How Much Cardio for Fat Loss

Recently I was interviewed by a fitness professional, and he asked a great question.

Question: Craig, when you design an effective fat loss strategy to get your body absolutely shredded, how important is the role of regular cardio and I think this point has been the key, what type of cardio should we be performing?

Craig Ballantyne: You don’t necessarily have to perform any type of cardiovascular exercise to lose body fat, which maybe a surprise to some people.

I know natural body builders that have gone on stage and finished in the top three at contests that don’t do regular cardio.  They just have done nothing but the resistance training and their diet, so we certainly don’t have to do that long, slow cardio, but when I put together my programs I use very short interval training workouts and those things work as good or better, most of the time better than long, slow cardio workouts that are often twice as long.

So you save time and you get more results.  With the interval training, this can be done by anybody, including beginners.  A beginning, their interval training would go like this, if you regularly walk on a treadmill for 3.5 miles per hour or you use a bike at a consistent pace for whatever that is, then you’re just going to work slightly harder than that regular pace for a shorter period of time, so for a minute.

That person on the treadmill instead of walking at 3.5 miles per hour for 30 minutes straight, they would do their warm-up and then do their first interval, their work interval, which is a short period of exercise done at a harder than normal pace, they would do it at 3.8 miles per hour.

It’s not a huge jump, but it’s something a beginner can do and they’ll do that for a minute.  Then they’re decrease their exercise intensity all the way down to 3.0 miles per hour, so going lower than their regular cardio intensity.  I say when you do your interval training that you want to do your work interval at 8 or 9 out of 10 intensity level and your recovery interval down as a 3 out of 10 intensity level

An analogy for that is your regular cardio would be a 6 out of 10, so you’re going to jump up the intensity and then you’re gong to take the intensity way down, so a minute hard, a minute easy and do that anywhere from 3-6 times, if you’re a beginner just try it 3 times, then finish with a cool down.

As you become more advanced, you know, intermediate level, you might be running at 7 miles per hour for a minute, decreasing down to a walk at 3.0, so always going down to that very low pace.  That’s a big mistake that most people make is they have that cardio mindset and they’ll only go from 7 miles per hour down to 6 miles per hour.

That’s now how you do my type of interval training, because I want you to be able to maintain your work interval at the highest possible intensity you can do for a minute.  If you only went down to 6 miles per hour, then you wouldn’t be able to do more quality interval up at 7 miles per hour, so you drop way down during your recovery.

For an advanced person, they might run it 10 or 11 miles per hour for a minute and again, decrease all the way down to a walk at 3 miles per hour and then go back up.  Again, six intervals is about all you need.  You don’t need to do internal training for 45 minutes because I think you lose the quality of training if you try and go that long.

That’s how I do my interval training.  I encourage people to stay active on their off days, so we only do three turbulence training workouts in a week so we’re not in the gym everyday or in the home gym everyday.

On your other days when you’re not supposed to be in the gym, stay active for at least half an hour, whether it’s walking the dog or playing a sport, basically living life, that’s why I call it the Turbulence Training Lifestyle because it’s three workouts and you get more days off to live life and run your errands and spend time with your family and you don’t have to be a slave to the gym.

Train hard but safe,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Certified Turbulence Trainer