You may consider yourself a cardio pro. After all, you may log over an hour on the treadmill daily or be a self-described triathlon master. However, even the biggest cardio junkies may be surprised to hear that some of their most trusted cardio do’s and don’ts are nothing more than cardio myths. There are all sorts of theories floating around, and chances are you’ve taken more than one as being factual. You probably think you know the best time of day to do cardio, what to eat before and after a run, and if you should aim for a long workout or a short, more intense one. But do you really?
With so much information available, it’s easy to get confused. The body is complicated and when you exercise, you’re doing more than just burning calories. You’re building muscle, conditioning your lungs, improving your heart’s role in circulating oxygen, and even increasing blood flow to your brain, which leads to a whole host of mental benefits. It takes a pro to take all this into account and determine what cardio will give you the best overall results. Here are some of the most common cardio myths debunked once and for all.
1. Fasted cardio gets fast results
When Bill Phillips published his bestselling fitness book, Body for Life, in 1999, he suggested aerobic exercise done first thing in the morning — before you eat anything — maximizes fat loss. Suddenly, cardio fanatics everywhere switched up their routine so that they could reap the benefits.
Unfortunately, various studies since the release of Phillips’ book have proved this theory wrong. Eating prior to a workout gives you the energy needed to perform well, especially if you’re performing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) which has been proven to be more effective than steady-state cardio on fat loss.
2. Do cardio, then hit the weights
The idea that you should spend some time on the elliptical or treadmill before hitting the weights is one theory that is fairly easy to debunk. There’s no point in working out if you’re not going to give it all you’ve got, and if you put all your effort into your cardio workout, chances are you won’t have much left to give your resistance training routine. Both cardio and strength training are essential to full-body health. Perform your cardio and weight lifting routines on different days so you can give both forms of exercise all you’ve got.
3. You must dedicate at least an hour
Have you ever heard that if you can’t commit a full hour to your cardio workout, it’s not worth the effort? If so, banish this theory from your cardio-loving mind and don’t let it stop you from squeezing in a 20 minute run on your lunch break. Everything physical you do is beneficial. No one will deny if you go running for an hour or more at a steady pace, you’ll burn a lot of calories, but by doing a short HIIT workout, you’ll elevate your metabolism, allowing your body to burn extra calories for the 38 hours after your workout. Studies have found even 10 minutes at a high-intensity pace is beneficial to your body. Your new cardio motto: Anything is better than nothing.
4. Cardio burns the most fat
There’s no question that cardio is essential to weight loss. If you’re burning more calories than you eat, you’ll get results. However, if you want to burn more fat overall and keep that fat burn going after your workout is over, weight training should be a regular part of your routine. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that women who completed an hour of strength training burned an average of 100 more calories in the 24 hours following the workout than those who skipped the weights. Maintaining your muscle is key to getting long-term physical results.