Do you need to do cardio for fat loss?

When it comes to losing weight, most people imagine that they need to get on a cardio machine for hours at a time. If you walk into a gym at any time during the Spring season, especially before spring break at colleges, you’ll see tons of people running their butts off on treadmills.

Now that science and training have progressed, the common question is if people still need to do cardio to get that shredded body.

The short answer is no, you don’t get cardio to get a lean physique.

However, there are some things you should think about before you add it into your routine or cut it out completely.

How do you prefer to workout?

Knowing how you like to lift and exercise is essential to staying consistent in the gym. For myself, I’m not the biggest fan of cardio, but I do like to add it in for the mental clarity it gives me. Weights are my bread and butter at the gym, but there’s something so calming about doing cardio every now and then.

Most people, however, are not as obsessed with cardio as they are when they’re trying to lose weight.

If you dread cardio, you can keep in mind that it’s not essential. If you like cardio, you can keep it in your routine.

If you don’t like a type of exercise, you’re far more likely to quit. When I was training clients at my gym in college, the biggest thing was finding exercises they enjoyed instead of exercises I tried to force them to enjoy. I mean, some things were necessary (PLEASE STRETCH YOUR HIP FLEXORS, EVERYONE.), but for the most part, they were more likely to keep going if they enjoyed it.

Know that most people who look shredded lift weights

Cardio, while it has tremendous benefits for your heart, will rarely get you that ripped physique you’re imagining in your mind.

Fun activity: go to Google and search for “marathon runners vs sprinters”.

I’d bet a lot of money that the body you most likely have in mind as “goals” looks closer to the sprinter than the marathon runner. Most marathon runners are thin and don’t have a lot of muscles, because having a huge frame over long distances is not beneficial. (Also that much cardio will deplete a lot of your muscles.)

NOTE: I’m not saying all cardio will make you some small, tiny human that as lost all their muscles. A lot of bodybuilder bros are scared of cardio for that reason. It takes INCREDIBLE amounts of cardio over extended periods of time to hurt your muscles that much. Doing a handful of cardio to lose some weight is not going to take your six-pack and turn it into sludge overnight.

With that being said, cardio is not the most efficient way to lose weight.

Anyone who has done cardio and weight training knows that weight training can be far more strenuous. Yes, when you’re starting to get back into the gym, you’ll burn a ton of calories because your body is not an efficient machine yet.

Our bodies were designed to adapt quickly, so over time you need to make your cardio longer and more strenuous in order to receive the same benefits.

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After exercise benefits of cardio vs weight training

Current studies show that weight training helps your body burn more calories for the rest of the day (up to 38 hours!) after one good session. Sprinting is much closer to weight lifting, but rarely are people doing sprints in the gym.

When it comes to weight training, the more muscle you have, the higher your basic calorie maintenance needed to maintain that weight increases.

While building muscle takes time, if you stay consistent with it you’re going to see more benefits over the long term than you would with cardio.

Put simply, when you do cardio, your body becomes more efficient and you have to work harder. With weight lifting, your body becomes stronger and you burn more calories each day.

That’s not to say weight lifting is some easy thing you can breeze through and that it’s not hard, but the long-term benefits when it comes to weight loss are better.

When to use cardio

One reason I like to add in cardio when I’m losing weight is that I’m personally not a fan of sacrificing food to dropdown.

Every human has a certain amount of calories they need to maintain their weight every single day. This is called their basal metabolic rate.

To lose weight, you need to drop your total daily calories burned below that number. You can do this by either cutting your food below that line or increasing your exercise every single day.

I’m not saying that simply adding in cardio will remove the need for restricting food completely, but I am saying that between the two choices, I’m going to work out harder.

However, if you’re a person who is not as emotionally attached to food and cutting out your extra calories in the day through your diet doesn’t sound so bad, then you can go that route.

When you see the scale starting to get stubborn, adding in a dose of cardio here and there can help you move the needle again. A future article will be coming out on what to do when the scale gets stubborn, but for now all you need to know is that cardio can be a good tool on top of a solid program, but it shouldn’t be the entire basis of your program.

Types of cardio to consider

With all that being said, cardio is undoubtedly great for your heart. Just avoiding it completely to curl weights is not a good long-term strategy, either.

While just hopping on the treadmill or elliptical is the most common forms of cardio, there are some other types to consider:
Swimming – Swimming is considerably easier on the joints than running, especially on your knees.
HIIT – This is called high-intensity interval training and is essentially where you train at a high intensity (usually with weights) for short sprints at a time. For example, medicine ball throws against a wall for multiple rounds of 30-second spurts.
Team sports – when we’re younger, most of our parents sign us up for team sports. Whether you enjoyed it or not is one thing, but as an adult, they’re 10x more fun. Keep in mind, a lot of adult team sports include drinking, so that could easily damage your fitness goals, but there’s no doubt that keeping that competitive spirit alive can be a lot of fun.

That’s pretty much all you need to know. Cardio, just like other forms of exercise, can be a tool to help you hit your goals. It’s not an end-all-be-all to weight loss, so if you think you need to slave over your treadmill while watching GOT reruns, you can breathe easy knowing there are other ways.

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Life Is a Battle – Stay Strong and Prepared

If you haven’t seen Cinderella Man starring Russell Crowe, put it on your list immediately.

When I talk about staying mentally strong, this is one movie I love to reference.

There is a fine line between being a positive person and preparing for adversity. James Braddock finds himself down on his luck after being a successful boxer and needs to fight through the hard times for his family.

This doesn’t require just physical endurance (he’s a boxer and also does physical labor on the docks), but mental endurance as well. To wake up every day, put on his outfit, and keep fighting for every single scrap he can get.

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This requires a different kind of endurance than just being able to put weights up and down.

On your journey to a better body, do not overlook developing your mental strength as well. There are a ton of people out there with rock-hard abs and zero ability to actually handle stress.

There will always be unforeseen circumstances that come your way, things that happen that you have no control over. Assuming that you’ll just “deal with it” when it comes is nonsense. You have to mentally prepare yourself for things around the corner that you don’t see coming.

Muscles grow with resistance, and the mind is no different.

There are tons of people who can’t handle an ounce of resistance. They crumble to the smallest amounts of adversity.

There will always be times in life where we must find that tough warrior within and battle our way through life. Something will happen to our families, our loved ones, or our own lives, and we must fight to pull ourselves out of the situation.

Instead of building the fundamental habits for a better life, people waste their time playing video games, smoking weed (I live in Denver, so this is incredibly common), scrolling through Facebook, drinking their savings away at bars, watching football,  watching reality TV… It’s all a waste of time, especially if you aren’t where you want to be in life.

If you aren’t making as much money as you want, don’t have your dream body, aren’t learning anything new, or progressing toward any goal you want, why would you waste a second flushing your time down the toilet instead of taking the action steps needed to move your life forward?

This is something I constantly battle, and so do most of the people I know. Time vampires are everywhere, waiting to suck the life out of you.

Of course, breaks are good, but at the sacrifice of your goals, any breaks should be destroyed.

Build your body. Build your mind.

Wonder Woman – Gal Gadot Workout (And A Bonus Amazons Workout)

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Ah, Wonder Woman.

The movie that changed the lives of millions.

Every time I think of the scene of Wonder Woman putting on the crown from Antiope and marching into No Man’s Land… My body feels something very real.

I’m currently reading Women Who Run With The Wolves, and in it the author discusses the idea of the Wild Woman archetype. It’s something inside every woman that we’ve lost touch with through the years.

It’s a lot deeper than just a woman out in nature. It’s the basis of who we are when we’re allowed to get in touch with our deepest feelings.

“The archetype of the Wild Woman and all that stands behind her is a patroness to all painters, writers, sculptors, dancers, thinkers, prayermakers, seekers, finders–for they are all busy with the work of invention, and that is the instinctive nature’s main occupation. As in all art, she resides in the guts, not in the head. She can track and run and summon and repel. She can sense, camouflage, and love deeply. She is intuitive, typical, and normative. She is utterly essential to women’s mental and soul health.” – Women who Run With The Wolves

This is something I believe Wonder Woman touches on. That gut feeling. That story that we all feel within our bones but we’re unable to articulate. The reason we feel restless most days.

I’ve seen a lot of movies with women kicking ass. They’re tough, they can shoot guns really well, they are great with stunts… but Wonder Woman was something different in a way I’ve never seen in film.

While you read through this article, feel free to listen to the theme music. (Warning: It will make you want to run around and start jumping on top of every piece of furniture in your home.)

If you’ve followed any of my character workouts, you know I like to break these workouts down into different parts:

  1. What the actor said about getting in shape for the role
  2. My take on the workout (I worked as a personal trainer for years, so I combine that knowledge with what the actor said… also because finding the actual workouts always seems impossible)
  3. The diet
  4. The mentality behind their characters, so you can use it to become mentally stronger
  5. The gear you’d need if you wanted to become the superhero

Gal Gadot’s Workout

If you want to cut right to the chase, this is what her trainer said about the workout and here are two women going through that workout so you can see how it worked.

Gal worked out for six hours a day for six months. But keep in mind, that also included sword training, horseback riding, and other skills she needed for the movie. So although 6 hours sounds intimidating, you could easily do it in less.

Overall, it looks like a lot of high-intensity whole-body training. Every exercise had about 6-to-8 weight training and metabolic exercises.

Each day, you could pick between the following (but be sure to balance each exercise out throughout the week):

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Push-ups
  • Planks
  • Burpees
  • Bear crawls
  • Mountain climbers
  • Tricep dips
  • Calf raises
  • Donkey Kicks
  • Overhead press
  • Romanian deadlifts
  • Goblet squat
  • Hanging leg raise
  • Bent-over rows
  • Bench press
  • Rope crunches
  • Pull ups (substitute with lat pulldowns if you can’t do them)
  • Overhead squat
  • Crab walk
  • Burpee broad jump

Gal said she works out with two minutes of exercise and two minutes of rest. (Be sure to warm up, too! Gal warmed up with rows, mainly to keep herself safe so there were no injuries before filming.)

So, theoretically, it would look like:

Monday: Squats, mountain climbers, overhead squat, tricep dips, planks

Tuesday: Bear crawls, burpees, tricep dips, overhead press, hanging leg raise, burpee broad jump

Wednesday: Bent-over rows, calf raises, donkey kicks, lat pulldowns (or pull ups if you can do them)

Thursday: Deadlifts, planks, goblet squat, rope crunches, crab walk

Friday: Push-ups, Romanian deadlifts, hanging leg raise, bench press

Then add more exercises as you become stronger. It’s up to you if you want to do things in circuits or one at a time. Doing them in circuits increases your endurance and usually helps with weight loss (depending on your diet), or do them in sets.

(Circuit means you do one exercise, pause for a few seconds, then go right into the next exercise and when you’re done you start at the first exercise again. Sets means you do something like deadlift, then wait about 30-60 seconds, then deadlift again for about three sets.)

The Amazons Workout

Between all of the characters, the Amazons are a little more #swole than Wonder Woman herself. Now, to be fair, Wonder Woman is an actual super hero. She’s given superhuman powers as gifts by the Greek gods.

Also, to keep it real, Gal Gadot would have needed a lot, a lot, a lot of time to get as big as the other women on set (spoilers: not everyone in the movie industry is on steroids, even though that’s the common narrative that people say because it makes them feel better for not working out).

Don’t get me wrong. Gal is in incredible shape, but you can see a lot of the Amazon women had been training for years before they were in the movie. They’re #swolegoals for me.

Overall, the women trained for about four months together. (That video breaks down a good overall idea how their workouts looked. ALSO WARNER BROTHERS PLEASE LET ME COME WORKOUT WITH ALL OF YOU FOR THE NEXT ONE. They’ll never see this but COULD YOU IMAGINE? Okay, nerd moment over.)

A few of the actresses who are fellow Amazonians in the film talked about their past experiences in the fitness world. (The workouts are toward the end.) A lot of them were professional athletes, cops, and fighters before they came on set, which gave them an advantage.

To look like the Amazons vs. Gal Gadot in the movie, you’d train in a completely different style. If you want that look, your best bet is Crossfit or Olympic/powerlifting-style training. Basically, lots of heavy weights and lots of food. You’d follow something much closer to the Emily Blunt – Edge of Tomorrow workout I posted or Jim Stoppani’s Shortcut to Size.

The Diet

When sites break down food for actresses, it always kills me. They almost never take into account someone’s height or muscle mass.

Gal Gadot is 5’10” and every website pegs her around 128 lbs. There’s just no. way. she’s only 128 lbs for this role. It creates an unrealistic expectation for women when they step on the scale. Gal herself said she gained about 17 lbs for this role, so she was closer to 145, so keep that in your mind.

Gal also said she focused on three main things: meals based on green veggies and protein, drinking 1 gallon of water each day, and reminding herself that food is fuel.

I love this approach.

Before you eat something, really analyze how something is going to make you feel.

Those cookies are not going to make you feel well in a few hours no matter how good they sound in the moment (I’m writing this while I’m on a cookie hangover and feeling horrible today, so it’s more of a personal reminder).

Food IS fuel. It’s the basis of everything. Start eating healthy and then have a day of binging and see how you feel the next day.

The water tip is genius, too. Most people do not drink as much water as they should. Period. I thought I drank a lot of water until I started measuring and realized it’s barely even 1/3 of a gallon.

If you want a run-down on different diets from the Amazon warriors: here’s a good overview. Basically, lots of protein, don’t be scared of fats (seriously, ladies, fats are just fine), and timing carbs around workouts.

The Mentality

Wonder Woman is an extremely complex character while at the same time being an extremely simple character. This is going to dive into the complexity of our world, and if you’re just here for the workout and diet, you don’t need to read any further. However, if you’re like me and you love to dive into the complexity of embodying a character you want to workout like and become, keep reading.

To get into Wonder Woman’s state of mind, you have to pursue truth, honesty, love, justice, and compassion before anything else. There’s a reason she struck such a cord with so many people: because we see these values as something lacking around us and within us.

This sounds like an easy idea, but to apply it at every given moment is not always easy. For example, in the movie we see her in a state of panic when she sees men injured from battle, a horse struggling to get through mud while is owner whips him hard (something she struggles to understand), and a mother and baby crying.

She’s overwhelmed.

This is so far from the world she came from where everyone took care of one another.

Look, I’ll keep this from getting too political, but it is politics/greed/fear/anger/etc that has made the world the one she wouldn’t recognize compared to her home. She loves everyone who is struggling and shares that love with the world and those around her. You can’t love Wonder Woman and consider her a role model without at least attempting to embody the traits she believes in the most.

Wonder Woman is ready at any given moment to give everything for the sake of helping someone.

When Steve lies to his bosses, she’s complexed. There is no lying where she comes from. They say what they feel and believe. Although he is a spy and uses it for the greater good, as you go throughout your life, simply think about the times you want to use a white lie to make something easier instead of speaking your truth.

Wonder Woman never backs down from a fight. She will always stand in her truth, no matter the consequences. She walks onto No Man’s Land because she sees no other option. It’s what she must do.

You can use the Wonder Woman mentality in your every day life.

Every day you can choose love over fear.

Every day you can get yourself to the gym because it’s what you must do.

Granted, going to the gym doesn’t feel as life-and-death as saving the world, but it’s also important.

The Gear

The Lasso of Truth. Unfortunately this isn’t something you can buy at the corner store (could you IMAGINE if there was a real lasso of truth?). However, it’s something you can mentally create by learning how to tell when people are lying. An interesting fact about the lasso is that it only breaks when Wonder Woman won’t accept the truth she’s been told. Accepting the truth when you’re told it is important when it comes to embodying everything Wonder Woman stands for.

Bracelets – Technically called the Bracelets of Submission, these bracelets are used to absorb incoming attacks, which is why she can use them to deflect bullets and anything else that intends to harm her. According to Wikipedia, “They were an original creation by William Moulton Marston as an allegory for his philosophy on loving submission and the emotional control associated with it in order to balance out the strength of the human ego.” Meaning, you have the power inside of you to absorb any attacks that come your way. (Okay, it can’t stop bullets, but emotional/verbal attacks aimed at you.)

Tiara – In the movie, the tiara is given to her by her aunt, Antiope. Diana only puts it on before walking into No Man’s Land. Meaning, she only puts it on when she’s ready to embrace who she really is and to pursue her mission in life. There are a million ways you could apply this lesson to your own life, but if you truly want joy, you must find your purpose and pursue it relentlessly.

 

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(Generic disclaimer: *As always with any fitness program, talk to your doctor first / see a trainer / it’s not my fault if you hurt yourself / please don’t sue me / you assume all risk / etc etc. Also, if any exercise ever hurts in a bad way, stop doing it immediately.)

What superhero workout do you want to see next? Leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list!

Update: Jim Stoppani’s No Limits Challenge

If you’ve been around this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know I’m a big fan of challenges.

There’s something to staying accountable, sending in pictures every week, and staying on schedule. That’s also why a lot of people hire trainers, so they can have that kind of accountability.

This isn’t going to be a long post, just an update. Some people have messaged me like “R U ALIVE?” and to be honest, some says I’m not sure. I quit coffee for a day last week (lololol, I know, a day) and regretted it immediately. (If you do want to stay updated, come say hi on Instagram!)

If you have a problem staying consistent (a problem most people have), few things beat a challenge to stay focused.

Fitness is the things that keeps my entire life on track. When I’m lifting, things are going well. When I’m not, I’ve noticed I seem to struggle to stay organized and focused. I’m not sure if it’s the consistency or the stress relief that comes from lifting every morning, but it’s just one of the to-do’s that’s part of the foundation of a happy life for me.

I’m not sure if I’ll be updating the challenge weekly or just do a wrap-up at the end, but either way, you’re welcome to join me!

What You Need to Know About Fish Oil

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Most of us are aware that fish oil is good. It helps your joints, your brain, reducing risks of diabetes, arthritis, it can help your mood… the list goes on.

However, in my never-ending quest to call out the supplement industry on the amount of BS they sell consumers, there are so many horrible fish oil supplements out there.

Right off the bat, according to Labdoor, most fish oils are not even accurate in their labeling. Take a look: here. I’m not a fan of wasting money, and I’m sure you aren’t either. If one of the supplements you take is at the bottom of the list, don’t buy that brand again.

Keep in mind, Labdoor mainly tests for label accuracy and chemicals that hurt your body in the supplement. That DOESN’T mean the ones at the top of the list provide enough omega-3’s, it just simply testing if you are getting what the label says you are.

So, don’t just go to the top of the list and assume those are the best there is.

Why you need omega-3’s

Your body can’t produce omega-3’s. It’s something you need to get in a supplement. Of course, ideally you’d be getting it from your food each day, but not everyone can afford eating quality fish each day. Not to mention, a lot of fish is farmed (which can be good or bad depending on the fish), has mercury, or the label is lying. (Source #1, Source #2.)

^ Seriously, though. You should read those articles. As a passionate sushi-eater, it makes me livid. I haven’t figured out how to guarantee that your fish is what it says it is, but the day I do I’ll be blogging about it.

The benefits of omega-3’s

“University of Pittsburgh researchers recently reported that in adults age 35-54, the higher their blood levels of DHA, the better their performance on tests of nonverbal reasoning and mental flexibility, working memory, and vocabulary.” Source.

Fish oil can also help your body fight against air pollution. Source. For me, this is huge. I live in Denver and am moving to Los Angeles within the next year. Both cities have horrible air pollution, basically where the recommended level is “Don’t go outside” every single day. (Yeah, you won’t find that on a travel guide.)

For lifters, fish oil has also been shown to help with muscle-building. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why or how, but they believe it has something to do with assisting muscle protein synthesis.

How much you need

Generally, you need 1,500 mg of DHA and 1,500 of EPA per day.

Now, when you look at most fish oils, they barely have ~100-150 DHA per pill. So yes, you’d need to take a lot of pills to get your daily amount. Also, most brands will make claims like, “Doctors only recommend 300 DHA and EPA a day,” which is not true. They just want to claim their amount is right.

How can they do that? “The FDA does not regulate omega-3 dosages, and the manufacturer is responsible for determining that the serving sizes recommended are safe for the public. FDA approval is not needed to sell any dietary supplements containing omega-3, provided these ingredients were approved for use before 1994.” (Source.) THIS is exactly why I eye-roll at so much of the supplement industry.

However, there are also rarely any pills with an equal amount of DHA and EPA, so you basically are stuck either overdosing or underdosing for each.

In case you’re like, “WHAT DO I TAKE?”, I take Jim Stoppani’s Omega Jym. I’m not linking it because I don’t want anyone to think I’m getting some kind of monetary kick back for writing this. That’s truly what I take. In 4 pills I get everything I need daily and on days where I go on a sushi binge or eat fish, I cut back.

What else you need to know

You can also take your fish oil in liquid form. Not everyone can or likes to swallow pills daily. Here’s some info on liquid vs pill fish oil.

There are also vegetarian options out there for omega-3’s, but that would require additional research depending on what you’re looking for.

Be sure to read the entire label. Most companies include other BS into their supplements.

For example, a quick google search of algae omega-3’s as an alternative brought up a pill that has carrageenan and caramel color as additional ingredients. You just want a fish oil, why do they feel the need to add an essay of other ingredients?

My goal is always to arm you with the information, research, and studies you need to know so you can make the best decision for you and your health.