This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

5 Cardio Fat Burning Mistakes You're Probably Making

how much cardio to burn fat

Wondering how much cardio it takes to burn fat? Check out these 5 cardio mistakes to help you clear up some misconceptions and maximize your fat burning potential.

You burn body fat when your body needs more energy than you've supplied it with food. When your body doesn't have recently eaten food to convert into energy it burns the fat on your body. That is the only way to burn fat, and any exercise you do simply helps you increase that energy deficit to encourage your body to burn your fat.

Now that we have that out of the way. How much cardio it takes to burn fat depends on many factors like caloric deficit, intensity, duration, your age, your level of cardiovascular conditioning and body fat percentage. Essentially it's impossible to give a straight answer. Rather than focusing on an arbitrary amount of time, instead focus on ways you may be limiting your fat burning potential. If you correct these 5 common cardio mistakes, you will be certain to see progress in your fat loss goal.

No. 1 Cardio Before Lifting

The most common cardio mistake I see is people doing it before lifting. When you do cardio before lifting you cause your muscles premature fatigue and use up energy that should be reserved for the more intense lifting portion of your workout. This directly affects how you'll be able to progress through your strength workouts as you won't have the maximum potential to lift heavier weight. You limit your ability to gain muscle and you will burn fewer calories after you workout is over.

Performing cardio before lifting also puts you at a greater risk for injury. As an example, after 30 minutes of jogging your lower body stabilizer muscles will be fatigued. If you then go and try to do squats you will experience less stabilization which can result in hip and back injuries.

No 2. Only Doing Cardio

It may be ingrained in your mind that in order to shed fat you head straight for the treadmill. However, studies show that cardio alone does little to help you burn fat. This is especially true for women as another study found that cardio resulted in little fat loss and at times fat gain.

If doing cardio is your only source of exercise you're severely limiting your long-term calorie burning potential. Strength training helps you burn more calories over time because you're adding lean muscle to your frame that requires more calories to be maintained. So, essentially, the more muscle you add to your frame the more calories you burn when doing absolutely nada. It's the better long-term strategy for your goals and weight maintenance. Cardio, on the other hand, loses its calorie burning efficacy over time as your body becomes used to a particular intensity.

Don't expect cardio alone to give you an athletic build. Cardio will not help you reshape your body. When you lose weight with cardio, the weight will be a mix of fat and muscle. The end result will simply be a smaller version of your current physique. So if you're looking for shapelier legs, and a lifted butt, cardio won't get you there. Instead, perform targeted strength train exercises that cause the muscle stress which leads to lean muscle growth.

A combination of cardio and strength training is a one-two punch method of firming up your muscles and then revealing them. The end result is a shapelier-athletic frame. If you scroll through your mental archive you'll notice sometimes people lose a considerable amount of weight, their physiques still don't have an athletic appearance to it. That is because their primary method of losing weight was cardio.

No 3. Only Doing Steady State Cardio

If you're like me, doing the same steady state cardio day after day becomes a snooze fest. So one day you start bringing a book to read to get you through it. Then you start loading movies to watch. It gets old and it can start to feel like a chore. You should also be striving to get some level of enjoyment out of all the exercise you do. If it doesn't feel like a complete chore, you have a better shot at making it a lifestyle change. The best way to prevent this is to mix up your style of cardio. Start incorporating HIIT cardio into your workouts like plyometrics, and drills to keep things fresh. Those styles of cardio burn more calories than low-intensity steady state cardio. They also challenge fast twitch lower body muscle fibers for building curvy legs. Other ways to get in cardio include participating in fun activities that also have a cardio benefit like league sports.

No 4. Not Increasing Intensity

Not only can cardio be dreadfully boring if you don't add variety, but it loses its effectiveness. Over time your body adapts to your training and where you once could burn 200 calories in 30 minutes of running, now you have to run 40 minutes. You should be constantly increasing the intensity of your cardio to confuse your body. If your cardio of choice is running, try faster speeds, different distances, and interval speeds.

No 5. Out-Eating Your Cardio

You may have fallen into the trap of out-eating your workout. It's easy to think that spending some time in the gym means you can sneak in a few more snacks. The truth is, however, that your diet is "king" because within minutes you can out-eat a workout that took you an hour to complete.

Further, if you do not increase the intensity of your cardio or add variety, your body will adapt to your training and burn fewer calories over time. Even if you're sticking to your diet, it could become more calories than your body needs, because your body is burning fewer calories from your usual training. So unless you shake things up, you can still out-eat your cardio workout without realizing it.