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Cardio 101:

What type of cardio is best for fat loss and muscle gain?

When it comes to

incorporating cardiovascular exercise

into your fat loss program

more is not always better. Especially if your goal is to simultaneously maintain or build muscle.

There is a SMART way

to add cardiovascular exercise into a balanced training program for optimal results.

The difference between fat loss and weight loss;

Its common knowledge that weight loss occurs from a caloric deficit; however, fat loss can be achieved at maintenance and even in a slight caloric surplus for some lifters (specifically beginners). Fat loss can occur without the scale budging at all- and even with the scale fluctuating from week to week, which can occur for many reasons unrelated to fat gain. The human body is a complex machine.

This is why using the scale as your only source of progress measurement is a huge mistake. Measurements, photos and simply paying attention to the way your clothes fit are excellent ways to measure composition change (fat loss and muscle gain). . The best way to go about this is by incorporating a balanced diet with adequate training intensity and cardiovascular exercise.

Why resistance training is most important for fat loss;

If you relied purely on diet and cardiovascular exercise for fat loss you'd lose both muscle

and fat which would slow down metabolism.

Studies have shown that resistance training

has a greater metabolic effect throughout

the day and the more muscle you have,

the more fat you oxidize overall-

even when you are at rest.

Resistance training is essential in order to increase strength, build muscle, and power the body.

For fat loss; strength training 3-4times per week is sufficient. Just keep in mind that for sustainable results the methods must be maintainable. For most individuals a schedule like this would allow enough flexibility to stay on track long term.

How to add in Cardio for Fat Loss while building muscle;

When your goal is to burn fat and build muscle this is when program balance is most important..

As a general guideline it is recommended to get at least 150minutes of moderate intensity or 90minutes of vigorous intensity cardiovascular exercise per week; however, when it comes to building or retaining muscle this can be too much. Too much cardiovascular exercise has an interference(catabolic) effect on muscle gain. basically too much cardio can impact your ability to recover from and adapt to strength training, ultimately stunting muscle growth.

for beginners I recommend starting with two days a week for 20-30mintues of low/moderate intensity cardio. You can add or subtract cardio sessions based on how good you feel afterward.

gauge how your body is responding in regards to quality of sleep, stress levels, energy levels and whether or not your muscles are able to fully recovery between your workouts.

If you feel that your body is responding well to these two sessions feel free to try incorporating HIIT, a cycling class or other harder session once per week.

Monitor again how your body is responding and adjusting accordingly.

What is the best time to add in my cardio sessions?

In a perfect world our cardio sessions would be kept completely separate from our strength training sessions, ideally even on a completely separate day. For many this just isn't a possibility. If you need to combine your strength and cardio training sessions always do your cardio after resistance training. Another great way to do it is to split your cardio and strength training sessions a few hours apart so that you feel strong and energized for both.

If you are incorporating HIIT sessions which are more taxing on the muscles and require more time for recovery it is best to do these workouts on a separate day all together.

Cardio can really be whatever type of aerobic exercise you enjoy (running, swimming, HIIT, kettlebell swings, jump rope, hiking, plyometrics, etc. ), just make sure it gets that heart rate up! Finding enjoyment in physical activities is the key to making it a lifestyle so you can maintain what you've worked so hard for.


I provide meal and fitness plans for clients worldwide focusing on fat loss and building muscle through Strength Training and Sports Nutrition.

All plans include lifestyle integration, mindset coaching and guidance to help you incorporate permanent habit change into your daily routine so you can improve your quality of life and maintain your results for years to come.


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