Cardio is an activity which has people divided and split virtually down the middle. Some people absolutely love it, whilst others, well, they dread it. When we think of cardio, we envision ourselves hunched over on a treadmill, gasping for breath, drenched in sweat, and counting down the minutes until the ordeal is finally able to be brought to an end. Cardio is tough, there’s no denying that, but there is so much more to cardio than just busting your butt on a treadmill for a few hours each week. Not only that, but cardio also provides benefits other than just simply assisting with weight loss, as it has been proven to improve your health and well-being, making it very strongly recommended indeed. If however, you wish to focus primarily on fat loss and want to become leaner and fitter than you could have possibly imagined, let’s take a look at a few essential cardio tips for fat loss.
Try fasted cardio
If you are able to get your cardio completed in the AM, it is recommended that you perform cardio first thing in a morning, on an empty stomach, and perform what is known as fasted cardio. Some people believe that fasted cardio is a waste of time, yet there are others, including professional athletes, nutritionists, and trainers, who swear by it in terms of fat loss. The basic premise behind fasted cardio, is that you perform cardio on an empty stomach, after having had no food for a number of hours. You of course drink water and stay hydrated, but food is off the table until you have completed the cardio. The reason why it is thought to work so well is that by exercising on an empty stomach, your body has no calories or energy to be taken from food, to get it through the workout. As you are pushing yourself so hard, your body will panic and will look for an emergency energy source, which it will get in the form of stored body fat. We store body fat as an emergency energy source for times when we need energy and have no food, so in theory it makes perfect sense.
Aim for at least 30 minutes on average
Providing you are performing steady state cardio, in which you maintain roughly the same pace for the duration of your exercise, it is recommended that you aim for at least 30 minutes of cardio, although obviously if you can do more, you should do more. This is because, on average, most people’s bodies are designed to not actually tap into body fat reserves until you reach around 30 minutes of exercise. Each person is different, so some will burn fat quicker, and some will take longer, but ideally the optimal time has been found to be at least 30 minutes before your body makes the transition into fat burning modes, so just bear that in mind.
Try a 20 – 25 minute HIIT session
If steady state cardio bores you, or if you are simply no longer seeing the results you may have been hoping to see, you may wish to consider performing HIIT cardio instead. HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, requires you to switch between slow paced exercise, and fast paced exercise, for several rounds at a time. So, if you were outdoors, you could perform hill sprints, in which you sprint to the top of a hill, before slowly walking down to the bottom, and repeating the process over and over again several times. HIIT is quicker than regular cardio, you can burn just as many calories, plus it temporarily increases your resting metabolic rate, so you burn slightly more calories in a rested state. This is known as the afterburn effect, and it can last as long as 12 – 24 hours.
Change weekly cardio sessions
Like all forms of training, the more of the same activities that you perform, the quicker the body will adapt to what it is that you’re putting it through and will build up a resistance. This is why diets are so effective at first, yet after a few weeks, results become less and less impressive. To really keep your body in a maximum state of fat burning, you should switch up your forms of cardio each week, and try something new. So, one week you may be enjoying steady state on a treadmill, yet the next week you may wish to try HIIT on an exercise bike, followed by hiking in the great outdoors the following day, and so on. As long as you switch up the activities and the intensities, your body will not know what is going on, so it will burn off a great deal more fat than usual.
Try ‘ultimate cardio’ sessions
To really take your body to the next level and to really put it through its paces, try performing what many people refer to as ultimate cardio sessions. These cardio sessions are absolutely brutal and should only be performed once every now and then when you feel like mixing things up and putting your body through its paces. So, to begin with, you may start on a treadmill, walking at a slow and steady pace for 2 minutes, you may then speed up and go at a light jogging speed for 2 minutes, after that, you will go slightly faster and aim for around 90 seconds, before slowing down for 2 minutes, getting your breath, and running at near full capacity for 30 – 60 seconds. Again, get your breath, and if you can manage it, try for 30 – 60 seconds of full blown sprints at around 100% of your max speed. Again, slow down, get your breath, and finish off with a light jog. This form of cardio is absolutely brutal but if you want to shock your body and really put your body through its paces, this is the type of cardio for you to try.