Low-intensity and steady-state (LISS) cardio is the go-to for most when trying to lose body fat. While there’s nothing wrong with this, adding endless steady-state cardio should never be at the expense of your resistance training workouts. During a fat loss phase of training then you’ll be most successful if you see and approach it like this:
- Use diet as your primary way to create a caloric deficit – It’s much easier to eat just a few hundred calories less, than it is to burn a few hundred calories more, for example. Around a 20% caloric deficit below maintenance is a good starting point, up to around 30% for physique athletes agressively dieting for competition. All while maintaining a high protein intake throughout. My friend, Bill Campbell, PhD has also shown this to be an ideal caloric deficit through research in his physique lab.
- Use cardio as a tool to supplement your diet in creating the caloric deficit – Different types of cardio (e.g., LISS/MISS/HIIT etc.) all have their unique benefits and can each be useful when cutting body fat. So, don’t just stick to one type, and NEVER stick with just one modality (e.g., only ever using the stair master for 12 weeks!!) as adaptation will result in your body becoming more efficient and burning fewer calories over time. You should also consider cardio “recoverability”. For example, incline walking, rucking and cycling are far lower stress than is running, skipping or intervals on the rowing machine. All forms and intensities can be useful, but should always be considered in the context of the rest of your training and lifestyle. Cardio “finishers” can also be useful. More info on those HERE.
- Use resistance training to build muscle throughout – The reality here is that calorie restriction brings about with it muscle loss (albeit far less with beginners and intermediates than advanced lifters). By striving to build muscle and strength while in a caloric deficit then resistance training serves to help you maintain the hard-earned muscle you’ve already built. If you start sacrificing resistance training for time spent doing additional cardio then you’re setting yourself up for muscle loss, deflated delts and a pancake ass! Program your resistance workouts in the exact same way you would during a muscle-building phase, even if fat loss is your main goal.
The more muscle you have and can maintain through your fat loss phase, the more calories you’ll also be burning. This is because more muscle requires more energy, even while you’re resting.
Cardio advice to lose body fat (and a workout to try)
Here’s a video I put together in collaboration with MiraFit explaining some of the biggest fat burning mistakes you could be making, and an alternative cardio workout using just kettlebells and loaded carries to combine resistance with calorie burning.
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