When a man says he wants to lose some weight, chances are the first thing he’ll do is go for a run or hit the treadmill. A lot of men believe that cardio equals weight loss. But most guys are going about it all wrong. Cardio is about conditioning – you’re conditioning your body to work at varying intensities.
There are three different types of cardio exercise:
- Anaerobic alactic: Short, intense energy spurts that last about 20 seconds, anaerobic workouts increase your maximal strength, speed, and/or power.
Example: 100m sprint.
- Anaerobic lactic: This system kicks in after 20 seconds of maximum effort, and provides energy for activities lasting up to a minute. Your body will start to produce lactic acid.
Example: 400m sprint.
- Aerobic: This system gives energy to longer bouts of activity by breaking down carbs, amino acids, and fatty acids. Unlike the other two forms of cardio workouts, aerobic workouts use oxygen.
The mistake most guys make with their cardio workouts is focusing on volume, rather than intensity. You have to change the mindset that cardio only entails mind-numbing treadmill runs, uninspired rides on a stationary bike, and jogs around your neighborhood.
Instead, you need to target a certain heart rate zone or level of intensity during each session. In general, workouts that rev your heart rate near your maximum are essential for boosting your VO2 max, or your overall aerobic capacity—that’s what we refer to as “conditioning.” Slightly lower-intensity aerobic workouts make it easier for your body to burn a higher proportion of fat, although you will not ultimately burn as many calories.
If you’re just looking to cut overall body mass, cardio is best—but it’s better when you pair cardio with strength training, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. In that study, nearly 120 overweight men and women did one of three workouts for eight months: resistance training, aerobic training (cardio), or a combination of both.
Subjects who did aerobic training or the combined protocol reduced more total body fat than people who just did strength training. However, those who did resistance training and the combined regimen boosted lean body mass more than plain cardio did. So if you’re “skinny fat” and looking to hone greater muscle definition, combining cardio workouts and high-intensity interval training is your best bet.
That’s why high-intensity interval training that incorporates weights is so effective for both building muscle and burning fat. Think of it as a hybrid of cardio and strength training. What’s more, when you combine tough, heart-rate-revving work with very little rest, your body will start to trigger EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. That means you’ll burn more calories post-workout.
The bottom line is that cardio alone is not the answer for long-term, effective weight loss. Men need to combine proper nutritional intake, strength training and cardio to get the job done.