams of protein per pound of your ideal body weight – not your actual body weight.
You Need Sleep
Let’s face it: Most people do cardio to lose weight. You might not think the amount of sleep you get every night will affect your weight.
You’d be wrong. It turns out that sleep can affect quite a few health problems. The good news is that cardio helps improve sleep.
It is believed that 50 to 70 million people in the United States suffer from a sleeping disorder. Studies have found that those who sleep fewer than six hours each night are more likely to have higher body mass index numbers than people who are able to get at least eight hours of sleep each night.
Sleep, like lack of exercise and overeating, is a risk factor of obesity.
When we sleep, we secrete hormones. These hormones help to control our metabolism, appetite and glucose hormones. A lack of sleep also leads to a decrease in leptin levels. That’s the hormone that tells the brain that you are feeling satisfied or full. The problem here is that you might have food cravings in spite of the fact that you’ve eaten enough to be full.
The National Sleep Foundation found that people who do some form of cardio exercise for 2.5 hours each week bettered the quality of their sleep by as much as 65%. Studies have also found that doing some form of cardio helped people fall asleep much faster and allowed them to sleep much longer than if they didn’t do any type of cardio.
So, it’s fairly obvious that sleep is vital for your body, as well as your cardio workouts.
There are many health benefits to doing cardio. It is easily one of the best ways to lose unwanted fat and to get fit and lean. It even helps give you energy. When you get your heart pumping, it adapts to the demands of cardio and therefore grows stronger. So, when you are resting, your heart won’t have to work as hard to circulate blood as often. In other words, you’ll be more energized because your resting heart rate is much lower than if you did no cardio at all.
Cardio trains your body. One of the things it trains it to do is use oxygen more efficiently. That means your body will have more access to the oxygen within it so you won’t feel as fatigued and weak.
And that could lead to better workouts!
It also impacts chemicals called endorphins that are released when you do a cardio workout. Endorphins elevate your mood and alleviate feelings of pain and stress. That’s why after you workout you’ll get the runner’s high and feel happier and more energetic.
So be sure add some cardio to a dreary day.
Now that you know the method to this cardio madness, you can put it to the test. There will be ups and downs. You’ll likely have good days and bad days. But, it is crucial to remember that the journey is just as important as the destination. Get your rest, stay hydrated, enjoy a proper diet and work hard. These will get you where you need to be and you’ll learn a thing or two about yourself and your body through this fitness journey.
By Sarah Bayard