Some guys are naturally lean and can more or less stay that way seemingly no matter how much food they eat. But in reality, men like this are rare. Most of the rest of us need to incorporate cardio into our training routines in order to keep the excess body fat at bay. Just how much cardio needs to be integrated into your routine will vary depending on a lot of factors including: age, activity level, physical health, body type, diet, sleep patterns and weight training approach.
For the weightlifter or bodybuilder looking to maintain muscle mass while also cutting body fat, the thought of incorporating cardio into his routine is usually not a pleasant one. This is because adding cardio to your training routine doesn’t just stimulate fat burning, it also causes you to lose lean muscle mass as well. For those of us who want to be big and lean, this is at the very least an annoying reality of aerobic exercise. It’s frustrating to invest a significant amount of time and effort into building muscle only to see if disappear because of our efforts to get lean by doing cardio.
And while yes, doing cardio is good for the mind, body and spirit, as a fat burning strategy, it can be time consuming because unfortunately, aerobic activities inevitably burn far fewer calories than we think. After doing 20-30 minutes of cardio you may feel as though you’ve burned 600 calories but the cold reality is far different. For example, researchers measured the number of calories burned when walking versus running. The study showed that the average man burns just 124 calories when running a mile and only 88 when walking the same distance. So by running three miles you can expect to burn about 396 calories and by walking three miles you will burn about 240.
Figures for other aerobic activities are shown below (these are calculated using a man who weighs 190 pounds).
. Stationary bike (light): 474 calories per hour; . Walking uphill (3.5 miles per hour): 518 calories per hour; . High impact aerobics: 604 calories per hour; . Stationary bike (moderate): 604 calories per hour; . Jogging (light pace): 604 calories per hour; . Running (5 miles per hour): 690 calories per hour; . Stationary bike (vigorous): 906 calories per hour;
Given that you have to burn approximately 3,000 calories to lose one pound of body weight, you can see how easy it is to underestimate how much cardio you need to be doing to burn body fat.
The fact that aerobic exercise also burns fuel from muscle cells-resulting in a loss of muscle mass-in addition to fat calories, is a secondary drawback of cardio. The reason this happens is that periods of aerobic exercise cause the body to shift into survival mode. In this state, it strives to preserve access to fat cells by also burning fuel derived from muscle cells. It does this because the body is incapable of understanding our motivation for doing cardio. As far as it is concerned, it just needs to maintain fat reserves for any pending emergency situations where we might not have access to food.
In sharp contrast to ordinary cardio, adding resistance to aerobic activities significantly boosts the number of calories burned (and fat too) while also eliminating the loss of lean muscle mass. For example, one study showed that in comparison to ordinary aerobic exercise, men who engaged in resistance cardio activities burned up to 44% more calories. In another study, researchers looked at two groups-one participating in regular aerobic activities and another, participating in resistance cardio activities. The results showed that not only did the group participating in resistance cardio burn more fat than the ‘aerobic’ group, but that they did so without losing any muscle mass. Numerous other studies have achieved similar results. In fact, all of the research has shown that resistance cardio burns considerably more calories and fat than ordinary cardio alone.
Nearly any aerobic activity can be turned into ‘resistance cardio.’ For example, if you like to walk or jog you can pick up a set of dumbbells, some ankle weights or even a weight vest. If biking is your thing, just kick up the resistance. Whatever cardio activity it is that you like to do, add some resistance and not only will you burn more fat but you’ll also be able to maintain more of your hard-earned muscle mass.