My personal beliefs in cardio are very mixed. I find that cardio does very many different things to my body; some affect me well and some affect me not so well. I will share with you my personal experience with cardio.
First and foremost I had better explain what cardio is. Cardio in my books is any activity that goes on for a long period of time (say 10 minutes) that uses large amounts of energy. This could be everything from running on a treadmill, jumping rope, or even doing manual labor. I will say that some of the best cardio sessions that I have been involved in were carrying bundles of shingles up a ladder all day! Other people’s opinion may differ and not include the outside work, but it all does the same thing: burn calories. For the purpose of this article, though, I will discuss cardio that happens at the gym.
The good: Cardio is the most healthy exercise that you can do with your body. I have no doubt in my mind about this, as it is what strengthens your heart. You can live without bulging biceps, but you have got absolutely no chance without a good heart. I recommend doing cardio each day, even for only ten minutes. Go run on the treadmill in the morning to get your day started, or take a thirty minute walk after work to get your heart rate up some. Cardio is always necessary, even though some of us don’t like it (including myself). Where some people seem to get confused is in the amount of cardio to do. Allow me to explain:
If you are trying to put on size, you should be doing slightly less cardio, especially if you have trouble eating enough to do so. In order to put on some serious size, you must be in a caloric surplus (eating more calories than you are burning in a day). If you are doing large amounts of cardio while trying to gain weight, you will have to eat extra. While I have never had a problem with appetite, I know many people that do. They keep their cardio to a minimum when trying to bulk up because they have trouble consuming the necessary calories. I also recommend doing cardio after weight training in this situation. I am a firm believer that weights should come first, so you can give your maximal effort towards them. Long distance cardio such as running on a treadmill does not take too much effort, so it can be done after lifting weights. There is also another secret that I am a firm believer in. Since I know that you all eat breakfast before you lift (if you don’t read my blog post on eating breakfast before lifting), you get added benefits of your workout by doing cardio after. Because doing cardio increases your blood flow and blood supply to your muscles, you can more easily get the necessary nutrients to your taxed muscles. This will help your muscles to get stronger and to repair themselves faster. In my personal experience, I am less sore when I do cardio after a workout than when I am not. It is honestly quite amazing. In my personal experience, when I am bulking, I like to do 10 minutes of cardio 5 days a week (I only lift Monday through Friday). Sometimes I do more on the weekend, but I have the appetite to make up for it.
Secondly, you may be trying to cut weight. In this case, I recommend more cardio. As I have mentioned in some of my previous articles, calories in vs. calories out is the name of the game for weight loss. You must consume less calories than you burn in a day. This is where cardio really shines in the eyes of most people. Take for example somebody like myself who loves to eat (I really do love to eat; it can be a real problem when trying to diet). If I need to consume 2000 calories to lose weight, I can simply eat 2500 calories and do 500 calories worth of cardio to make my 2000 calorie mark. Quite simply, doing cardio while trying to lose weight helps them to feel more satisfied during the day. Instead of eating nothing but salad, throw a baked potato in the mix (potatoes are loaded with potassium by the way, which helps reduce the chance of getting a muscle cramp). All you have to do is increase your cardio to meet your weight loss goals! Don’t get too out of hand, though, as I would not recommend doing more than 30 minutes of cardio everyday. When I am trying to get back into summer shape, I usually do about 20 minutes of cardio on all of the weekdays. I do run at a decent pace (normally about 6 miles per hour), but I feel that that is plenty of cardio. If I partake in any additional cardio, I tend to feel very wore out, as my body cannot recover as well in a calorie deficit.
I did forget to mention too, the pace of your cardio makes a huge difference as well in figuring my recommended times. If you prefer to walk for cardio, you can go much longer than my recommended times, as you are burning far fewer calories per minute. You will have to go longer than my recommended times to achieve the same results. Another thing to point out deals in daily activities. If you are a construction worker, you will probably have to do little to no extra cardio in order to achieve your desired results. If you are trying to gain weight and stay healthy, I would say that you are probably good. If you are trying to lose weight, you may need additional cardio, but not much.
Again, as I always like to point out, none of this is gospel. Results will vary depending on your body, but I feel this is a great guide to start with. Stay safe and happy lifting!