A Superior Form of Cardio for Weight Loss [The 15 minute Workout]

This series is focusing on the highest yield strategies to help you lose weight and improve your fitness. In Part 1, How To Lose Weight Naturally Using The Incredible Power Of Food, we provide 7 tips that you can implement into your busy schedule to help you get started on losing weight.

In Part 2, The 3 Best Exercises To Lose Weight Fast [And Build Muscle Too], we discuss the role exercise and muscle have on fat and a useful workout program to help shed weight. I highly recommend that you read those two articles first.

Today we will talk about cardio.  

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Cardio, the most common exercise performed across the nation... 

Anyone who has ever spent a significant amount of time on the treadmill knows that it will increase your heart rate, cause a lot of sweating, and give a small sense of euphoria.

Given that so many people do this exercise, it has to be effective at burning fat and helping you to lose weight, right?

 

Today’s post will cover

- The health benefits of cardio exercises

- Cardio and weight loss, does it actually work?

- How to perform cardio to lose weight despite a busy schedule

 
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The Health Benefits of Cardio

If done correctly, cardio exercises provide a great deal of benefit to your cardiorespiratory system. 

Over time, cardio improves your heart's efficiency by increasing your stroke volume - or the amount of blood the heart pumps with each contraction. 

As your stroke volume increases, your heart rate will naturally decrease since it can produce more overall blood flow per cycle. This is why endurance athletes have a low resting heart rate of 40-60 beats per minute.  

 

Cardio also provides other great health benefits such as

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Improved sleep, Lower levels of anxiety/depression, Stronger bones, Improved overall health, and Weight loss if done correctly.

However, none of these benefits are exclusive to the long, slow, steady-state version of cardio.  All of these benefits could be derived from better forms of exercise as well.

 

Is Cardio Effective for Fat Loss?

If weight loss is your goal, cardio has a lot of downsides too.

I once read that if you want to be successful at anything, just look at what everyone else is doing, and do the complete opposite.  

Go to any commercial gym and count the number of treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes and other cardio machines they have.  Next, count how many people are using those machines at any given time.  

You can bet that the cardio area is the most popular section of the gym, no matter what time of the day it is.  

 

Now, how many times have you seen anyone lose a significant amount of weight from spending countless hours jogging on a treadmill?

 

I'll tell you. It's not a lot.

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Slow steady state cardio does not burn a lot of energy. Depending on your body weight, and how fast you choose to run, 1 hour on the treadmill could burn approximately 300-500 calories.  

While calorie counting does have its drawbacks, it does give us some data. 

 

Just think about what 400 calories are.  One small sandwich.  A bowl of cereal with a banana.  A yogurt parfait.

 

Compare that to the long 60 minutes you have just endured to cancel out that one meal.  

The opportunity cost is too great.  If you are a resident physician, a medical student, (or anyone who is busy) you do not have the time (and probably not the desire) to be on a treadmill for any amount of time.  

Is there a better way?

 

 

The Best Form of Cardio For Weight Loss

Fortunately, there is a superior method of cardio that you can use to burn a lot of energy in a short amount of time.

You can perform High-Intensity Interval Training cardio (also known as HIIT).

 

It is exactly what it sounds like.

 

HIIT involves workouts that get your heart rate elevated and make you breathe really heavy in a short amount of time.  

Imagine how you would feel after sprinting as fast as you possibly could for 1-2 minutes.  The purpose of HIIT is to make you feel high levels of exhaustion every time.

The great thing about HIIT is that it can use different types of exercises to get you to that level.

As you can imagine, this kind of training is expensive and will use up a lot of energy resources.

 

The different kinds of exercises that you can do with HIIT include

  • Sprinting,
  • Plyometrics,
  • And even resistance training- which gives the added benefit of increasing your lean muscle mass as discussed in Part 2.

 

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The best news is, HIIT workout sessions could be done in as little as 10-15 minutes a day.

 

Effective Ways to Do HIIT Workouts on a Busy Schedule

Here are three effective ways that you could implement a HIIT session into your workout.

 

SET/REP FOCUSED:

  • Perform 6-8 rounds of the desired exercise
  • Each round should last 20-30 seconds or until the desired amount of repetitions are complete
  • Rest periods should be 40-60 seconds
  • As your endurance improves, you can decrease the rest periods to 20-30 seconds

 

AMRAP: (As many reps as possible)

  • AMRAP in a fixed amount of time
  • For example:
    • AMRAP of thrusters in 1 minute followed by 1 minute of rest
    • Repeat for 10 minutes 
  • Make sure to start conservatively using lightweight
  • These 10 minutes will feel like an eternity

 

TABATA:

  • 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off
  • For example: 
    • 20 seconds of pushups followed by 10 seconds of rest for 6-8 rounds, followed by
    • 20 seconds of bodyweight squats followed by 10 seconds of rest for 6-8 rounds 
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The Downsides of HIIT Training

Those 10-15 minutes are brutal!

Crossfit has forever popularized HIIT training and many people have seen great success using their methods. I have my qualms about Crossfit, but that'll be a topic for another day.

In short, the problem with HIIT training is that it can be very taxing to your body.  

In order to adequately burn calories and get the desired training stimulus, you must push yourself really hard every session. 

There isn't necessarily a good way to scale the workout and still get the appropriate training effect.

 

If you're not gasping for air when it's over, you didn't do the workout appropriately and you didn't utilize your energy resources correctly. Remember your goal is to lose weight!

 

Also, because of the high impact of the exercises, it is important to ensure that you are using good technique. If you overdo it, the risk of injury is higher with HIIT than with regular training.

 

So How Much Cardio (or HIIT) Do I Need to Do to Lose Weight?

Because HIIT training is both mentally and physically draining, it's wise to do it sparingly. You should only do it ~2x a week. 

 

HIIT could be done:

- At the ending of a strength training session (aka a finisher)

- As a stand-alone workout session on days where you aren't training

- Integrated into the actual strength training session

 

Using a combination of both strength training and HIIT is most likely to give you optimal results when it comes to fat burning and weight loss. Learn the most efficient form of building strength by visiting Creating Quick and Effective Workout Routines.

I do think that slow steady state cardio (i.e jogging or running for hours) can have its time and place in training in some situations. However, if weight loss and body toning is your goal, spending hours on a treadmill may not be the wisest investment.

 

How many hours have you spent walking/running on a treadmill? Were you successful in your endeavors?

 

In the following post, we discuss another strategy that can help you lose weight. Check it out at Walking For Weight Loss [The Most Underrated Way To Lose Weight].

Post your comments and questions below.  

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Alex & Brittany Robles are the founders of The White Coat Trainer, a site dedicated to improving the health and wellness of busy individuals. Learn more about them here and connect with them on instagram and Twitter. Feel free to send them a message here