This article applies to everybody who is on a noble quest to lose fat. Cardio during fat loss is an absolute must!
And it can be for a variety of reasons from showing off your hard-earned gains in the gym or to pursue a healthier life.
But some gym bros staunchly refuse to do any cardio under the pretense that a sustained elevated heart rate will leech off their gains.
Instead, they prefer to drop some clen/var, an ECA stack, or even DNP to strip off body fat preventing them from revealing shredded abs.
Now, those who may lose a little muscle doing cardio would be superheavyweights, but not everybody is Big Ramy.
Natural lifters who do excessive cardio could lose muscle in the process — especially in the legs if they run or jog frequently as it would be too demanding for the body to recover from both weight training and running to a high level.
And this is where this fear, supposedly, stems from.
But the people most vocally opposed to doing cardio are 190lb “bro” lifters in the low double figure bodyfat percentage.
Of course, sacrificing 30-60 minutes a day to walk on an incline is less glamorous than shortening one’s life expectancy by taking risky compounds.
If they did so choose to throw in a little cardio and deepen their caloric deficit, they would, in all likelihood, strip the fat off and improve their heart health in the process.
Cardio boasts an array of numerous health benefits — it is something that you genuinely have to do for longevity’s sake.
Anyway, let’s delve into why you should do cardio for the purpose of fat loss.
Why You Have to Do Cardio During Fat Loss
You can get shredded without doing cardio. It would be horrendous, but it is possible.
Once you’ve tracked your base metabolic rate and have your diet dialed down, cardio is an additional tool to get yourself into a deeper calorie deficit.
Remember: one of Herculean Strength’s Golden Rules: You can’t out-cardio a bad diet.
Cardio is what keeps your cut alive.
Let’s take an imaginary lifter; he’s a little more active than sedentary, 6ft tall, and 180lb at around 20% bodyfat (he likes beer and pizza on the weekend). Here, his base metabolic rate here would be around 2700-2800 calories a day to maintain his weight at his height and activity level.
Then, let’s imagine he has above-average genetics and trains hard for 3 years and puts on 25lb of lean muscle mass with his bodyfat remaining at 20%.
The extra 25lb of lean tissue would increase his base metabolic rate by 500-750 calories a day. So his adjusted base metabolic rate for maintenance would shoot up to around 3200-3550 a day — let’s call it 3400 as an average and to keep the math simple.
Now, this imaginary lifter wants to strip down to 10-12% bodyfat for the summer and he has 4 months to do so.
His lean bodyweight is around 170lb at 0% bodyfat — which is impossible to achieve, but his ideal goal weight would be at around 185-190lb.
He would need to drop 15-20lb in 4 months — something that is perfectly doable.
Let’s assume that he isn’t the most disciplined lifter when it comes to nutrition; and even though he could easily drop a pound a week to be within the 15-20lb range, lapses of judgements, miscalculations, and errors are bound to happen for amateurs.
In order to lose a pound a week, he would need to burn off a total of around 65,000 calories spread across the 16 week period — a total weekly deficit of around 4,000 or between 500-600 calories a day.
(I am keeping the math simple and rounding up or down.)
For the first month, he could drop his daily caloric intake to 2,800-2,900 a day to kickstart his cut, which is a very comfortable intake.
After a couple of weeks, the lifter could take his weight, measurements, and before and after photos, making according adjustments to his daily caloric intake and total cardio.
The lifter could walk for 30 minutes a day to deepen his deficit a little further.
In fact, walking for 10-15 minutes after every meal can improve insulin sensitivity as well as breaking up total cardio for the day into manageable chunks.
At the beginning of each month, our imaginary lifter could then deepen his deficit by 100-200 calories a day — although I wouldn’t recommend our friend to go below 2400-2500 calories a day at his size to avoid the risk of losing muscle mass as he would be at a deficit of nearly 1000 calories a day assuming he does no cardio.
He could strip off 50-100 calories a day and add an extra 15-30 minutes walking to get there.
Put simply, doing cardio enables you to eat more when losing fat.
And it doesn’t have to be running long distances. Walking, walking on an incline, a leisurely bike ride with your family, swimming, sex; playing soccer, tennis, squash, rugby, etc, are all good forms of cardio.
But the most important thing to consider when cutting weight is how comfortable the cut is, so that you don’t break it or fall into temptation.
The other day, I ended up pigging out on my wife’s chocolate for baking, chips, and other stuff as I was insatiably hungry from lowering my calories excessively.
By the end of his cut, he could comfortably reach his goals while eating around 2700 calories and walking for a little over an hour a day — which is very doable.
If you’re not competing for a show or trying to get down to 5% bodyfat, there is no reason for you to suffer or to take harsh compounds.
If you’re suffering when cutting, you may lose sight of why you begun dieting in the first place and relapse.
You will also lose muscle mass from extreme dieting — especially if you’re natural.
Moreover, your work productivity, mood, and libido will be in the toilet, potentially jeopardizing any relationships you may have.
Our esteemed imaginary lifter still has a lot of wriggle room as to what he can do to get to his goal.
By the end of his cut, he should have reached his goal without having to suffer too much.
At 10-12% bodyfat and 25lb of lean tissue, our imaginary lifter will look better than 99% of people out and about.
You don’t need to get into single digits to have a good physique.
If you’re competing that’s a different matter, but I see far too many people severely restrict their caloric intake and rebound the second they’ve reached their goal or even sooner.
Far too many people have short time horizons and want to be lean yesterday.
It’s a lifelong marathon — not a sprint.
Work on becoming a better version of you. A 15% bodyfat at 210lb you is physically better than a 30% bodyfat at 230lb you.
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