Are you fat burning or time wasting? How to get the most from your cardio

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July 16, 2015

Are you fat burning or time wasting? How to get the most from your cardio

Cardio is a huge factor in leaning out, but what type of cardio should you be doing?

A lot of trainers have different opinions when it comes to what type of cardio exercise you should be doing to achieve the summer body.  I constantly see people at the gym or outside running like there is a zombie apocalypse or a briscoes closing down sale, but they’re not getting the results they deserve with the amount of effort they are putting in. Most people believe that the harder they work out, the more fat they will burn. Most people are wrong.

The truth is fat burning occurs at a much lower intensity than many of us realise (60-75% of max heart rate). Which means even though you’re sweating it out in the gym, or running for long distances, you might actually be missing an opportunity to lose fat – and even worse, you could be eating into that hard earned muscle, I have experienced this tragedy myself in the past.

This post will focus on the cardio side of things and why, and how, you should be doing cardio to target fat burning.

How Your Body Uses Energy

Your body uses two main pathways for energy.

  • Anaerobically (without oxygen); and
  • Aerobically (with oxygen)

With the anaerobic pathway, your body uses it’s creatine phosphate and glycogen (which comes from carbs) stores as fuel for high intensity exercise such as HIIT, weights and short interval training.

The aerobic pathway uses stored fat, glycogen (carbs) and limited protein to produce energy. Your body will use these during low to moderate intensity exercise, such as power walking. Because this type of exercise burns FAT, it is super important and this is what I will be focusing on in this post.

How Does This Type Of Cardio Help Me Get Lean?

When you do cardio at a low to moderate intensity, the body’s preferred fuel is glycogen (carbohydrates) first, and then fats. However, the longer you exercise, the more fat your body will burn. So by doing longer power walks, your body will burn more fat.

When Should You Do It?

There are two times when this form of cardio is most effective, keep in mind that the idea is to train smarter and not necessarily harder.

  1. It is better to do this type of cardio first thing in the morning – this is known as ‘fasted cardio’. When you first wake up, you have not eaten anything for at least 8 or so hours. This means there is not much glycogen (carbs) in your body to be used up for energy. As a result, doing your cardio first thing in the morning before breakfast means you will be using your fat stores for energy = Fat burning!
  2. I understand that not everyone can get up first thing in the morning and do cardio due to work, or children commitments. So the next most effective time for this form of fat burning cardio is post workout. That’s right – straight after you have beaten yourself up with weights and all those squats and feel like you have nothing left to give. That feeling of being energy less is a great indication that your body is now changing over from using carbs for energy, to using fat stores – or more commonly known as your reserve tank. By the end of your weights session your glycogen levels (pre workout carbs) should be depleted (if you haven’t over filled them, I will go into more details on this subject on a separate post) putting you into a fat burning state as soon as you hit the treadmill or pavement.

Take home message

Although HIIT (High intensity interval training) is still very effective in turning you into a calorie burning machine, when training to target fat and conserve your body’s hard earnt muscle, low to moderate intensity training is your best friend. Mapping out the best time of day that this will work for you, and making sure your diet isn’t too carb heavy, this form of cardio will have you well on your way to achieving that lean body.

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