Cardio can be quite a controversial topic. Some gym rats never go near a treadmill, while others hog the machines like their lives depend on it. Some trainers swear that cardio is key for weight loss, while others say it’s actually not as important as weight lifting. It’s difficult to sift through all the cardio myths out there.
If you’re trying to get to the root of cardio, start by checking out the truth behind these 7 cardio myths.
1. Cardio is the only way to lose weight.
While it’s is great for torching calories, it’s difficult to accomplish sustainable weight loss with only cardio. Weight training is important for building lean muscle. When you increase the muscle on your body, you increase your resting metabolic rate. This means muscle helps you burn more calories while at rest. The most effective way to lose weight and keep it off is to incorporate both cardio and weight lifting.
2. The “fat-burning zone” is where you want to be for weight loss.
The “fat-burning zone” refers to one of the main heart rate training zones. You are in the fat-burning zone when your heart rate is between 55% and 65% of your maximum heart rate, and it is in this zone that your body burns the highest percentage of calories from fat. Many people believe that because of this, this zone is best for weight loss. However, the total number of calories burned in the fat-burning zone are not high. By driving your heart rate up to the cardio zone (from 65% to 80% of your max heart rate), you’ll burn more calories. Although the percentage of calories from fat will be lower, the total number of fat calories burned will surpass those burned in the fat-burn zone.
3. Fasted cardio is the most effective.
Fasted cardio has been popular for many years. The idea is that if you go to the gym in the morning before eating, your body will have to get its calories from fat deposits. In practice, this isn’t true. If your body doesn’t have enough fuel, you can’t work out at the same intensity. Once your body consumes the nutrients in your blood stream, you are putting yourself at risk of hypoglycemia and dehydration. In order to get the most out of your cardio workout, make sure to have a good pre-workout snack about 40 minutes before heading to the gym.
4. As long as you’re doing cardio, you can eat anything you want.
It’s difficult to outrun a bad diet. In order to burn off a Big Mac, you would have to run around six miles. If you’re able to keep a quick but steady pace, this will take about an hour on the treadmill. Add another two miles for a medium soda and four miles for a regular serving of fries. You would have to run about 12 miles, which is close to a half marathon, to burn off that meal. And that’s just lunch!
5. You must run for hours in order to get a real cardio workout.
When you spend hours running or biking, you’re performing steady-state cardio. This means you get your heart rate to a level where you can keep exercising for a prolonged period of time. While steady-state cardio is great for improving endurance, it’s not the most effective for weight loss. Your cardio workout can be a 20 to 30 minute interval workout where you push your heart rate during high-intensity periods. This kind of cardio workout can burn calories up to 24 hours after you leave the gym.
6. The more cardio, the better for weight loss.
Less is sometimes more. When you perform cardio every day for a prolonged period of time, you’re putting yourself at risk of injuries and exhaustion. As your muscles get tight and overworked, they might fail and cause pain, injuries, or inflammation. Try limiting your cardio to 2-3 times per week, using other days for weight lifting or yoga.
7. Running is all the cardio you need.
Performing the same exercise every day makes your body more efficient at it. This means that if you run every day for a year, your body becomes so efficient at running that it no longer burns as many calories. In order to avoid injuries and maximize results, try mixing running with other forms of cardio or cross training. Biking can help develop complimentary muscles. HIIT can improve your endurance. Yoga and pilates can build different muscle groups while helping you stretch sore legs.