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The Best Way to do Cardio

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Cardio is often underestimated by those focused on improving their physical fitness. Many believe lifting heavy weights and working out intensely will automatically lead to a toned and ripped physique. However, this is only sometimes the case. In reality, fat loss is dependent on being in a calorie deficit. 

No matter how hard you train or lift weights if you are consuming more calories than you burn, you will not lose fat. This is where cardio comes in. Cardio is essential for cardiovascular health and can also be an effective tool for burning fat. When you do cardio, your body burns more calories. This increase in calorie burn can help you achieve a calorie deficit more easily, leading to fat loss.

So, how can you use cardio to get more lean and cut? It's important to understand that your body constantly adapts to new stimuli. This means that after a few weeks of following the same cardio plan, your body will become accustomed to it and will stop burning fat at the same rate as your body becomes more efficient at the given activity and the given duration of the activity.

To avoid this, you need to vary your cardio routine. A good starting point is to do 2-3 sessions of low-intensity steady state cardio per week. This could involve using an elliptical, treadmill, stair climber, or playing a sport. 

Keeping your heart rate in the 140-150 bpm (beats per minute) range throughout the session will help to maximize your calorie expenditure while not increasing your hunger hormones too much. Very intense cardio induces a very strong hunger response, often leading to over-compensation in calories consumed.

After each week, assess your fat loss progress and adjust your cardio routine or caloric intake as needed. If you plateau in your fat loss, try adding another cardio session or increasing the duration of your current sessions by 10 minutes. By gradually increasing your cardio and making adjustments as needed, you can continue to burn fat and reach your desired level of leanness without overloading your body and damaging your metabolism.

There is debate over whether fasted cardio or non-fasted cardio is more effective for fat loss. Some studies suggest that fasted cardio may be more effective, while others show no difference. There are other reasons to do intermittent fasting as it carries several health benefits, but that will be for another article.

It's important to note that the most important thing is to simply do your cardio, regardless of whether you are fasting or not. If you are able to do fasted cardio, great. If not, don't worry about it. The key is to find a routine that works for you and stick with it.

In conclusion, cardio is an important tool for fat loss and overall health. By starting with 2-3 sessions of low-intensity steady-state cardio per week and gradually increasing as needed, you can effectively burn fat and achieve your desired leanness. Don't worry too much about whether you should do fasted or non-fasted cardio; the most important thing is to do your cardio and make adjustments as needed to continue seeing progress.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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