Do I need to do Cardio?
We’ve been told for decades that doing your cardio is important for your health. But other than the guidelines of 150 minutes of low intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity cardio per week we’ve been left in the dark on the specifics of this type of exercise.
Why do Cardio?
Cardiovascular exercise keeps your heart healthy, and you need your heart to not die. Not dying should be high on everyone’s priority list.
However, there are a host of benefits other than keeping your ticker healthy:
Will Cardio help with weight loss?
This is a great question. Although, you definitely burn Calories during cardio, and fat loss is the result of Calories in V Calories out, it’s a little more complicated than that.
You see, when you do a cardio workout your body tends to unconsciously start ‘compensatory behavior’. For example, if you do a hard spin class in the morning you may be more hungry during the subsequent meals and ‘eat back’ some the Calories you just burned.
Another example of compensatory behavior is that you may be less likely to move around the rest of the day after a hard work-out – watching TV is much more appealing after a hard workout than going for an after-dinner walk.
Some scientists decided to test this theory and compared 2 groups of people. Both groups did 5 cardio sessions per week for 12 weeks. One group did workouts that burned 300 Kcals and the other completed a workout that burned 600 Kcals.
What were the results?
If we did the math, we would expect the 300Kcal group to lose around 5lbs of fat and the 600KCal group to lose 10lbs of fat over 12 weeks. In fact, both groups only lost around half of that! That is because their body was creating compensatory behavior after the workouts.
Diet changes v Cardio
Small diet changes can pay much bigger dividends than trying to lose weight through cardio only.
This point is better off demonstrated with an example (We’re going to use Chipotle):
- Calories in Bowl with chicken, rice, beans, veggies, and cheese: 650 Kcals
- Calories in Burrito with chicken, rice, beans, veggies, cheese, and Guacamole: 1200 Kcals
What was the difference?
550 Kcals… or over an hour walking on the treadmill!
One relatively small diet change can have a much bigger impact than spending a bunch of time doing cardio, or put another way, one diet slip-up can ruin over an hours’ worth of time on the treadmill!
Take home message
Cardio is great, the health benefits are fantastic and I absolutely encourage doing it if you have the time and the energy. However, for purely weight loss purposes, you may be better off directly your mental energy toward your diet.