There are many types of exercises that you can use in order to burn fat off your body. One of the most popular ones nowadays is called “cardio” training short for cardiovascular. It gets its name from the fact that it increases your heart rate to a certain zone in which your body will burn through fat and calories in the most efficient manner.
To answer the question where does cardio burn fat we must take a look at fat burning in general. Our bodies use fat as a means of storing excess energy. When we exercise and deplete our primary fuel, we start using fat as an energy source. Since our bodies cannot control which fat depots deplete first, we tend to lose fat at a steady rate from all over our bodies instead of just one place. Whether cardio exercises are the best way to burn through that fat is debatable. Still, the reality is that mixing cardio training into your regimen will only benefit your health in a variety of positive ways, even if it doesn’t necessarily help with fat burning.
To understand how cardio helps our bodies burn fat and what exactly it does for our health, we must first get the answer to the following question…
What Exactly Is Cardio Training?
Cardiovascular training refers to any type of exercise that raises your heart rate to an optimal point for your body to burn through calories. These types of exercises should all exceed 10 minutes in their length.
Just by looking at that definition we can conclude that those type of exercises are the ones that tire us out and make us breathe heavy. The zone in which our heart rate is optimal is called the Target Zone. It varies heavily from person to person and this is why there are countless of online calculators to help you determine yours, such as this one.
Usually, the Target zone is no less than 50% of your maximum heart rate level. The maximum heart rate is roughly calculated when you take 220 and subtract your age from it. It indicates the maximum workload your heart can take in theory. An ideal target zone is around 55-70% of your MHR for no less than 10-20 minutes to achieve the best results from your aerobic training.
Whether frequent cardio is good for you or not is still heavily debated in the fitness world but there are proven advantages to it, as well as some disadvantages, over which we will go through now.
Having a strong cardiovascular system will result in a variety of benefits for your body, and primarily for your muscles. The stronger that system is, the more oxygen your capillaries will deliver to your muscles, making them stronger and more potent.
The more oxygen there is present while your muscles cells are at work, the faster they will burn through energy supplies, one of which is, you guessed it right – fat.
Some other benefits of cardiovascular training are:
- Improves blood pressure regulation
- Helps us normalize blood sugar levels
- Reduces chronic pain
- Helps with sleep
- Strengthens our immune system
- Helps with weight management
- Improves coordination and motor function
- Boosts mood
The disadvantages of cardio exercises are a bit more complex and often involve more than just one system in our bodies. Let’s take a look at some of them:
- Too much aerobic training can lead to muscle tissue loss and disrupt enzymes and hormones.
- If done improperly cardio can lead to severe energy losses while still maintaining normal levels of fat in the body. What this looks like is someone who is on a minimal calorie intake but still looks flabby.
- Excessive aerobics can lead to low resting metabolic rates which will reduce the body’s natural production of hormones. This becomes an issue once the person goes back to his normal lifestyle.
- It can put too much strain on your joints if you do it improperly or for too long of a period at a time
- Long and frequent sessions can lead to increased (or chronically increased) cortisol levels which is dangerous for your muscle cells. This can also lead to storing more fat to the midsection of your body.
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So, now that we are well aware of cardio and its features, let’s focus on the main question at hand here…
Does Cardio Burn Fat?
The answer to this question is yes. Is cardio the best fat burning exercise, though? According to multiple research sources and the experience of countless of athletes it really isn’t. Most modern day athletes do cardio out of pure sense of traditions and not out of necessity. It is a supplemental form of exercising at best. Strength and conditioning along with proper nutrition is what changes our bodies and helps us greatly reduce body fat.
If you do cardio because you want to relieve stress, do it for your general health, acquire certain performance enhancements or simply experience an endorphin rush, then cardio is a very good option. If you want to burn fat, then it isn’t your best choice, even though you will certainly lose weight. Not all of that weight will be fat, though, and there lies the issue.
The rest period of cardio exercises is what matters the most, and thanks to the rearrangement of your hormonal balance your fat metabolism will be increased in the 48 hours after the workout. This means that, even though you will be burning through a lot of calories, you will most likely make up for all that in the next two days. This is why mixing cardio exercises is so crucial. I will dive into that a bit further down.
Where Does It Burn The Fat From?
Like I’ve pointed out in some of my fat burning topics, there is no way to burn fat from one specific spot in our bodies. Fat depots act as energy stores and they will all research triglycerides and fatty acids into our bloodstream in a time of need. Aerobic exercises such as the cardio ones tend to burn through our short-term fuel pretty rapidly and lean towards fat metabolism. That means that they will burn fat from all over our bodies during the intense workout.
The issue is, as I pointed out, that the hours after the workout are the ones in which the fat metabolism will be greatly increased and what our bodies will do is essentially start storing more and more to fit our energy needs during training. So, if all we do is cardio training after cardio training we will start losing muscle mass and maintain the same fat levels (if not higher) just to be able to fit with our high caloric needs during training.
How To Mix Things Up
Too much cardio can accelerate catabolic processes which end up reducing muscle mass and releasing stress hormones like cortisol in your body. The best alternative is to mix them up or entirely replace them with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training as it gives you a better approach to muscle growth and anabolic processes. That on its own will help you develop muscle tissue, cartilage, collagen, and other vital substances for your body.
Strength training is absolutely a must when it comes to fat cutting and works well if you mix it up with cardio sessions. Compound exercises require more energy from our bodies and therefore burn more fat and calories. Focus on muscle hypertrophy exercises in which you do 10 to 15 reps for up to 5 sets. Do strength training at least two times a week.
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Now, let’s take a look at the common questions when it comes to this particular topic.
What exercises help lose belly fat?
There are a lot of exercises that will help you keep your fat levels in check. Still, as I said already, there is no specific exercise which will burn fat in one area in your body. You will be building the muscles in that area and you will make them stronger but you won’t burn fat from there alone. If you do belly exercises you will lose fat from all over your body if you burn through enough calories during those said exercises. Still, here is a list of my favorite belly workouts:
- Twisty crunches
- Normal crunches
- Side Crunches
- Bicycle sessions
- Lunge twists
- Rolling Planks
All of these focus on a certain muscle group predominantly but will work on all fat tissue across your body.
What exercise burns the most calories in 30 minutes?
For me, there is one single exercise that will always make me drop my calorie count in less than an hour and that is swimming. I love it because it helps my joints, it can be as intense as I want it to be, and because it relaxes my whole body. Still, there are other exercises which will give your heart a run for its money in that 30 minute interval. Those are running, interval training, body weight exercises, and strength training.
Do squats burn belly fat?
Squats are a very curious exercise. What they do is make your quadriceps muscles stronger and more durable but repetition has shown to bare results in your glutes, hamstrings, and calves as well. The exercise itself has little to do with your belly muscles but the sheer amount of calories it takes to perform it in an interval setting makes it a great fat reducing exercise as a whole.
How Can I Burn 500 Calories A Day?
There is research showing that most people are over their daily calorie intake by an average of 500 calories. This is why the 500-calorie a day craze has picked up so much steam as of late. People are looking for certain exercises in certain time frames that can fit into their busy lifestyles that will burn them through half a thousand calories. My best suggestions are:
- 60 minute jogging. Nothing will burn through as many calories as this activity and be that easy to do. Just put a pair of runners on and go for a run!
- 60 minute of swimming. As I pointed out I love swimming and a full hour of it will take care of that high calorie number.
- High intensity interval training (known as HIIT). For this the time depends on the exercises themselves.
- 2 hours worth of hiking on fairly even terrain.
- An hour of rock climbing.
Of course, if you want to do things faster you can increase your running pace to 8 miles per hour for 30 minutes. That will do the same job as lower speeds for one hour.
One fun activity that can deplete 500 calories in an hour is tennis. It is one of the few sports that can be both fun and productive at the same time.
A hilarious but very valid example is to also mow your lawn for two straight hours. Of course, you will have to mow all the neighbour’s lawns if you want to do it every day.
Cardio exercises can be helpful in a lot of ways to our bodies. They increase our overall endurance, help us battle issues such as asthma attacks, sleep disorders, chronic pain, mood swings, and chronic stress. Still, when it comes to losing fat they aren’t the ideal solution to the problem. In fact, they are not even a good solution, as they can be a dangerous double-edged sword for anyone who isn’t fully aware of what he is doing.
Knowing where does cardio burn fat in our bodies is a tricky thing as it doesn’t have a definite answer and if we end up cutting our body fat percentage with cardio, it won’t lower fats from one single place but will reduce our fat percentage as a whole. That means that we will get lean on all usually fat places at once. The trick is to not let our bodies gain weigh anew as this process has been known to have a certain hierarchy – midsection first, then legs, arms, and the rest of the body.