The lifelong debate of whether or not you need cardio will always exist among gym goers and exercisers… Unless you are familiar with the physiology and science of it all, you assume cardio is necessary, when you go to the gym and the cardio equipment is ALWAYS full. Cardio definitely has cardiovascular benefits, as it builds a healthy heart, joints, and bones, but is not necessarily crucial for losing weight, at least not in the way you might think. The key to losing weight is keeping a balance of losing fat while gaining muscle mass; one without the other leads to a “soft” look which is not what most people are going for. In order to build muscle, this requires a proper balance of strength training and proper nutrition with adequate protein. The more muscle you build, the more fat you burn without even working out; therefore, a focus on muscle will help get your metabolism in gear for losing weight!
There are many instances, however, where cardio can help kick start the process, and this is typically when someone has a lot of weight to lose, as in more than 30 pounds. In this instance, it is sometimes more effective to get started with some cardio to brush off some weight before starting a regimented exercise/fitness routine, which, in turn, will make your body more effective and efficient at strength training so you can get more benefit from lifting weights.
Once we start talking about including cardio in your fitness regimen, though, it is important to know how much is TOO much cardio. Too much cardio ends up using muscle as fuel and the result is, again, the “soft” look most of us want to avoid (meaning skinny but no muscle and no tone…”skinny fat” would be the term we are familiar with!). So if you are going to include cardio, is should be a equal balance between cardio and strength training; or else, try something like high intensity intervals with your weight training so you can kind of accomplish the cardiovascular workout and strength workout at the same time. This could be a circuit style workout where you include short bursts of cardio, sprinting, or plyometrics, or it could be just increasing the pace of your strength workout, including supersets or making it circuit style so you are quickly moving from one exercise to the next with little to no breaks. In this way, you can still get your heart rate up, so you are getting the cardiovascular benefits, but still getting you strength training accomplished!