You've probably heard it decreed that "abs are built in the kitchen." And while your diet plays an important role in getting lean, it is only part of the picture. If you are seeking serious muscle definition and a reduction in body fat, you will have to log serious hours in the weight room and of course, bust out some cardio. All those ripped fitness models you admire do cardio but can you go too far? Can it interfere with your strength gains? Is it even necessary? Christian Finn of muscleevo.net, a fitness expert who has trained countless people to ultra lean status, believes it is necessary. “You can get ‘looking good on the beach’ lean without any cardio,” he says. “And there are folks with fast metabolisms who can get ‘abs visible from across the room’ lean without cardio. But for most people most of the time, some form is going to be necessary.”
So what's the deal with cardio and low body fat?In a recently published case study of a natural bodybuilder, the authors report that in the final month of his contest prep, he did five 40-minute cardio sessions a week. In 14 weeks of training, he cut his body fat from 14% to 7.2%. Pretty impressive. However, he also lost 11 pounds of muscle (43% of his total weight loss) which was far higher than expected. The researchers have speculated that the excessive cardio created a calorie deficit that was too large to overcome. Another possibility is that endurance exercise may interfere with the ability to maintain and build strength and muscle mass. [bctt tweet="Is Cardio Necessary For Achieving Super-Low Body Fat?"]
Possible reasons for concernA study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, offers two points of concern:
- Strength and endurance exercises develop different fibers and do so in different ways -- only one of which will give you that perfect bikini body.
- Both cardio and weight training drain the muscles of glycogen, leaving the body with limited fuel for training when there is also a reduction in calorie consumption.