When it comes to reducing body fat, nothing is more effective than a cardiovascular fitness routine utilized in conjunction with the right fat loss diet.
Unfortunately, most people have never been taught the most productive way to burn fat with cardiovascular fitness workouts.
Importance of Nutrition in Fat Loss
Before I move on, it is important to note that no matter how hard you workout at the gym to burn fat, you will not be able to successfully lose significant amounts of body fat without the proper fat loss nutrition plan.
If you continue to consume more calories than your body is burning, you will not be able to lose noticeable amounts of body fat, period!
I have provided all of the information you will need to follow an effective fat loss diet on another page on my site.
Five Things You Must Know About Using Aerobic Workouts to Burn Fat
Back to the focus of this page – reducing body fat with a cardiovascular fitness routine -in case you forgot. There are 5 things that you must know when it comes to using aerobic workouts to burn fat:
- How Often You Should Perform Aerobic Workouts
- How Long Your Cardio Sessions Should Last
- Which Cardiovascular Fitness Exercises You Should Perform
- What Your Heart Rate Should be to Ensure Maximum Fat Loss Results
- The Timing of Your Aerobic Exercise
I will cover each of these 5 areas in detail below. After reading these 5 sections you should have all of the information that you will need to get started on an effective fat-burning cardiovascular fitness routine.
1. How Often You Should Perform Aerobic Workouts
The general answer to this question is pretty simple; the more days per week you dedicate to cardiovascular fitness, the more fat you will burn. However, not everyone has the same body type or bodybuilding goals.
Those who have the desire to lose a large percentage of body fat will obviously need to perform cardio workouts more frequently than someone with 7% body fat who just wants to maintain their current body fat levels.
If you are unsure how many days per week you should be dedicating to fat burning cardio, I have put together a chart below and have provided the number of days that should be dedicated to cardio workouts for several scenarios.
Identifying Your Fat Loss Goals
All you need to do is identify which scenario best fits your current body type (the top row) and which scenario best matches your goal body type (the left column) to determine how many days per week you should perform cardio workouts.
Keep in mind that this cardiovascular fitness chart is just a general set of guidelines and that each person’s body is not the same. If you are not losing fat as quickly as you would like, you will want to increase the number of days dedicated to cardio accordingly.
Before abandoning this guideline, be sure that you are not setting unrealistic goals for yourself. No matter how frequently you do cardio exercises, your body has a limit to the amount of fat that it will lose in a given week.
Tracking Your Fat Loss Results
Remember that if you lose weight and/or inches on your waist when taking your body fat measurements, you are moving in the right direction toward reaching your desired body fat level.
2. How Long Should Your Cardio Sessions Last
It is a common misconception that doing hours and hours of calorie burning activities are necessary to lose weight and burn fat.
On the contrary, the goal of your aerobic exercise is not to burn calories, but to encourage your body to use its fat storage for energy instead of muscle cells or consumed carbohydrates.
Forcing the Body to Burn Fat
The human body will naturally turn to carbohydrates as its main energy source in order to save your fat storage in case you have to go an extended amount of time without food. This is one of the body’s survival mechanisms.
Consistent aerobic exercise forces your body to turn to a greater percentage of its fat cells for energy during and in between your workouts.
By participating in consistent aerobic activities, your body will gradually increase the amount of fat that it naturally burns. While burning calories is good, the ultimate goal of aerobic exercise is to burn fat.
If your cardio workouts are mostly just burning away carbohydrates in your system, you will never see a significant decrease in body fat.
The goal of aerobic exercise is not to burn calories, but to burn fat!
Now that I have briefly explained that the goal of aerobic activity is to change your body’s natural tendency away from storing fat, and not just to burn calories, I will answer the question of how long your cardio sessions should last.
Length of Your Cardio Sessions
After 30 minutes of maintaining an increased heart rate, your body will have expended enough consistent energy to encourage an increase in fat burning.
Consequently, your cardio workouts should consist of maintaining your heart rate in the desired range for approximately 30 minutes.
I will explain what your desired heart rate range should be for your aerobic workouts in section 4 below.
Do not think that you must be on a treadmill for hours every day to burn vast amounts of fat. For the reasons described above, by just spending 30 minutes at the right time of the day doing moderate aerobic activity, you will burn fat off of your body.
The great part is that by maintaining consistency in your cardio program, you will increase your metabolism, and your body will more efficiently burn fat even when you aren’t working out.
3. Which Cardiovascular Fitness Exercises You Should Perform
As explained in the section above, the goal of your aerobic workouts is simply to maintain an increased heart rate for 30 minutes. This means that the exercises you can choose for your cardio sessions are virtually unlimited as you can perform any activity that will maintain your increased heart rate for 30 minutes.
Cardiovascular Fitness Exercises
Some of the most popular aerobic exercise machines are treadmills, elliptical machines, stair steppers, rowing machines, and ski machines. Many people today even use workout videos which enable them to perform their aerobic workouts from the convenience of their own home.
Any of these methods are perfectly acceptable as long as your heart rate is elevated in the desired range for 30 minutes.
4. What Your Heart Rate Should be to Ensure Maximum Fat Loss Results
In order to maximize the fat burning potential of your cardiovascular fitness workouts, you should maintain your heart rate at 70-80% of your maximum heart rate for 30 minutes.
This heart rate range will ensure that you are burning significant amounts of calories and fat by keeping your body below a more intense activity level that would encourage the use of carbs for energy as opposed to fat.
The human body naturally tends to use carbohydrates for energy during intense physical activity.
By maintaining your heart rate at 70-80% of its calculated maximum, you are holding to a moderate level of intensity that will ensure that you are burning the most amount of fat possible by forcing your body to use fat as its primary source of energy.
Maximum Heart Rate Calculation
To determine your maximum heart rate, you simply take 220 and subtract your age from it. So a 20 year old’s “maximum heart rate” calculation would be: 220 – 20 = 200 beats per minute.
To determine the lower limit of your heart rate range (70% of the maximum) simply multiply your maximum heart rate by 0.7. You would then multiply your maximum heart rate by 0.8 to determine the upper limit of your heart rate range.
For a 20 year old, their lower range would be 140 (200 x 0.7) and their upper range would be 160 (200 x 0.8).
So a 20 year old would want to maintain their heart rate in the range of 140-160 beats per minute for 30 minutes during their aerobic workouts.
Methods of Tracking Your Heart Rate
There are several methods which can be used to monitor your heart rate during your aerobic workouts. Most cardio machines today have handles with sensors that will measure your heart rate by simply gripping them for a short amount of time.
If you choose to do an exercise that does not utilize a machine with built in sensors, I recommend purchasing a heart rate monitor. These generally strap around your wrist like a watch and are very easy to use to monitor your heart rate while exercising.
You may also find your heart rate by checking your pulse. To do this, simply find your pulse on your neck (just below the chin) or on your wrist. You will then count the number of beats in 10 seconds and multiplying by 6 to determine the number of beats per minute.
I would try to avoid checking your pulse to determine your heart rate whenever possible because it can be inconvenient to stop your exercise and look at the clock while counting your heartbeats before finally returning to your workout.
5. The Timing of Your Aerobic Exercise
While performing your cardio workouts at any time is certainly better than not doing them at all, there are certain times throughout the day at which your body will be much more efficient at burning fat.
As I mentioned above, the body is most efficient at burning fat when it has to rely on it as its main source of energy.
Best Time of Day for Aerobic Activity
The best times to perform your 30 minute cardiovascular fitness exercise is when there are the least amount of carbohydrates present in your body.
Because of this principle, the optimum time to perform your cardio exercise is in the morning just after waking up – before eating anything.
The next best time to perform your cardio workout will be immediately after your weight training session.
You will use up the majority of the carbohydrates present in your body during your weight training session which will force your body to turn to fat cells for fuel when your aerobic exercise is performed immediately following a weight training session.
The third best time to perform your cardio exercises will be at least 2 hours after you have eaten.
By waiting at least 2 hours after eating, you are ensuring that your body has used most of the carbohydrates you consumed during your last meal and will maximize the amount of fat that will be burned while performing the aerobic activity of your choice.
By utilizing the 5 principles explained above, you will be able to effectively use cardiovascular fitness workouts to lose significant amounts of body fat.