Article last updated: May 2019 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is:
“Hey Oskar, I’m skinny-fat and I want to lose fat. How much cardio should I do to lose the fat, and what type of cardio is best?”
The answer to that question is NONE.
You don’t need to do cardio to shred fat when you’re a skinny-fat beginner, and it’s best to save your breath for later.
I will explain why in this blog post.
Let’s get started:
Cardio vs. Diet
When I run for 45 minutes at a decent pace, I’ll typically burn anywhere from 450-700 calories depending on how hard I go at it.
That’s the equivalent of a McDonalds Big Mac without cheese which has 576 calories.
In other words, I would be running for 45 minutes to burn off that Big Mac.
Also, consider that running for 45 minutes also makes you more hungry for carbs, so you will end up using more will power to stay at a caloric deficit.
Finally, there’s time-constraint.
Most of us are busy and don’t have the time to do cardio at the gym after we finish our resistance training programs which are more important since muscle burns fat.
Therefore, cardio is an inefficient way to achieve a caloric deficit.
“Don’t I Need Cardio To Stay Healthy?”
Yes, you need cardio to stay healthy, but the amount you need can be achieved easily without spending time doing traditional cardio at the gym.
All the cardio you need to stay healthy is a brisk walk each day, and you have to get to places anyways, so instead of taking the car, bus or train everywhere, just walk or use a bicycle.
What I do is that whenever I can get somewhere within 25 minutes of walking, I walk and usually listed to an audio book or podcast on the way.
When doing this, I get sun, air and learn new stuff on the way (your abilities to learn new stuff are enhanced when you walk regularly).
Besides that, you should be doing bodyweight training and/or weight training since muscle burns fat, and these types of training are also good for your cardio.
If you’re a beginner, you will get a decent cardio workout from doing simple things like diamond push ups, pull ups and bodyweight squats.
If you’re beyond the stage of being a beginner and you follow the principles of Serge Nubret properly, you should leave the gym drenched in sweat and out of breath, so there’s no need to do traditional cardio like running.
I’ve followed the Serge Nubret Pump Training Principles for the past 3 years, and the two times I had my heart checked, my doctor asked me if I’m a professional athlete because she usually sees those kinds of result in high level athletes.
When To Add Cardio For Fat Loss (and Body Depletion)
After reading this, you may believe that I never do cardio and never recommend it to my private coaching clients, but that’s not true at all.
Cardio is great when used at the right time.
Consider the following example:
You start out skinny-fat with 25% body-fat, and you diet down to 10% body-fat.
Once you reach 10% body-fat you’ve already reduced your calories a lot of times, and there’s no way you can reduce calories further.
Your abs are already quite visible, but you want to shred that last amount of fat around your lower waist.
What do you do? You add a 3-4 sessions of sprints or swimming in cold water for the last 2-3 weeks of your cut to shred that last fat.
Once you’ve shredded your fat, your body will be completely depleted and you will look flat.
This will be the perfect time to start doing a lot of bodybuilding training everyday and eating a high carb diet, since your body’s nutrient partitioning (ability to use food for muscle gains) will be optimized at a low body-fat level.
My 1 Year Progress Using This Approach
The advice mentioned in this post is similar to what I did from April 2012 to April 2013 where I changed my body-composition from skinny-fat to ripped while staying at the same bodyweight (200 pounds).
In the final month of the fat loss phase, I went on a low-carb diet (pretty much ate steaks and eggs for 4-5 days straight, then did a carb up on the 5th or 6th day), while doing a lot of bodyweight training and high intensity cardio training.
Once I had lost the weight, I trained 1-2 times a day.
Some days I would do a Serge Nubret Pump Training Session in the afternoon followed by a bodyweight training session in the evening.
Other days, I would do just one of them depending on how I felt.
While doing this, I ate a massive amount of food and the training was rigorous to the point where I felt like puking and headache a lot of the time.
I trained this way, because I knew that when I’m very lean after depleting my body all the way down to 177 pounds at 6’2″ height, I would be able to use my improved nutrient partitioning to gain massive amounts of muscle mass, and I did…
I gained something like 13 pounds of mass in the first month of bulking, and then I gained another 10 pounds or so over the next 3 months.
The point here is that I was very strategic about when I would implement certain types of training and eating, and that’s why you should save your breath for later.
By saving your cardio for later, you will be able to use it as a “final fat loss weapon” to shred that last amount of fat once you hit a plateau with your diet.
Be proud but stay hungry,