Is Cardio as Effective at
Burning Fat as People Believe?
Within the fitness industry you will no doubt come across the idea that to burn fat you need to do lots of cardio. Though there is evidence to support this, “cardio” is actually the Latin word meaning “the heart”. So, when we work on cardio, we are working on and strengthening the heart muscles.
This is where you will find the term bradycardia being thrown around when talking about athletes and high level runners who utilise a lot of cardio in their work, as their training will target the heart muscles, strengthening and ultimately enlarging them. This means their resting heart rate ends up being below 60bpm which can both have positive and negative effects depending on the individual and their lifestyle.
Now the conception is that if you get the heart rate up, you get a sweat on and therefore you will burn fat. And this is true but not fully. Below is graph and we can have a look at why “cardio” is not as effective as you may think to burn body fat.
As you can see, when we do “cardio” and raise our heart to that zone, we are surpassing the “fat burning zone”. So, if we take running for example, we can potentially hit the fat burn in the first 5-10 minutes, and then potentially as we cool down or stop at any point during the run. Other wise we are working in the heart/ cardio zone, or if really pushing, we are hitting the anaerobic zone. So, what is the alternative and how can we efficiently and effectively work in the desired fat burn zone?
This is where the programmes and terms such as HIIT (high intensity interval training), circuit training and even conventional weight training can become more beneficial toward the goal of fat burning. This is because within these disciplines you have an acute period of time where you are working at a hard rate, which is then followed by a rest period. On a physiological level this means your heart will spike through the fat burn zone (sometimes over) when working out, and then reduce to the lower of the fat burn zone when in the resting, keeping you sustained in the desired zone of fat burn.
This article is not suggesting that you shouldn’t implement cardio into your routine, but to help you understand that cardio is most effective at maintaining and improving our heart muscles and not as effective as burning body fat as the myth may state. Once this is understood, you will find that you can create workout routines which can include areas such as cardio and fat burning more effectively.