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Understanding What Cardio Does for Bodybuilders

and the proper way to do it


Some people say cardio is not necessary cause you can just eat less food and skip the cardio, well there is more to cardio than burning calories during it, actually burning calories during it has little to nothing to do with the change in your physique, the fat burning benefits you get from cardio are hormones that are secreted during and after cardio that elevates your metabolism to burn fat while you're resting, and prevent food from accumulating into fat.

It's important to remember that cardio is an important thing that you do which prevents food from accumulating on your body as both fat and muscle, but you can still gain muscle depending on other hormones such as testosterone, and how much of the thyroid hormone T3 is being produced in your body (read more about thyroid hormones here), cause T3 prevents both fat and more muscle from accumulating on your body than other thyroid hormones. Later I'll explain how to get more T2 rather than T3 from cardio, since T2 allows for more muscle growth to occur than T3. The point of being able to eat more without it having to turn into bodyfat, will enable you to increase your metabolism faster. When you eat a lot while doing lots of intense cardio your body will simply use some of the food as energy, turn some into glycogen, then most of it will actually get "wasted", yep, not excreted or turned into bodyfat/muscle, your metabolism will simply waste the calories (through many hormonal processes, but it all comes down to thermogenesis), cause it has no use for them, and in turn that will increase your metabolism, cause your metabolism HAS to increase to waste the calories.

I have been on 8,000 calorie diets while doing intense cardio for 2 months, and after those 2 months were over, I only gained about 4 pounds.  I then quit the cardio and continued the same 8,000 calorie diet for 2 more months and I gained 35 pounds!  Now I know for sure that each of my intense cardio workouts are only burning about 300 calories per session, which is not enough to subtract from 8000 calories, BUT what is important here is your overall metabolism.  Keep in mind your body is not a machine but rather a force of nature that will do anything in it's power to reduce the amount of stress you have through out your daily lives.

Your body's number one objective is to survive.  When it comes to doing lots of intense cardio, your body reacts accordingly and cranks up your metabolic rate to make sure you do not get any heavier.

If eating large amounts of calories with intense cardio does not enable you to lose fat then what calorie range does?  Should you do cardio with a high calorie diet or a low calorie diet?  The answer is BOTH!  That's right, since a high calorie diet along with intense cardio speeds up your metabolism GREATLY, then occasionally lowering it (especially your carb intake) can DRAMATICALLY increase fat loss during the "low" times.  But if you stick with the low calorie range for too long your metabolism will slow down.  Before your metabolism adjusts to the low calorie diet, you go right back to the "high" calorie diet to prevent your metabolism from slowing down.  This is probably the best fat loss diet method in existence!  I am happy to say I got totally shredded quick by using this method and it's what I use every time now to lose fat.

Also known as the Zig-Zag diet or High/Low diet, it works!  So how many days do you eat high and how many to eat low?  And how many calories for each?  Well, I am starting to go off the subject, since this is a cardio article, so you can check out my Zig-Zag diet method for fat loss right here.

The Hormonal response to cardio

The main hormone secreted when doing cardio is GH, secondly TSH (thyroid Stimulating Hormone). The more intense you do it the more of those hormones will get secreted. The point of these hormones is to help your body adapt to the physical stress your doing (cardio), your body does everything in its power to keep you from getting heavier, which involves preventing food from accumulating on your body as fat. If you regularly do intense cardio (even if it's just 2-3 times a week) for only like 15 minutes, that is generally enough to help keep most food you eat from accumulating on your body. Yes, you can eat all the pizza, cake, pie, tons of calories whatever you want, and you most likely wont gain weight or extremely slowly at the least, your body looks at this as a threat to your survival of the surroundings of your environment. But keep in mind in order for this non-accumulating of food to occur, you must push yourself as hard as you can with your cardio workouts. You can even take this a step further and do 4-7  15-30 minute intense cardio sessions a week and REALLY get the fat burning hormones flowing BIG TIME!

Long, moderate intensity cardio raises the following hormones: GH, TSH, T3, cortisol, Some T2. note: T3 and cortisol eat away at both fat and muscle

Short, high intensity cardio raises the following hormones: GH, TSH, T2, and some T3. note:T2 preserves more muscle than T3.

Long, low intensity cardio raises the following hormones: generally little to none at all.

The best way to increase your metabolism is a combination of doing intense cardio, and eating lots of calories all through out the day. Eating plenty of food helps your body adapt to its environment better, and in the case of cardio, it will help you lose fat. This is the key to getting that lean small look.

What kind of cardio should I do?

Now here's something interesting to note, do you think walking as a form of a cardio workout is a threat to your survival and that your body will prevent all incoming food from accumulating on your body? I don't think so, unless walking for you is difficult and intense to do or if your doing it over 3.5 MPH at an incline of over 5%. Remember, the goal of cardio workouts are not about burning fat during the workout, the real goal is to obtain a positive adaptation that will allow you to change the shape of your body accordingly so that the exercise will be easier for you to do next time.  It's important to keep in mind that most of your calories you burn in a day is not directly from the activities that you do but rather your metabolism which is created from the activities that you do. In other words, changes to your physique are due to your metabolism and not burning calories during physical activities. The only time your changing your physique from burning calories from physical activities is when your starving yourself (this is actually done by the last week or so of a bodybuilder preparing for a contest, trying to get totally shredded, but they are losing muscle at the same time with this process). Remember, burning fat during cardio is not the real fat loss benefits you get from cardio, its all about adaptations to your environment, and this is all done by hormones.

If you see any treadmill (or cardio equipment) that shows you how many calories are being burned, you should either disable it, or put a sticker over it so you cannot see it, because that number means NOTHING to your success.

Another interesting comparison is looking at distance marathon runners verses sprinters (see pic below). Notice how marathon runners are generally a lot skinnier with less muscle than sprinters who have a lot more muscle with still the same low amount of body fat? It's because of too much T3 and cortisol eating away at everything (fat and muscle) the marathon runner has so they get very light, so that the stress of running long distances is reduced greatly.

Marathon Runner Vs Sprinter
Marathon Runner  -  Sprinter

Now putting this info together its easy to say that short intense cardio workouts is so much superior to longer less intense cardio. It enables you to lose fat and keep you from getting fatter, while allowing you to preserve more muscle than longer durations.

Did you know that you will get so many more positive fat loss and muscle maintenance benefits from doing a short 2 minute intense cardio workout, than you would from doing a whole 1 hour low intensity cardio workout?  Yes it is true!  You can thank me later for saving you so much time in the gym!

As far as what kind of cardio is better than the other (such as swimming, running, jump roping, hiking, dancing, etc.., there is none! It's usually good to do different ones every now and then for a change of stress, which equates to more GH output.

how frequently should I do cardio?

Keeping in mind the more short and intense the better, it's good to mix up your cardio workouts, if running is the type of cardio you like doing, then say, do interval training one day, and do a 10-15 minute fast run the next day etc..

Generally you don't have to do cardio every day to keep the hormones flowing, your body still releases hormones from a workout days after a workout and sometimes weeks, months, years, and/or decades after depending on how long of your life you've been doing cardio or whatever workout it may be (more on this below). I'd say do at least one cardio workout a week no matter what your goal is (gaining muscle or losing fat), but if your goal is to lose fat I'd probably do about 5 to 7 cardio workouts a week (usually like every day, or every other day). I'd say if your a beginner do 3 a week, someone who has been doing cardio for a long time, it would not hurt to switch to only 3 or 4 a week, this is because of the long term hormonal effect of exercise. If Someone's goal is to gain muscle, they would probably only want to do 0 to 2 cardio sessions a week, doing only a few short sprints, usually only like two-four 15 - 30 second sprints. that's it. If you already have an extremely fast metabolism I'd do no cardio at all if your trying to gain muscle.  And if sprints are too hard for you to do, then try to just keep it short and intense as possible.

Why NOT do the same "fat burning phase" cardio sessions with your gaining muscle phases? Cause like I said, this will stop you from gaining muscle along with fat. Your goal during the gaining muscle phase is to slow your metabolism down a bit so you can gain muscle. Doing cardio will prevent this. But, like I said, short sprints will not hinder muscle mass gains, while keeping your fat in check as best as possible.

Long Term Hormonal Effect of Exercise

Did you know that a cardio workout you do today, will still help you stay lean years down the road?  That is because your body is figuring out your overall pattern of life, and will adjust body composition accordingly for the rest of your life.  Have you noticed that people who were active as kids (they played sports and kept active), remain somewhat lean the rest of their lives, while people who were not active as kids are the ones growing up with weight problems such as obesity?  Yeah every workout you do, whether it's a weight workout or a cardio workout, will still be paying off for you decades into the future!

At what time of the day should I do cardio?

Anytime you feel you have the highest amount of intensity to do it, after at least your first meal of the day, and that insulin is settled down a bit (this is done by not eating a high carb meal before the workout and that you've waited at least an hour after eating to do it.) The reason why you don't want so much insulin in your bloodstream while your working out is because insulin prevents GH from being secreted.

Most people will say first thing in the morning on an empty stomach is the best time to do cardio, reason being is because your body is short on glycogen supply and will take only fat for fuel for the workout. This is nonsense. The point of doing cardio is alterating your internal hormonal environment that increases your metabolism, not burning fat during the workout. There are several important reasons why you should not do cardio first thing in the morning. One, you are more prone to injury, you just woke up from a 6+ hours of sleeping, your body needs warming up before doing intense exercise. Two, your intensity will be decreased, which is extremely important for a good hormonal excreting cardio workout. Three, when you wake up in the morning the hormone cortisol is raised which is the "main" catabolic hormone, which goes away after eating breakfast. Breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism for the day, skipping breakfast and doing cardio instead raises catabolic hormones even more and slows your metabolism, which is a good formula for losing muscle and gaining fat!

How do I combine my cardio workouts with my weight workouts?

Although it's better to do cardio and weights on separate days. When doing both on the same day do resistance exercise first (but a 5 minute aerobic warm-up is beneficial before weight training to get the blood pumping). It's more important to preserve your strength, energy, and intensity for the weight training part of your workout, because intensity is more critical to weight training than to cardio training.

Although you can do two separate workouts during the day, doing cardio earlier in the day, then do resistance later on in the day, making sure you have several meals in-between that time. But if your doing them all in one workout, do resistance first, then cardio.

Before I outline typical cardio workouts, it's important to know that you should mix things up every now and then, for example, do interval training one day then a 20 minute run the next day etc..

Cardio workout examples to do:

Please note: when I say 10-15 minute cardio workouts I am referring to your actual "up-time" or actual time of high intensity (or high heart rate) and I am not referring to your "warmup", if it takes you 20 minutes to "warmup" before you really start getting your heart rate up, then I generally do not count that.  So your total time doing the cardio could be about 45 minutes, when really the first 20 minutes is just a slower pace to get you warmed up before you really start "pushing" it.  Your goal should be to generally get your heart rate in the 70%-90% range for about 15-20 minutes nonstop.

Interval training

The "jogs", are just warm ups or resting between "sets". The sprints are running as fast as you possibly can.

jog 5 minutes
sprint 45 seconds
jog 2.25 minutes
sprint 45 seconds
jog 2.25 minutes
sprint 45 seconds
jog 2.25 minutes
sprint 40 seconds
jog 2.25 minutes
sprint 30 seconds
jog 2.25 minutes

19:40 total
14:15 downtime
3:25 uptime

15-20 minute run, second half is generally a lot faster.  For some, you may need additional "warmup" time to get you started.  For example, if you make this a 45 minute workout, then the first 25 minutes or so is a relatively slow pace to warm up.  I recommend doing the warmup as it will help to increase your intensity during the higher intensity part of your workout.

20 minute run, first 10 minutes is slower pace jog just to warm up, then the next 8 minutes is pretty fast pace, then the last 2 minutes is giving it all you got. So really this is a 10 minute workout disregarding the "warm-up". This is the workout I do most of the time.

Sprints, doing 4 sprints total. The goal of each sprint is distance not time. But the sprint times are generally about 30, 20, 15, 15 seconds respectively, resting (standing still) about 3 - 5 minutes between each sprint.

Jog steady moderate to fast pace for 30-60 minutes. Only do this workout if your a beginner to increase your endurance, and for others, only do this rarely for a change of stress.  I do suggest you do this type of workout occasionally to mix things up.

Jump roping very intensely for 2 minutes.

Basketball, simply playing basketball can be a great cardio workout while having fun at the same time! Just make sure while your playing, that your playing intensely, that your moving around fast and getting your heart rate up high. I've also noticed that if you keep that in mind (playing intensely while playing) can make you a GREAT basketball player out of yourself while getting a GREAT workout at the same time!

Bottom line!

The key here for any of these activities is to push yourself harder so that you show your body that changing your shape (I.E. losing excess weight, aka fat) so that activity is easier to do next time. Also, going a little off the subject... feeding yourself food continuously through out the day will also make your body believe it has a steady supply of outside energy and further pushes your body (more specifically your endocrine system) to realize that the fat on your body is pointless, since you'll never need it anyway because of the continual supply of food your feeding yourself. Now combining those two very important pieces of the puzzle together (the intense workouts and continuous supply of energy from food), will turn your body into a fat burning machine. Now I hope your understanding the key to fat loss ;)






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How to Get In Shape & Gain Weight as a Bikini Competitor
Common Bodybuilding Myths
Motivational tips
How to get 6 Pack Abs
Beginner Body building Guide
How to do Natural Cutting and Bulking Phases
Common Misconceptions In Bodybuilding

Diet Advice
General Bodybuilding Diet Info
Zig-Zag Calorie Diet
Ketogenic Diet for Rapid Fat Loss
Great Tasting Bodybuilding Recipes

Workout Info and Routines
Weight Workout Routines and Info
The Importance of Deadlifts
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How to Increase Your Bench Press
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How to Build Lower Abs
Keys to Lower Abdominal Definition

Cardiovascular Info
Understanding What Cardio Does for Bodybuilders
Track workouts
Phases of Sprinting
Track Competition Race Preparation

What Supplements are Important for Bodybuilders

Improve Bodybuilding With Health And Lifestyle
Is this site for Women?
Hormones And Bodybuilding
The Importance of Growth Hormone
Lifestyle Factors that Effect Bodybuilding



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