If you are trying to lose weight, you are no doubt aware that there are major benefits to cardio workouts. The wisdom seems to always have been that the more cardio you do the more weight you lose. And while there is some truth to that, there are flaws as well.
Cardio training is important for multiple reasons: endurance, health, and weight management. However too much cardio can be detrimental to muscle mass. It is especially important to not do too much cardio right after weight training. Understanding the importance of weight, or resistance training for weight loss should be understood too.
Cardio training, such as jogging, walking, biking, and other modes can do wonders for weight loss. Getting your heart rate going and building up a sweat will help you shed pounds. But you must understand heart rate zones to get the most benefits from your cardio workout. See my previous article, Cardio Training: Get in The Zone, for more information on heart rate and zones. It is very easy to chug away and not realize that you may not be in the correct heart rate zone to meet your goals.
Cardio workouts, again, are good for weight loss. The problem is that weight loss will include muscle loss as well. If you are looking to burn fat, doing too much cardio will hurt you because it will burn muscle, and the less muscle you have, the less efficient your body is at burning calories and fat. Also the composition of your body will change, and though scale weight may go down, you may look flabby if your weight is not comprised of an adequate amount of muscle.
Resistance training, contrary to popular misconception, will not automatically make you bulky. Dedication to diet, training, and possibly supplementation are required for any significant gains in muscle size. However proper resistance training will not only burn calories, but will change the composition of your body, and make the muscle more efficient at burning calories even while at rest. And body composition is more important when it comes to how one looks than scale weight alone.
For this reason you should try to avoid doing more than 25-30 minutes of cardio after a resistance training session, or an hour any other time. This is because cardio will put your body into a catabolic state, where tissue is eaten. Once you have gone through your carbs and fats, your body will start to burn proteins. After you have done your resistance training, it will not take you very long to get to the protein burning phase, and your gains from resistance training will be jeopardized. On days when you do not do resistance training, your stores of carbs will be higher, giving you more to burn through before proteins are targeted.
Resistance training is not only for those looking to bulk up. Muscle is very efficient at burning calories, even at rest, and the more you have the better your body will use the calories you put into it. Remember that lean muscle will do this, not simply big muscles. Also having muscle will make your body look better than simply having a low body weight. Think of a distance runner vs. a sprinter.
If you are going to do cardio, remember that heart rate is the most important issue, and to be sure you are doing the right cardio for your goals. Fat loss is far more beneficial than simple weight loss, as weight loss can be comprised of fluids and muscle too.