In my on going research into ways to lose weight, I have been running across more and more materials by trainers loudly proclaiming "Cardio is bad for weight loss!", or "You can lose weight without doing any cardio!". The theme here is they are stating that you can lose your weight quickly and not do any cardiovascular exercises. There definitely is a general consensus against cardio among quite a few fitness experts. This naturally made me become skeptical considering cardio was the major component behind my 80-pound weight loss. My initial reaction was to write those off as baloney and move on. But, I was wrong before about losing weight, so suppose I am wrong now? What if there really is a way to lose weight quickly that does not involve physical activity? If spending all that time in the gym on the stationary cycle was not necessary, I should be telling other people who are looking for ways to lose weight. It was hard and uncomfortable, all those hours I spent at the gym, and if I can help people lose weight without going through the same, that would be so much easier on everyone. I visited their websites, looked at their materials.
What did I find? Most of the sites would not reveal what their "technique" was that took the place of cardio, unless you purchased the book from them. On most sites, it was a constantly recurrent theme; "No Cardio! No Cardio! No spending hours working out!". I have stated often, knowledge is power and I though my "BS meter" was on alert, I was also curious so I bought some of their books to evaluate and signed up for their email newsletters. First, there were a few programs that were simply scams - had plans that had the feel-good methods but have the effectiveness of those machines you see advertised on infomercials at 3am. The other programs I looked into were divided into two camps. A couple of trainers strongly feel strength training is all that is needed. Strength training is a critical component of any weight loss plan, but, in my experience, strength training alone does not burn off fat at a rate that is acceptable for most people. Finally, the last set programs claiming not to use cardio use what is called "high-intensity interval training". What is ironic is that is a form of cardiovascular exercise, so in effect one is still doing cardio with those programs. So ultimately, the really effective weight loss systems still make use of cardio.
In my view this is not a bad thing. Cardiovascular exercises do strengthen the heart and circulatory system. I have learned very quickly that a strong heart is the foundation of being fit. While cardio may not burn off fat quite the same rate as the most intense repetitions of strength training, the sustained duration of cardio allows for greater total fat loss. See, strength training consists of very short, high intensity bursts of activity followed by significant resting periods. During strength training, your muscles are using glycogen reserves inside them, and not tapping stored fat. Cardio on the other hand does start off using glycogen reserves as well, but because the activity is sustained for a significant duration, your body will have to accelerate the breakdown of fat into glucose to sustain your muscles. As stated earlier though, this is not a situation of either/or. An effective weight loss program will incorporate both strength training and cardio training.
Now that it is established cardio is essential for weight loss, it is important that cardio is done effectively. What this means is finding an intensity and duration that will force the body to tap its fat for energy to sustain the muscles, but at the same time, not wear out or injure the individual. A common method is to use the heart rate as a determining factor. Years of research suggest that effective fat burning occurs between 70% and 80% of your maximum heart rate, which can be determined by subtracting your age from 220. Then you multiply the result by .7 and .8. You will want to keep your heart rate between those two figures during your cardio session. As mentioned earlier, many systems, such as Turbulence Training, promote a form of cardio called high-intensity interval training, also referred to as interval training. In fact, this was how I discovered the excellent system of Turbulence Training. Interval training simply has one alternate between very high intense periods and low or moderate intense periods. The benefit of this training is you burn much more calories during the same period of moderate cardio, and the total exertion is not much greater either, thanks to the body's slow response to changing situations.
The timing of cardio is important. A constant debate is if "fasting cardio" is really effective. A preponderance of research, as well as my own personal experience, suggests that it does increase rate of fat loss, but perhaps not all that significantly. Still, every little bit helps, particularly if you need to lose a lot. If you do or plan on doing cardio and weight training during the same session, it is better to do strength training first, then cardio. First, you will want all your strength for the weights, secondly by doing strength training first, you use up your glycogen, forcing your body into increased fat burning modes sooner. I broke out of a weight loss plateau by switching to this order. Finally, stretch before engaging in any form of physical training, weights or cardio, it will reduce your chances of injury.
As with any aspect of weight loss, you must always monitor your progress and make adjustments if your weight loss is slowing down or stopped. In the case of cardio, you may need to adjust the duration or intensity of your session as your become more healthy and fit. And always listen to your body; if you are pushing yourself too hard, slow down a little, give your body a chance to catch up, or you may lose motivation instead of weight.