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Ask The Ripped Dude

"How Much Cardio Is Too Much?"

Ask The Ripped Dude: How Much Cardio Is Too Much?

I've written more than 100 fitness articles that have been published all over the world. My goal is to help you get in the best shape possible!
Q

I want to stay lean, but I don't want to lose any muscle. How can I tell if I'm doing too much cardio?

We all know that to get lean you have to do cardio and have a great consistent nutritional diet. But did you know that too much cardio can be counterproductive? If you're a slave to the treadmill, elliptical, or stair master, you can actually lose muscle. Unless your goal is to look like Christian Bale in The Machinist, it's best to be really smart about your cardio.

If you don't know how much is too much, let me help!

The Great Cardio Myth

There is this horrible misperception in our society about fat loss. A lot of people think that if you starve yourself and do two or three hours of cardio each day, the fat is just going to melt off. Actually, performing too much cardio will put your body in a catabolic state and burn hard-earned muscle. The loss of muscle will not only reduce strength, but it will also slow down your metabolism. If your metabolism slows down too much, you'll have a tough time burning fat.

There's no exact answer for how much cardio is too much. But if you're not a distance runner, anything over 60-70 minutes per day is likely counterproductive—especially if you aren't consuming enough protein or calories to support the daily caloric expenditure. In order to build or maintain muscle, you need to eat enough food.

Symptoms of Cardio Overload

Too much cardiovascular training will also lead to injuries and over-training issues like aches and pains. You can also suffer from consistent bouts of fatigue and mood changes. Lots of running can also make your cortisol levels rise, which may suppress your immune system. Often, marathon runners experience colds and respiratory infections after they race because of their higher cortisol levels. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's probably a sign you need to cut back the cardio.

Train Smart

Working out is supposed to be fun; it shouldn't be some long, arduous chore. If you are in the gym for more than an hour per day doing aerobic training, you're probably overtraining. If you're not in the business of marathon running or long-distance biking, this much cardio will take you 10 steps backwards instead of 10 steps forward.

I never do more than 60 minutes of cardio per day, whether I am playing basketball or sprinting. I know that if I do any more than that, it'll probably hurt me more than help me.

It's always good to remember that more is not always better. Be smart about your training. Keep it hard and efficient to burn fat, and most importantly, preserve muscle.

Transform Your Body


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About The Author

Known as ''The World Most Ripped Fitness Model,'' he's very passionate about educating people all over the world about health and fitness.

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ovidiuk

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ovidiuk

"But if you're not a distance runner, anything over 60-70 minutes per day is likely counterproductive"...60-70 min/day???? I other articles I read if I make cardio more that 20 min, 3-4 time/week is allready to much and some says to cut cardio and replace with wheight program for fat lose Now I'm totally confuse...:(

Dec 15, 2012 4:13am | report
rvanwyk91

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rvanwyk91

I might be wrong, but I think Obi is going particularly in the area of looking like Obi...purely lean muscle. If you want to become like Arnie then I've seen overwhelmingly that little to no cardio is recommended, as your implying. In that case as well, low rest between sets, or super sets with weights would be a better substitute.

Dec 15, 2012 10:21am | report
cowboyhatjoe

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cowboyhatjoe

Just goes to show you that this is a free bodybuilding website, not the words out of a certified personal trainers mouth directed to your individual body.

Dec 16, 2012 7:44am | report
jwethall

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jwethall

@ rvanwyk91: Even in the case of looking like Arnold, cardio is a necessary evil. Unless you're genetically gifted and just don't store fat, you're still looking at about 30 min of cardio at least 3 times a week, and most likely 5-6 days a week. This is of course if you're looking to look cut and ripped. If you're trying to put on muscle, you do cut your cardio, but I still do 3 days and around 20 min a session just to keep my heart healthy.

Dec 18, 2012 12:32pm | report
Biggeritis

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Biggeritis

A regular soccer match is 90 minutes with a short rest after 45 minutes. That's way more cardio than you recommend?
Anyway, nice article. It explains why I have the common colds second time this year now:)

Article Rated:
Dec 15, 2012 5:46am | report
chosenone28

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chosenone28

You have to keep in mind that most soccer players are trained and train specifically for soccer and thus their bodies have adapted specifically to the stresses and movements of that sport regardless of the level at which they play. Your point about the 45 minute half and then the rest period should also be taken into account. There is a reason that play is not 90 continious minutes. You also wont find too many huge jacked soccer players, but many of them are damned cut.

Dec 15, 2012 1:07pm | report
tmolsson

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tmolsson

exactly what i was going to say.. not too many swole soccer players..

Dec 17, 2012 11:09am | report
bjmass

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bjmass

I totally depends on your goals surley, if your looking to put on serious mass then cardio isnt that important apart for some to help you recover from ypur sets, if your cutting then cardio becomes important to burn off you excess fat.

Dec 15, 2012 8:57am | report
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 15'11"
  • wt: 191.8 lbs
  • bf: 12.0%
Shifisu

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Shifisu

Yes but this entire article is saying that if you do too much cardio then you will be burning muscle instead of fat. Which is correct. You will rely too much on your slow twitch muscle fibers which are made for endurance. If you stick to cardio below 60 minutes then you will preserve your current muscle mass (taking into account you are still doing weight training).

Dec 15, 2012 10:17am | report
ravensgal63

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ravensgal63

20- 30 minutes of cardio every other day is plenty if you weight train. I have a hard time doing ten minutes of cardio to be honest, I dont care for the tradtional cardio and would much rather lift weights:) Cardio can be done on separate days from weights as well

Dec 15, 2012 10:19am | report
travis132

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travis132

20-30 mins every other day... Word

Dec 15, 2012 10:05pm | report
revxfit

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revxfit

How would this relate to doing multiple programs per day? I am doing second round of Insanity after doing a round of Body Beast. ( I work out at home). With Body Beast I gained muscle but also my body fat went way up do to carbs...Is it possible to split train? Do weight lifting in the am,,,and then later in the day extreme cardio like Insanity? Or would this be over training?? I have to be around 3500 calories to maintain my weight just with Insanity.

Dec 15, 2012 10:30am | report
mario002500

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mario002500

the mood changes occurs because when the person doing the exercise looks at other people working out, hes thinking to himself I bet that dude is having sex with chicks...

Dec 15, 2012 10:43am | report
Marux25

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Marux25

It's very true, the part about burning muscle... I never do cardio when I lift weights, instead, I lift heavy and intense, that is much better than cardio, since your muscles are burning fat as they "feed", best part is, that process last for hours. I also play basketball few times a week, which is intense cardio and in order not to burn your muscle you have to consume enough carbs, before each practice, than your muscles have fuel and you still burning fat.

Dec 15, 2012 10:49am | report
Fatdonis

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Fatdonis

I want to lose weight (I am 30 lbs from my goal), but how do I do it without losing muscle? You technically cannot build muscle without eating above a certain caloric threshold...but if you eat too much excess calories go unused and turn into fat.

What do I do?
Thanks

Dec 15, 2012 11:02am | report
Marux25

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Marux25

i think it's very possible to do both. I wanted the same thing! First I started eat healthy and found out how many cal I need daily. I've lowered my carbs intake when I don't work out. Most important thing is to have a good nutrition, don't be afraid of slow carbs, sugar and saturated fat is your enemy. If you go to gym and lift 2-3 times a week good nutritious healthy diet, I think you will reach your goal. However, I've read some articles, that suggests to do either, but its been also said that in the long run result is the same.

Dec 15, 2012 11:27am | report
kiestonreece

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kiestonreece

I do both simultaneously. I eat at a caloric deficit; but not a major one. I train hard and do cardio after every weight training session. When my caliper tests are performed every month, my bodyfat drops, and my muscle tissue increases.......even if it's a little increase. Can't rush it; especially if you intend on keeping it

Dec 17, 2012 10:23am | report
andrew450r

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andrew450r

I do 45 mins to an hour 3-5 times a week, which works great for me when cutting.

Dec 15, 2012 3:15pm | report
smarteranna

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smarteranna

great article, thanks !

Dec 15, 2012 5:10pm | report
FromTwigsToBigs

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FromTwigsToBigs

So I played basketball for 2 hours nonstop after a workout and im really skinny... does that mean I was burning muscle? Im trying to gain weight but I love basketball, what should I do???

Dec 15, 2012 7:11pm | report
NiasBalata

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NiasBalata

I think that you can play basketball in another day not with the workout day because 2 hours of cardio is too much after a workout & few people can do that!
your body is need enough rest to well recover & build muscle beside the healthy diet off course, you are definitely burning muscle like this way 2 hours cardio after workouts so as Obi said in this article train smart.

Dec 15, 2012 11:30pm | report
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 15'1"
  • wt: 181.28 lbs
  • bf: 17.3%
awlareau

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awlareau

2 hours is a little too much, it doesn't necessarily mean you burned muscle, but chances are you started to a little. Maybe cut it down to an hour. Make sure to get your carbs pre and post workout, as well as protein post workout, preferably within an hour afterwards. If you don't get protein an hour after lifting just be sure to get enough afterwards at some point.

Dec 17, 2012 7:03pm | report
NiasBalata

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NiasBalata

great & important article, thanks.

Dec 15, 2012 11:32pm | report
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 15'1"
  • wt: 181.28 lbs
  • bf: 17.3%
Tremayn

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Tremayn

I found that having a serving of whey before long cardio sessions to be very helpful. Without whey I used to feel dizzy and feel like throwing up. With whey I feel 100% and not even tired after an hour of cardio,

Long cardio sessions can make your body catabolic. Now that I am cutting I actually find myself rarely doing cardio besides a 5min warm up jog. I just do an intense workout that hits almost every muscle group for the point of not loosing what I gained, but I actually think the periods of high intensity and rests are more like HIIT. This coupled with a strong fat burner sees me loosing around 1cm on my waist per week and my diet isnt even that good.

Dec 16, 2012 2:50am | report
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 14'8"
  • wt: 176.37 lbs
  • bf: 26.3%
Gladitat0r

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Gladitat0r

what is then ideal cardio for bodybuilding between 15/20 minutes?

Dec 16, 2012 3:42pm | report
Showing 1 - 25 of 33 Comments

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