Strength training, cardio, and a healthy diet are said to make up the perfect formula for weight loss. But sometimes it's hard to know how much you need of each category. In particular, the amount of cardio you need in order to lose weight has been up for debate — some people think you need a lot, while others think that it's all about strength training.
Before deciding how much cardio is best for weight loss, Austin Lopez, CSCS and owner of Ausome Fit, said it's important to understand some basics of how your body functions; "3,500 is the number of calories in a single pound [453 grams] of fat and therefore the number required for you to burn in a week to lose one pound a week," Lopez told POPSUGAR.
This is how that breaks down in terms of sessions per week. According to Lopez, if you want to burn 3,500 calories in a week in order to lose half a kilo, you have three options:
- Do 7 days of 30-minute cardio sessions and eat a clean diet with an average calorie intake.
- Do 5 days of 30-minute cardio sessions and eat a lightly calorie-restricted diet.
- Do 0 to 3 days of 30-minute cardio sessions and eat a medium calorie-restricted diet.
The third option might look appealing to you, but Lopez reminds us that "this becomes unsustainable very quickly."
Similarly, Mahri Relin, certified personal trainer and founder of Body Conceptions, said she encourages her clients do four to five sessions of cardio a week, each lasting about 30 to 45 minutes. Celebrity fitness trainer Katherine Greiner recommends at least 30 to 45 minutes of cardio a day or 20 minutes of HIIT cardio intervals.
It's important you don't overdo it, though. "Cardio-heavy workouts can leave people famished, only to replace, if not exceed, the calories they have burned," Relin told POPSUGAR. "When the body has too much cardio it can result in adrenal fatigue, which can actually lead to weight gain," Greiner added.
Another thing all three trainers agree on unanimously is that these sessions of cardio must also be paired with regular strength training. You can't have one without the other in the hunt for weight loss.