This is a huge topic of discussion in the fitness industry nowadays and everyone has their own opinion. I am here to give you mine from personal experience and training over 200 individuals trying to lose weight.
The answer to the question, “Do you need cardio for weight loss?” is, NO. You do not NEED cardio for weight and fat loss. It will help, but should not be the first thing you turn to. What you need for weight loss is to be in a calorie deficit (not below your BMR though) and you need to be doing resistance training. Why resistance training? Won’t that make me bulky and put on weight. Muscle does weigh more than fat, but you need lean muscle on your frame to have a metabolism that can efficiently burn fat AT REST. I do not care how many calories you burn in a workout. What matters is how many calories you burn in the 24-48 hours until your next workout. Remember, I do not train myself for physique shows and definitely do not train clients for shows or competitions. For the most part, I train the 9-5 mom, with three kids at home who wants to lose 40 lbs. This gain in lean muscle mass most definitely applies to my clientele base as well.
So, do I ever incorporate cardio into workouts for my weight loss clients? That is a YES. Just because cardio isn’t necessarily needed for weight and fat loss does not mean there isn’t a place for it in a weight loss program. But, cardio needs to be used strategically and not over done. It can wear you down mentally and physically, not to mention crush your metabolism if the only cardio you do is 30 minutes on the elliptical every day. There are positives to cardio though! I am a former runner (sprinter…but still a runner), so I know first hand the health benefits of cardio. I apply cardio in weight loss client’s programs as a way to improve their stamina and work capacity, so then when doing a resistance training workout with me recovery is faster and more work can be done. The first 6 weeks of training with me will always incorporate ALOT of cardio so you can learn to properly breath when your heart rate is elevated. Once you are comfortable working out of your comfort zone on the elliptical, treadmill, rower etc then I feel confident pushing you out of your comfort zone as you hold a barbell. This is when the real progress comes in transforming your body.
Here are some other benefits of cardio that everyone needs:
-Improved heart health
-Lowered blood pressure
-Improved lung capacity
-Finding a support group while running or biking with others
Do those benefits lead directly to weight loss? No. But, if your 3 mile jog once a week relieves your stress, it is improving your overall health and you should keep doing that jog.
To wrap up, endless hours on the elliptical or getting 10,000 steps a day will not lead to long term, significant weight loss in 99% of people. Will burning 200 extra calories on the stair master give you more leeway in your diet, sure it will! But, spending that time on the stair master, consciously being active through out the day, adding in some resistance training and being in a calorie deficit will lead to more significant weight loss over time. Most of my clients have 2-3 resistance training workouts a week and 2-3 cardio workouts a week. If they have to skip any workout, it should be the cardio more times than not. Food for thought next time you can’t decide what to do in the gym. Wait, you have a specific plan given to you by a coach though, so that shouldn’t be an issue.