cardio for weight loss

Having trouble burning fat off your love handles? Think cardio is the way to go? Then you’ll want to read this article.

Personally, I’ve never been the type to perform cardio. I always used my diet to burn the fat off.

In fact, I’d gladly take a punishing HIIT exercise class just to avoid the boredom of the treadmill.

You may be of the belief that cardio is the key to weight loss. Well, allow me to be the one to set the record straight.

While cardio can be a helpful tool for your fat burning potential, it is not even close to being as important as your overall diet.

Unless you’re an elite athlete training for an event, it can be hard to know how much cardio you should be doing.

In fact, you may think that more cardio means more weight loss. This is not always the case. I will explain how to integrate cardio into your weight loss plan without overdoing it and causing harm to your body.

Before I dive into the details, let’s talk about two types of cardio chasers: the elite athletes and the weight loss pursuer.

Each group has a distinct goal and should approach cardio in very different ways.

Goal #1: Cardio Training for an Event

If you’re an athlete training for an event, say a 10K or a marathon, you obviously must do cardio to prepare your body for the event.

The amount of cardio you’ll need varies depending on the specific event you are training for.

And, you’ll definitely lose weight as you train for this event. In fact, if you look at long-distance runners, they carry hardly any weight on their body at all.

The problem is that they look horrible. They have no muscle mass. This is due to the fact that running dozens of miles per week eats away any sort of mass you have.

So sure, you’ll lose those love handles. But, you’ll look like you have a disease and that’s not at all attractive.

This site is about developing a lean, chiseled physique just like a warrior. You can’t do that when you’re running marathons.

With all that said, if you want to run a marathon, then by all means go for it. Just be willing to accept the non-developed, skinny-fat look if you go this route.

You should be doing enough cardio to satisfy your training routine and build endurance to complete the event.

If you are looking to achieve a certain time, you will need to boost the duration and intensity of your cardio, so your body can maintain your target pace on race day.

I’m no expert in endurance sports, so that’s all I can say for those of you in this category.

If you are training for an event, you may want to consult a different article because this advice is geared towards people that fall within the next group.

Goal #2: Cardio That Burns Fat

Cardio, at least the way I teach it, is a great way to burn fat off of your love handles.

Let’s talk about the love handles for a minute so you can understand how fat in that area works.

First of all, you can’t spot-reduce fat. There’s no exercise or diet that targets certain areas of fat on your body to burn.

My body likes to hold on to the love handles and lower belly fat as long as possible. It’s the last area on my body that loses its fat.

I will lose fat everywhere else in my body before the love handles. This is probably the same case for you if you cant seem to lose those love handles.

If that’s the case, then the solution is to keep dieting and cutting weight. You can definitely use cardio in the ways that I teach it to speed up this process.

But, getting lean and chiseled is a marathon, not a race. It takes time. You’ll hit roadblocks and be tempted to cut back more and more on your calories.

Don’t do this, however. It’s better to add more cardio than to cut calories. Cutting back more calories isn’t what I recommend simply because you want to retain as much muscle mass as possible.

This is where cardio comes into play. At least, the right kind of cardio.

By combining a reasonable amount of cardio and strength training, you can turn your body into a weight burning machine.

If you find cardio painfully boring, get over it! Haha. Take your phone with you and find some youtube videos to enjoy for 20 minutes or so.

While you can lose weight without doing any cardio, I don’t recommend it because this route usually means cutting further back on calories.

Cardio is good for your heart. It improves your stamina which is what an athlete needs. You also flush out toxin in the body.

The type of cardio I recommend is 1-2 HIIT workouts per week as well as 3-4 slow, steady state cardio such as the stair climber or incline treadmill walking.

Fat Loss Activation Requires A Caloric Deficit

The only true way to activate fat loss is by creating a caloric deficit. You can accomplish a caloric deficit by simply eating properly and consuming the correct number of calories; no cardio required.

However, don’t be surprised if you hit plateaus. You’ll find yourself needing to cut back more and more calories as your body adjusts to the deficit.

This type of dieting becomes even harder if you have a social life and eat out a few times per week. Tracking your macros is almost impossible when you eat out.

Diet and tracking your macros is the most important task if you’re trying to burn that last bit of fat in your love handles.

It’s actually a simple numbers game — if the amount of calories you burn in a day is higher than the amount you eat, you will lose weight.

Because I think it’s a bad idea to put yourself in a deficit greater than 300 calories, cardio should become a part of your lifestyle.

Training like an athlete is how you develop the physique of an athlete. Do you think professional athletes get lean without any cardio? Of course not.

How Much Cardio Do You Need To Lose Weight?

You can introduce cardio in a variety of ways to burn fat and lose weight. Let’s explore how different people use cardio to reach their deficit.

The three scenarios below demonstrate how three different people can lose weight, with separate routines.

Each of these people know that they need to eat 2,000 calories per day to trigger weight loss.

To determine how many calories is right for you, there are many calculators online that factor in your height, weight and body fat percentage to determine your daily caloric intake.

However, it’s all trial and error. Start off with a certain number and see how your weight drops as the weeks go on.

Tracking your calories and macros is a skill that takes time to develop. At this point, it’s more important to simply eat healthier to lose weight.

But for this example, our target is 2,000 daily calories. Here is how the three people met that goal:

• Person #1 eats 2,000 calories with absolutely no cardio.
• Person #2 eats 2,200 calories and does enough cardio to burn the additional 200 calories. This puts them at or below the 2,000-calorie threshold.
• Person #3 eats 2,500 calories and does enough cardio to burn the additional 500 calories. This nets them at or below the required 2,000 calories.

These three people each experience weight loss with either no cardio or just enough to keep them at a caloric deficit.

The amount of cardio needed will vary depending on the number of calories you consume during the day.

You may only need to burn 50 calories five times per week. Others may need to burn 200 calories three times per week. It all depends on what you put into your body.

With that said, I recommend cardio for all individuals for the health benefits. Train like an athlete. It’s the quickest way to burn fat off the love handles.

Can You Do Too Much Cardio?

As I stated earlier in this article, too much cardio can absolutely be a bad thing. The goal with weight loss is to hold on to as much muscle mass as possible.

The way you do this is by limiting the amount of cardio and training in a way that tells your body to hold onto the muscle.

Obviously, eating more food everyday will help retain your muscle mass. This is why I don’t recommend a 300+ caloric deficit.

But, you should be training each of your muscles at least 1-2 times per week. Hit them with enough intensity so that they are stimulated for growth.

Too much cardio can take your body into a deficit that eats away your muscle mass. You can always rebuild the muscle in the future, but it’s best to avoid this route.

Burning fat becomes even more difficult when your metabolism slows down. So how can you identify if you’re doing too much cardio?

The frequency of your cardio, the duration and intensity can all lead to a higher risk of overdoing it on the cardio.

If you’re already somewhat lean and trying to shed the last 5-10 pounds of body fat, then aim for no more than one pound of fat loss per week.

Any more than this and you risk losing your lean muscle. Slow and steady wins the race at this point. Plan on 10 weeks of dieting for the last 10 pounds of fat loss.

Keep in mind that there is no exact answer for how much is too much, and it varies by person based on recovery capabilities — which are affected by age, sleep patterns and stress levels.

Higher Calories and More Cardio Helps Maintain Muscle

Most of these athletes you see on TV that are strong and lean eat a lot more food than you think.

Yet with all this food, they are still able to maintain the god-like physiques and strength levels.

The reason they’re able to do this is due to the fact that they fuel their body with a lot of calories. They train everyday with weights and cardio to build strength and burn fat.

This is why I believe it’s better to train like an athlete instead of starving yourself without any cardio.

While you can still get lean and burn fat without cardio, it’s a very difficult path if you have any sort of social life.

It’s also hard to maintain your strength levels when you’re in such a deep caloric deficit of 500 calories or more.

Therefore, don’t cut back too much on your calories. In fact, I would recommend that you don’t even track your calories if you’re new to dieting.

Simply change up your diet a bit and eat healthier. Add a few cardio sessions per week and track your weight loss for the next 4-6 weeks.

If you’re losing weight, great! Keep it up. Don’t start tracking until you hit a wall. This is the point when you begin to dial in your nutrition.

While there is no rule when it comes to cardio, you know your body best. It is important to pay attention to the cues it’s giving you.

If you find that you are still gaining (or maintaining) your strength, then you are okay. Like I said above, keep going until you hit a point where weight loss has stalled.

Men will hit a wall around 12% body fat. It’s at this point that you will need to start tracking and bump up the cardio (or cut back on calories which I don’t recommend).

You can build muscle while burning fat when you’re keeping the calories at maintenance level with added cardio.

If you notice that you still have the same energy levels and feel good, that’s a great sign that you are doing the right amount of cardio.

When your strength begins to fall off, it’s a sure sign that you’re in too much of a deficit. Bump up your intake around 100-200 calories per day and see how you respond.

This does mean that you’ll need a little bit more cardio as well. And, that’s okay. You’re training like an athlete at this point which is the goal.

Burning Fat Off Your Love Handles Is Difficult!

I won’t beat around the bush: getting that last bit of fat off your body is hard work. I’ve hit plateaus for weeks and weeks with no weight loss.

It’s something you have to push through. Cutting back on your calories is NOT the answer, despite what others may say.

You risk losing muscle mass when you do this. I used to think I needed to cut down to 1500 calories per day in order to drop below 10% body fat. How wrong I was.

What ultimately helped me burn the fat off my love handles was adding more cardio throughout the week.

This goes against the common bodybuilding advice you hear these days, but there’s a reason all of the most leanest athletes out there train with cardio almost every single day while eating a lot of food.

What’s your experience with burning fat off your love handles? Have you been struggling for some time? Share below and I’ll help you out!