The Exact Amount Of Cardio You Need To Do To Lose Weight

by Alex Hurwitz

Most of us want to lose a few pounds, but most of us don’t want to do what it takes.

Fortunately for you, I have tips on how to shed some weight while doing the least possible amount of work.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Think again.

As a personal trainer, a frequent complaint I hear from my clients is that they despise cardio. Running is by far the most hated source, and understandbly so.

I mean, how many people have time to spend an extra hour a day on the treadmill when there’s so much else they could be doing with that time?

Frankly, even I could think of a million things I would rather do with my time than have to spend a precious hour of my day on the “dreadmill.”

Luckily for you, as a NASM certified personal trainer, I have some tips on how just how much cardio is really necessary and how to get results fast.

Sprint, baby, sprint!

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a fast-growing trend in the fitness world, and for good reason.

These HIIT sessions last anywhere from eight to 20 minutes, whereas your traditional low-intensity steady state cardio (LISS) typically requires a lengthy 40 to 90 minutes.

During a HIIT workout, you should perform intervals at maximum effort followed by a recovery period.

Think a 20-to-60 second all-out sprint followed by 30 to 90 seconds of a slow jog, then repeat cycle anywhere from five to 10 times.

I would recommend beginners to try a work to recovery ratio of 1:2, intermediate 1:1 and advanced 2:1. HIIT is not only more convenient, but allows for more fat loss while maintaining lean muscle mass.

HIIT also leads to the “after-burn” effect, due to the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which means you’ll continue to burn even more calories AFTER your workout!

In fact, a study performed by Jeffrey W. King of East Tennessee State University showed HIIT increases the resting metabolic rate for the following 24 hours.

Do what you need, nothing more.

Consider how much cardiovascular training you are doing now. Not doing any? Start with two to three beginner HIIT sessions a week.

Are you already hitting the StairMaster or jumping into a spin class a few times a week? Then you’ll either need to seriously up the intensity or up the frequency.

Try adding in some intense intervals that require you to work at maximum effort while shortening your recovery time.

If that isn’t enough to get the scale to budge, add in one to two quick (but tough) cardio sessions a week, but don’t over do it.

The unfortunate truth is that more cardio you do, the more cardio it will take to continue to lose weight. Your body is smarter than you are, so it adapts quickly.

Only do what is necessary and be sure to give your body a break from cardio every once in a while.

Timing is everything

Lastly, it is important to consider when you choose to complete your cardio workouts in order to maximize the effectiveness. My first recommendation is always to do it post weight training.

At this point in your workout, your body is depleted of its glycogen stores, meaning during cardio, your body will primarily use fat as fuel instead of carbohydrates.

Plus, weight-training should always take priority, so you don’t burn yourself out with cardio prior to your workout.

Remember the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption I mentioned earlier? Obi Obadike, celebrity trainer and world-renowned fitness expert, explains:

"It occurs at a much higher rate after intense weight-training than after low-intensity, steady-state cardiovascular training; that's why it's important to put as much energy into your lifting sessions."

Since the goal is always to burn the most calories throughout your workout, cardio should be used solely as an accessory to weight training in your fitness routine.

So, I have good news and bad news: The bad news is the cardiovascular training is vital for not only weight loss, but overall health, too.

The good news is if you do the right kind, it’s not so bad after all.

I mean who wouldn’t be willing to spend an extra 10 minutes in the gym every once in a while if it meant you’d burn more calories all day?

Now what are you waiting for? Lace up those Nikes and get sprinting!