Cardio can have all kinds of effects on the body. There isn’t really any one answer. It depends what kind of stimulus you are providing and how often. The bigger thing we should keep in mind is knowing when and how to implement all different types.
Cardio’s Overall Benefit
So put simply, whether you are trying to bulk up, diet down, be athletic, you should be incorporating some form of cardio in your regimen. Even 1-2 days is enough to help improve your cardiovascular health. I don’t normally advise completely eliminating cardio because just as you want to keep your muscles in shape, you want to do the same with your heart. It can increase mitochondrial density, which in turn gives you more energy throughout the day.
Cardio and Weight Lifting
By improving your stamina with cardio, it can for sure translate into your lifts. A lot of guys bulking try to eliminate cardio completely because they want the gainz bro. But what good are the gains if you are losing your breath doing high reps of squats or high volume work in general? The idea of muscle growth involves improving your performance week to week. Adding even just a little bit of cardio can help achieve that goal more efficiently.
On the flipside, you have to know your goals. If your goal is muscle building for example, more days should be focused on resistance training and less on cardio. If you want to train for a marathon, then you should be doing a lot more running and for longer distances. If you are a hardgainer, go on the lower side for cardio because it is probably already difficult for you to add size. Implementing more cardio is just making it harder for you to have enough calories coming in to grow.
Cardio and Weight Loss
Cardio no doubt becomes a hugely valuable tool for helping you create a deficit so you can lose weight. But again, there’s a line between too much and too little. There are many different forms of cardio you can do to create that expenditure.
HIIT - great for when you are tight on time and short intense bursts. This burns calories not only during the session but afterwards due to your body's metabolism trying to catch up to the workload provided. Be careful overdoing it though, as if you are doing 5+ days of HIIT your body may not be recovering properly. Your body needs time to rest after high intensity.
LISS - Steady state cardio is good for when you need to add general heart health or a cardio day to your fat loss regimen but want to preserve muscle. The intensity is low enough you don’t have to worry about overtraining but enough to burn some fat. The downside is you’d need a lot more of this as it doesn’t burn as many calories as a HIIT session.
NEAT - NEAT is the most suggested here at Mind Pump because for most of the population it’s the easiest to implement long term. Go for a 10 minute walk after every meal. Park a little farther away at work or at the mall. NEAT is increasing your daily movement throughout the day so you are in effect getting your cardio in without having to specifically carve time out for it.
Recovery and Stress
The biggest theme you’ll see amongst all the info today is recovery. As in most things in life, a little bit is good, too much is never a good thing. The first thing when people lose weight by implementing cardio is the desire to want to add more. Sure that may help you lose more weight out the gate, but keep in mind what it’s doing to your body and the long term. Our bodies can only recover from so much. If we aren’t getting enough sleep, have extra stress going on in our life, or simply doing too much cardio (5+ days a week of moderate to high intensity) we won’t be able to sustain it.
I’ve had too many clients come to me wanting to lose weight. Their biggest problem was doing too much cardio and not eating enough. The only way to fix that was to relieve the stress on the body by lowering cardio and increasing their food intake. As you can imagine that’s a hard pill for that client to swallow because those are literally the two OPPOSITE things of what they’d ever imagine doing. In fact, I’ve had a lot of clients not want to go that direction because they were convinced they’d add fat.
Thankfully, once they eventually came around, and lowered the cardio to 2-3 days a week, and started eating more their metabolisms sped up again. They started LOSING weight again and couldn’t believe it. Try to pay attention to your body when it’s feeling overworked. If you’ve been dieting and doing a lot of cardio try doing 1 week at maintenance to reset your metabolism and rev up your system again. Then go back into your usual diet, and I bet you’ll see some new fat loss.