The law of diminishing returns. According to economics, this law states that everything has a point where the higher the amount of resources you invest, the greater the margin decreases on the return. This essentially means, that the more work we put into something past a certain level, the smaller the difference we will notice. As with anything, this can be the case, but today we will touch on cardio for those seeking the optimal body composition.
Cardio is very important as it helps burn extra calories for those seeking fat loss. For maximum weight loss, it is very important to burn more energy than what is consumed, and cardio can help you reach this deficit of calories. Cardio also important as it helps boost your metabolism for further fat loss, especially HIIT cardio. HIIT stands for high intensity interval training, which is doing a certain activity at a very high intensity, followed by a recovery period. HIIT is usually done for a few rounds with an overall shorter duration than typical steady state cardio protocols. Not only will you burn a high amount of calories while you are doing this, but studies have shown that your metabolism will be boosted for up to 24 hours after doing HIIT cardio. This means your body will be burning more calories per hour trying to recover from this activity, as opposed to not having done it at all. Lastly, you should do cardio because it is great for your health; it gets blood moving, keeps your heart healthy, and will help your recovery.
As a coach, I’ve heard it all from “I’m bulking, I don’t do cardio” to “I do an hour every day of cardio.” Now obviously it is dependent on each individual’s specific goals, but I think everyone should do at least a minimum amount of cardio to reap the benefits from it. The problem comes when people start doing a ridiculous amount of cardio and start seeing all the negatives from it without much of an increased benefit. If you are getting ready for a physique show, and it’s the last few weeks, you might be doing cardio every day. But if this is what your body requires to keep burning fat, then this isn’t a bad idea. But if you are an average person, looking to maintain or even lose a little bit of fat and you want to rely on doing cardio everyday an hour a day, you will find yourself in a spot you don’t want to be.
What is the right amount of cardio to do? Whatever amount it takes to maintain progress. The problem with doing more cardio than necessary is that your body is very smart. Your body starts becoming more efficient at it, and it will start burning fewer calories the more often you do it. I often have clients that want to do cardio daily for up to an hour a day, but instead of improving their physique, this actually takes away from it. Doing too much cardio is also a sure way to start burning the muscle you have built and burn it off as energy, look at the body of marathon runners, they are very thin and have softer looking physiques. If this is what you want to look like, that is okay, but if your goal is to have some toned muscle and lower your body fat you are far from it. You want to do the least amount of cardio, while losing the most amount of fat at the same time.
Too much cardio also has your body in a constant state of stress, recovery is key to building muscle. Most people don’t realize that they don’t grow in the gym; in the gym all you are doing is creating a signal for your body telling it to grow muscle, but the actual growth occurs when you are resting and recovering at home. It is very important to factor in recovery in your workout program, as it is often underrated with those who have the mentality that the more work you do the more you get.
So after all of this information you may ask yourself: “why would I ever want to do cardio if it is just bad for me!? “
This is not true, although too much cardio can have detrimental effects, when you do just the right amount it can have so many benefits. Increased fat loss, increased metabolic rate and better health are the benefits it can provide of us. For most individuals just looking to maintain good overall health, I recommend doing cardiovascular work 2-3 times a week for no more than 20-30 minutes. For those seeking fat loss, as long as your diet is on point, they should gradually increase this number to continue seeing fat loss. But you should always rely mainly on your diet and weightlifting routine for most of your results. When a plateau comes, this is the time to reevaluate your cardio routine and other factors. Make sure that you do not fall in the trap of thinking that the more cardio you do the better, and keep training hard with your eyes focused on the prize!
With the pursuit of achieving the best possible physique and helping hundreds of clients do the same, Juan Rojas has dedicated his life to finding the best strategies for transforming human bodies. Constant research, trial and error and continous education in the exercise physiology and nutrition field, Juan Rojas thrives off finding the most efficient ways to transform your body and live a happier and healthier lifestyle.