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Is Cardio Necessary For Achieving Super-Low Body Fat?

March 10, 2016 3 min read

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? inpost 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?"] inpost4

Possible reasons for concern

A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, offers two points of concern:
  1. Strength and endurance exercises develop different fibers and do so in different ways -- only one of which will give you that perfect bikini body.
  2. 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.
This potential interference is most pronounced in the muscles you force to do double duty. For example, running can affect the strength and size of the lower body because running induces more muscle damage. For safer options, try walking or cycling. inpost

What about intensity?

High intensity interval training (HIIT) causes less interference with strength training. This shouldn't come as much of a shock when you consider that HIIT is quite similar to strength training. And as Finn points out, strength training “is itself a form of intense intermittent exercise." When you workout out at a high intensity, your body needs recovery time. Doing two types of intense exercise, strength training and cardio, only increases this recovery need -- especially if you are reducing calories to cut body fat. “It can often lead to you feeling burned out, tired, and irritable,” Finn says.inpost2

What should you do if you want to seriously lean out?

If you want to continue making strength gains, try sticking to lower-intensity, steady state cardio like walking or cycling. “Three to five hours of lower-intensity cardio, spread across four to five weekly sessions, is usually enough to get the job done,” Finn says. If you can get the results you want while doing less, than you should do less. Getting ripped abs begins at the gym and is enhanced by your diet (clean up your eating habits with the BodyRock Meal Plan). But, they are polished off by cardio. Sorry if you thought you could get along without it, but it turns out that cardio is an essential part of the equation! Has lower-intensity cardio helped you reach your fat loss goals? Source: Men's Health

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