Is cardio the answer to fat loss? There are many different views on what type of cardio is best, as well as how long and how often you need to perform it if you’re trying to lose weight. And what if you’re trying to bulk up? Will cardio undermine your efforts? The number of theories out there is enough to make your head spin.
Here are some popular cardio myths to think about.
Myth #1: Steady-state cardio is the best way to burn fat
The truth: Although you may be able to perform this “easier” type of cardio for a longer period of time, thus, burning more calories while you are doing it—it is what happens afterward that is more significant. With high intensity interval training, which is cardio performed at a much more intense level, your body will expend a greater number of calories throughout the day in order to repair itself after the hard workout. The result is a greater number of overall calories burned.
Myth #2: The more cardio you do, the more you can eat
The truth: Don’t we all wish this popular cardio myth were true? So many people operate under the false notion that they can eat a double cheeseburger, and then just go burn it off at the gym. First off, do you realize that it would take about two hours of running to burn that many calories? I bet that burger doesn’t look so appetizing now.
Second, if you go by this principle, you will likely spend way too much time doing cardio, which could result in overtraining and possible injury. There is nothing that halts progress like these two unwanted evils.
Myth #3: Wearing weights while you do cardio helps you burn more fat
The truth: If you think those two-pound ankle straps are going to launch you into fat-burning mode, think again. This classifies as a popular cardio myth. Not only are they not heavy enough to significantly impact your calorie burn, they will also throw off your balance, which could lead to injury. You‘re better off focusing on raising the intensity of your cardio rather than the amount of resistance. If your goal is to get stronger, get off the cardio machine and into the weight room—that is where strength progress is made.
Myth #4: You should do the same type of cardio every day if you want to see progress
The truth: Just as in weight training, if you perform the same movement day in and day out, your body will adapt and become more “efficient.” You will end up burning fewer and fewer calories, and reaching the dreaded plateau. Instead, try to mix it up by running one day, biking the next, and possibly venturing onto the elliptical machine on the third day.
In addition to changing machines, don’t forget to vary the intensity of your workout. This will force your body to alternate between periods of being pushed to its limits and resting, which will ensure that progress is made.
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Myth #5: If you only have 10 minutes to do cardio, you might as well skip it
The truth: 10 minutes is 10 minutes! When it comes to burning fat, every movement you make throughout the day counts; even the simple act of lifting your coffee cup burns calories. You’re much better off just making what you can out of those 10 minutes. If you frequently find yourself lacking time to do cardio, try breaking your workout into segments: 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch and 10 minutes at night — whatever works best for you.
Myth #6: You shouldn’t eat before cardio if you want to lose body fat
The truth: This is a much debated topic, and it basically boils down to the type of cardio you are doing. If it is a steady-state, moderately paced workout, then you don’t need to eat; working out on an empty stomach may even help you access your fat stores faster. If you plan on doing sprints, however, you must eat beforehand. This type of cardio requires glucose for fuel, so not eating will throw your body into a catabolic state (during which you burn muscle tissue) and you won’t be able to maintain the intensity this workout requires. It’s best to eat a small meal that contains carbohydrates and protein about an hour beforehand.
Myth #7: Cardio demands little concentration, so you can entertain yourself by reading or watching TV
The truth: If you are able to fully focus on a TV or a magazine while performing cardio, you are not working hard enough. Your pace should be fast enough that you are only able to focus on the task at hand. If it is your “easy” day, you may be able to get away with watching some TV; however, a better option would be to pay attention to your movements to ensure that you are using proper form.
Next time you question what type of cardio best suits your needs, keep these common myths in mind. Don’t fall for what others before you believed—it will only lead to disappointment. If you are still uncertain about what is best for you, your next course of action should be to speak to a qualified trainer who can provide you with an appropriate program.