- The best cardio for weight loss is the one you can be most consistent with
- More Steps>Cardio after lifting > Separate cardio days
Thumbing through Quora nightly I always see a questions along these lines:
“What is the best cardio for weight loss?”
“How do I need to do cardio to lose weight?”
“If I eat different colored cupcakes will my poop look like a rainbow?”
Ya know, the usual stuff.
So in this article I’m gonna answer all your questions regarding cardio for weight loss.
And if you’re wondering, no you will not poop a rainbow.
IS CARDIO BEST FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Me: Dad, I’m officially a homeowner.
Dad: Congratulations. What do you have for tools?
Me: Your old hammer and some duct tape.
Dad: You can’t fix everything with a hammer. I’ll set you up.
I’m paraphrasing but you get the gist.
Sure I could try like hell to fix everything with a hammer and a little duct tape but in the end I wouldn’t get all that far.
Which is also why you need multiple tools when it comes to weight loss.
And cardio is just one of those tools.
Let’s run through an example to illustrate this point.
Broad stroking it, people burn 100 calories per mile. So if you wanted a 500 calorie deficit each day you’d have to run 5 miles. So now let’s assume you run a 9 min mile. That means everyday you’d have to set aside 45 mins to run.
Honestly, I’d rather go to the dentist.
This example shows something that gets overlooked and causes a lot of people to struggle when it comes to weight loss – adherence.
Can you set aside 45 mins everyday to run?
Hell, do you want to set aside 45 mins everyday to run?
Odds are you have shit to do so that plan would make it about 3 days.
So cardio is not the best for weight loss, however it is an effective tool.
When it comes to weight loss we have two switches we can use; movement and eating.
We can eat less to trigger weight loss
We can move more to trigger weight loss.
Reducing calories should always be step #1. It’s the most effective and you don’t have to set aside time each day to make sure you do it like you would if you were trying to add cardio.
It’s that old adherence thing again. If adherence becomes an issue, we have an issue and the plan needs to be reassessed.
So if you can’t drop calories anymore then we have to increase movement. And this is where cardio comes in.
So use cardio as an add-on to your calorie deficit and only when you can’t reduce calories anymore.
THE BEST CARDIO FOR WEIGHT LOSS
I despise the term “best”, it’s very subjective.
What is best for me, prob won’t be best for you.
So while brainstorming for this section, I decided to break “best” down into categories based on the limiting factor we all have…time.
If you don’t have time to do something, adherence drops and the “best” cardio from the internet is about as useful as a goldfish walker.
When planning out your cardio for fat loss adherence should be concern 1. Asking yourself what you can realistically do consistently should always be your first question.
So here are the categories:
People with Responsibilities
People without Responsibilities (aka living the Dream)
People that have responsibilities have a time crunch whether that be from work, kids, school, side hustles, etc.
People without responsibilities have all the time in the world and their time is their own.
For People with Responsibilities you need something that 1) can be easily added to your current life and 2) doesn’t add more time away from your responsibilities.
In this instance, getting 7k+ steps per day is the best cardio for weight loss. This can be easily incorporated into daily life without having to find a time to jam a specific cardio workout to your already too-busy day.
Simple things like taking the stairs, going for family walks, parking further from your office all add up and make hitting the 7k threshold a lot easier.
When I got ready for my photoshoot last year, this was my entire cardio program.
If you have some dead space in your schedule then a HIIT workout would be the next best option. 1-2 times per week, doing something like AirDyne or bike sprints for 5-10 mins would work.
Outside of that, going for runs or sloggin away on the treadmill is harder to implement consistently so I would shy away from it.
Now, for the lucky sons-of-bitches that have no responsibilities, whatever you want to do is completely fine.
Time is not an issue so if you wanna go for 30-45 min treadmill walks you have that freedom.
If feeling like an athlete tickles you where it smells funny then HIIT might be best for you.
Or if you don’t want to incorporate another workout because it cuts into video game time then just getting those 7k+ steps a day would be your best.
The world is your oyster so take advantage of that.
THE BEST TIME TO DO CARDIO FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Let’s take two scenarios; Ideal and real life.
In the ideal scenario, cardio should be done on separate days from lifting, ideally leaving at least 24 hours between a lifting session and a cardio session.
From a fat loss perspective this maximizes fat burning potential because you are exercising every day.
The next best scenario is splitting a weight lifting session and cardio session by at least six hours. So lifting in the morning and cardio in the evening would work.
This allows you to reap the benefits of both workouts without cardio sucking your strength. Ya know that whole recovery thing you need to make sweet gainz.
As you can see, ideal situations are time consuming.
As a busy professional and prob a parent, those ideal situations left the building as soon as your kid popped out of your wife’s vagina.
So in real life it may be optimal for you to lift weights and cardio in the same session. Not ideal but not the worst either.
In this instance, you want to do the most important thing first because you’ll have the most energy and give it your best effort.
That means lifting first then cardio second. Unless you are training for a marathon gaining strength is always priority #1.
Wrap It Up B
If you’ve read this far you know the underlying theme…adherence.
The best-backed-by-science plan is completely useless if you can’t execute it consistently.
The best cardio for weight loss is what you can do consistently and shouldn’t be added until you can’t reduce calories anymore.
Reducing calories should always be step 1.
From there pick a form of cardio that you can easily incorporate into your day. In helping hundreds of busy people lose weight over the years it almost always goes like this:
Aim for 7k+ steps per day (more general movement)
HIIT after workouts
Treadmill walking/running after a workout
Separate cardio workouts