Cardio: When is Enough, Enough?

I had a conversation with a friend recently who told me how he has been working out like a machine the past few months in an attempt to “get big”.  When I asked what he’s been doing, he told me he’s hitting the weights on a split routine (sounds good so far) 5 days a week.  On top of that, he added he’s been spending 45-60 minutes 4 days a week running, on the ellipitcal machine, or swimming.  His thinking is, the weights will help him build muscle, and the cardio will him him strip away fat.  Anyone else think like this?
While it may make sense at first glance, there are some things you must realize about a routine like this.  Doing that much cardio is going to make it extremely difficult to pack on any muscle.  The cardio will no doubt help strip away body fat, but won’t help him reach his goals.  Your body will be burning far more calories than you may realize on a routine like this.  When you have a caloric deficiency in your body, you are going to experience fast weight loss.  For some individuals this is the goal, but clearly this is not everyones goal.

So, how much cardio is too much?  As I’m sure you can see, that really depends on the individual and what their personal goals are.  If you are trying to shed body fat and lose weight, performing high-intensity cardio 4-5 times a week for 45-60 minute intervals is great.  Combine some moderate weight lifting and you will most likely have discovered a very successful formula.  However, if your goal is to add muscle mass, try limiting your cardio to 15-20 minute intervals, twice a week. 

The above is a basic guideline.  With fitness, nothing is an exact science.  If it were, there wouldn’t be thousands of diets and workout plans on the market.  Everyone has a different body and genetic makeup.  What works well for one may not work well for another.  Try experimenting and see what suits you and your goals best.  However, just make sure you realize that doing excessive amounts of cardio is going to make it very difficult to add muscle to your frame.  Feel free to comment on this article and let us know what workout:cardio balance works best for you!


4 comments so far

  1. on

    First of all you don’t have to do any cardio at all. It’S always easier to just eat less instead fo trying to “burn” off the fat you have gained.

    Vaclav Gregor

  2. ShareItFitness on

    Yes, but advising someone to just “eat less” so they don’t accumulate fat isn’t really the most healthy advice. Eating a clean diet and doing cardio (which is important for heart health) is better than simply limiting the calories you take in.

  3. david on

    makes me want to drink alchoholic beverages

  4. Jon Staff on

    I agree partially with what’s being said here, but I would definitely make some changes. First off, Greg is right in saying cardio is unnecessary to cut fat, though many people don’t know this. I will agree with you that eating clean is the best way to go. I would probably throw some HIIT or sprintervals in rather than cardio. There are many different definitions of cardio, so we could be talking about the same thing. However, I would recommend against things like an elliptical. Sprints are better.

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