Cardio For Fat Loss

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Do I need to perform cardio for fat loss?

Summary

No, cardio is not required for fat loss. It can be used as a way to increase caloric expenditure for fat loss, but is not required.

Discussion

To lose body fat, a caloric deficit is required. This means that fundamentally you need to expend more energy than you consume. While the body is complicated, this simple principle governs fat loss and weight loss in the human body.

This deficit can be achieved by restricting dietary intake, or increasing energy output in the form of exercise. It is much easier to create a deficit by reducing calories versus performing exercise. In many studies, dieting alone yields similar results as dieting and cardio, so you don’t need to perform cardio for fat loss.

Cardio for fat loss
The effect of diet alone vs diet combined with cardio on weight loss

While one can simply reduce calories and lose weight, there are some reasons to consider including cardio in a weight loss or fat loss period in your life. Cardio does provide cardiovascular health benefits and can improve your work capacity and recovery. Performing some cardiovascular exercise 3 times per week for 20 minutes will convey many of the health benefits from cardiovascular exercise.

Cardiovascular exercise can be performed in many ways, including brisk walking, running, bicycling, swimming, or any activity that raises your heart rate continually for the duration of the exercise. Additionally, there are more advanced methods of cardio, see “further reading”.

How intense should my cardio be? Well, when we think about just fat loss, the intensity doesn’t matter as much as the total duration and calories burned during a session. If you are using cardio to improve your cardiovascular system, higher intensity training (65% and above) may be more beneficial. But lower intensity cardio is also incredibly effective for weight/fat loss.

Further Reading

Steady State and Interval Training by Lyle McDonald

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