What factors specifically determine how much cardio you should do? What elements need to be taken into account? Here they are in no particular order:
Factor #1: Your Goal
It should come as no surprise that a person who wants to run a marathon should perform significantly more cardio than a person who wants to bulk up.
Therefore, we have a continuum ranging from least to most cardiac. I would structure this continuum as follows:
- Having a quick metabolism while attempting to gain muscle.
- Having a slow metabolism and attempting to gain muscle.
“How much cardio should I do when trying to build muscle?” is one question I frequently get asked. If you have a quick metabolism, the answer is “none.” A little more if your metabolism is slow.
- If you participate in a power or strength activity (such as shot throw, weightlifting, 100-meter sprinting, etc.), you should exercise much less than someone aiming to put on muscle.
Cardio should be reduced with the aforementioned three objectives because strength/power and cardio are mutually exclusive goals. Actually, your body is receiving 2 contradictory messages from you. The goal of strength training is to increase strength and muscle. The goal of cardio is to increase endurance. Unfortunately, the two opposite extremities of the spectrum are strength and endurance. After all, how often do marathon runners win 100-meter races? Never is the answer. And when did a sprinter last take first place in a marathon? The reply is, “Also never.
You can do both well, but you can’t at a world-class level. However, the majority of readers aren’t aiming to be the best in the world at anything.
- If you want to reduce your body fat.
I wouldn’t stress too much if your objective is to lose fat rather than muscle. Muscle losses won’t be a significant concern as long as you’re doing strength training correctly and getting enough protein in your diet.
If you’re genuinely attempting to maximize your genetic potential for muscle building (a male can gain roughly 40-50 pounds of muscle, and it would take 4-5 years), then you should just be concerned about muscle losses. Around the same time, a woman can put on 20–25 pounds of muscle.
Again, provided you are strength training and getting enough protein, muscle loss is not a major problem if you are only looking to reduce body fat and tone up. In this video, I go into much more detail regarding exercising to lose weight.
- If you participate in a mixed sport. Because it requires both strength and endurance, mixed sports. Sports like basketball, tennis, hockey, martial arts, etc. fall under this category.
Numbers 4 and 5 might be arranged in either sequence. Some people can lose weight without doing much cardio, while others must. Likewise with mixed sports. Some athletes are endowed with a lot of natural endurance, while others are not. People with high endurance levels don’t require as much cardio as those with low endurance.
- If you engage in an endurance activity.
Although there is a significant variation in the amount of cardio you should do between a 5K and a marathon, even the shortest distance that would be called an endurance event would require more cardio than mixed sports, therefore I lumped all endurance sports together.
Since a person’s aim should not be the sole consideration, I detest providing advice in terms of particular numbers, but I’ll try (though keep in mind that in certain circumstances, the ranges will be VERY broad).
- Aiming to increase muscular mass and metabolism: ideally, no cardio. Nothing. The naturally thin individuals already have a quick metabolism and a moderately low appetite (despite the fact that they vehemently deny eating that little). It would be detrimental to increase your calorie-burning activities if your objective is to put on weight rather than reduce it. It’s similar to filling a bucket with water that has a hole in the bottom. This clarifies the “when should I be concerned about losing muscle?” That would be the case for this person from the very beginning.
- attempting to gain muscle while having a slow metabolism 20–40 minutes spread over 2-4 days. Although this person can bulk up, fat frequently accompanies the muscle. Some cardio should be done to reduce the fat accumulation (it’s very difficult to eradicate). In light of this, “How often should I do cardio while weight training?” is effectively answered.
- There is no fat loss up to five or six times per week for 45 to 60 minutes. The great variability is present here. Below, we go into more depth about this.
- If you participate in a mixed sport, 3-6 times per week for 20–60 minutes is recommended. depends on the athlete and the sport.
- 4-6 times a week, for 30 to 60 minutes if you participate in an endurance sport.
Factor #2: Your Hormonal Profile
I’ll focus more on the subject of “how much cardio should you do” for fat reduction than I will on the other five since I’ll assume that the majority of people reading this article are asking it for that reason.
The cortisol question enters the picture at this point. When we are stressed, we release more cortisol as a hormone. Even when we are not under stress, we release it, but we release more of it under short-term stress. Long-term stress causes the adrenal glands to “burn out” and produce less cortisol. Cortisol levels that are neither low nor high are good.
Therefore, you can still engage in cardio, but it should be done at a low intensity if you have cortisol difficulties. How low can you go? 60 percent or less of your maximum heart rate. What is your highest heart rate? The usual calculation is 220 less your age. Therefore, if you are 50, your theoretical upper limit is 170. 60% of 170 is 102. Therefore, you should perform your cardio at a pace that doesn’t go above 102 beats per minute.
Just use the dosage that is right for you if you don’t have any cortisol issues.
Because various forms of exercise activate various hormones, you should lower your intensity when under stress.
- When you exercise steadily, your body produces more cortisol, less growth hormone, and less testosterone and estrogen.
- While testosterone and estrogen are largely unaffected during interval exercise, cortisol and growth hormone are both increased.
- Strength training using moderate-high repetitions (10–20), moderate sets (2-4), and brief rest intervals (30–90 seconds) between sets results in an increase in growth hormone, a minor increase in cortisol, and no changes in testosterone or estrogen.
- Strength training that involves moderate to high sets (four or more), low reps (under seven), heavy weights (above 80% of your maximum), and lengthy rest intervals (3 minutes or more) between sets results in a rise in testosterone but little to no change in growth hormone, cortisol, or estrogen.
- As you can see, extended cardio can deplete an already depleted body further when done under stress, where cortisol is already a problem.
To resume cardio at the right intensity and duration for your goals, first take care of your cortisol levels.
Factor #3: Your Intensity
Intensity is a trade-off for duration. You can exercise your cardiovascular system frequently at low to moderate effort or much less frequently at high intensity. What exactly do “low, moderate, and high” mean?
Low intensity generally refers to anything less than 60% of your maximum heart rate. That would be less than 102 beats per minute, using our 50-year-old as the example once more. While the intensity isn’t great enough to boost endurance, it does have other advantages, including psychological and immune enhancements.
The range of moderate intensity is 60 to 85%. Therefore, that would be 103-145 beats per minute for our 50-year-old. If your goal is to lose weight, a good place to start would be to try to do it three to four times per week for 30 to 45 minutes. You must, of course, also engage in strength training.
Anything with a high intensity is over 85%. Again, anything beyond 145 beats per minute would be considered fast for a 50-year-old. Only 1-4 minutes of high intensity can be sustained before your speed declines. You just need to exercise at this level two to three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes. Again, strength training is combined with this. But take note: I wouldn’t begin with high intensity if it has been more than 2–3 months since you last engaged in substantial cardiovascular activity. Getting your doctor’s approval might also be a smart idea in that situation.
Factor #4: Your Individual Response to Cardio
And last, YOU are the only component I can think of that truly addresses the query “how much cardio should you do” In the X-Factor. Everyone is an individual, and there is a very wide range of diversity in answers, as I repeatedly mention. One person may be able to lose weight by restricting calories and doing strength training, whilst another person may need to restrict calories perform cardio five times a week for 30 to 60 minutes.
In the end, how can we determine how much cardio to perform each week to lose weight? To establish a baseline for our clients, we first measure them. Then, we might advise them to practice for 30 minutes three times per week (this is just an example). We make the best estimate after receiving ALL the essential information from our clients. Then, two weeks later, we measure them once more.