Achieve your optimum health and fitness for a lifetime!


By John Litteral 12-9-22


During your cut down cycle, cardiovascular training will speed up the calorie burning process INITIALLY, but your body will adapt to cardio training after a while, and it will be less effective for weight loss the longer that you do it because your body will adapt to it and cause metabolic adaptation, therefore slowing down your metabolism. High intensity cardiovascular training will negatively impact your muscle mass and strength. Many of the top bodybuilders use cardiovascular training when cutting down for competition, but it is usually done with low to moderate intensity, such as walking. Running is the most overrated cardiovascular training FOR LOSING WEIGHT. Walking is better than running if you are ONLY trying to lose weight and keep as much muscle as possible. The only thing that running will accomplish better than walking is improving your running. Granted, if you are training for sports, running can be beneficial to increase your heart and lung strength for high intensity sports. If you enjoy running or other high intensity cardio training, then keep in mind that it will produce negative adaptations that will slow down muscle and strength gains, and your metabolism will adjust and adapt, therefore losing those initial benefits that you experience at the beginning. There are some wonderful low to moderate intensity cardiovascular options such as walking, hiking, treadmill, stair-climber, row machine, bicycle, elliptical, etc. Any of those options will allow you to get a good low to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise session.

During low-intensity exercises, the heart beats well below its maximum rate. As exercise intensity increases, the heart rate moves closer to its maximum rate. Low-intensity exercises raise the heart rate to 40 to 50 percent of an individual’s maximum heart rate.

Moderate-intensity exercises increase the heart rate to 50 to 70 percent of the maximum heart rate according to the American Heart Association, while vigorous-intensity exercises elevate the heart rate to 70 to 80 percent of the maximum heart rate.1

For cardio, I hike and take walks. I increase the intensity of my walks by walking on streets with lots of incline. If I do cardio on the treadmill, I will put the incline on a 10-15 incline level and walk for about 30 minutes. I used to run a lot for my cardiovascular exercise, but as expected, I would lose muscle mass and strength at a faster rate than with walking or hiking.

I have trained in martial arts throughout the years and have done lots of kickboxing training on a heavy punching bag. That is a very high intensity cardiovascular workout, but it differs from running in a variety of ways. Of course, the high intensity cardiovascular training will slow down your muscle and strength gains if you do it a lot, but you will make a lot of gains in your physical appearance and your athletic ability. Training on a heavy bag is the one high intensity training that I would recommend for a noncompetitive bodybuilder during a cut down cycle as long as it is done moderately. I would recommend not exceeding 30-minute sessions for three times a week, unless of course you are more concerned with martial arts training than your bodybuilding routine. That recommendation goes for any type of hobby or sport. If you enjoy doing high intensity activities and sports, and you enjoy your bodybuilding equally, then you can make progress in both things. Your bodybuilding will make you stronger for whatever sport or activity that you do, but keep in mind that the high intensity training and activities will slow down muscle and strength gains.


Unfortunately, most people are under the impression that cardiovascular training is the ultimate way to burn calories and to speed up your metabolism. Granted, cardio is a means by which to burn extra calories to lose weight, and it makes a great “tool” in your arsenal for bodybuilding, but it should not be looked upon as the primary way to lose body fat. There are other tools in the arsenal of bodybuilding that is more effective for losing body fat and keeping it off, and more sustainable for a lifetime to be the primary source for losing body fat than cardio. The most effective and sustainable way to speed up your metabolism for the long term is to build more muscle mass. Bigger muscles burn more calories than smaller muscles. Bigger muscles burn more calories than smaller muscles, not only during activities, but also at rest. As we know, resistance training is the ultimate way to build muscle mass. You also burn calories during resistance training sessions. Cardio exercise can burn more calories than resistance training per session, but cardio does not build muscle. Cardio can contribute to muscle loss, especially high intensity and high volumes of it, and it contributes to muscle loss even more when combined with a diet that is calorie deficient. High volumes of cardio along with a calorie deficiency can lead to rapid weight loss initially, but it will result in your body making adjustments and adaptations that will slow down your metabolism (metabolic adaptation), therefore making cardio and cutting calories less effective, while at the same time losing muscle and strength. That is why many people who work hard to lose weight will start off losing weight quickly because they are dieting and doing lots of cardio, but eventually their results will plateau, and they will stop losing weight while training and dieting, even though they are still training just as hard. Then what often happens is they will either get burned out and frustrated because they are still working hard but not getting the same results as they did initially, or they will increase the volume of cardio and cut more calories in order to continue the weight loss. That often leads to people eventually gaining all their weight back because the high-volume cardio and calorie deficiency has slowed down their metabolism, and they get disheartened because they cannot maintain that pace for the long haul. It is just not sustainable for the long term.

Even though you may not burn as many calories during a resistance training session as you will during a cardio session, the resistance training leads to muscle growth. The bigger the muscles get, the more that your body will burn calories throughout the day. With bigger muscles, you will burn more calories than with smaller muscle even when you sleep. Bigger muscles require more calories; therefore, your body will continue to feed those muscles at all times.

Having bigger muscles can be compared to a car having a bigger engine. A car with a four cylinder burns less fuel than a car with a six or eight cylinder. It doesn’t matter if you are driving down the highway or if your car is idling in a parking lot, a bigger engine is going to burn more fuel than a smaller engine. Bigger muscles are going to burn more calories (fuel) than smaller muscles, whether you are walking your dog through the neighborhood or sitting on the couch watching a movie. This also means that with bigger muscles, you can eat more food and get more nutrition, therefore many other benefits come because your body is not under the same kind of stress load when you are doing lots of cardio and eating less and getting less nutrition. Lots of physical stress and restricted nutritional intake will lead to hormone imbalances, decrease in sex drive, moodiness, lethargy, etc. I will go into greater detail in the following chapter concerning diet and nutrition.

Burning calories with cardio is effective for the short term, and can be considered, as fitness expert Sal Di Stephano refers to it as, “burning calories manually.” When you do a cardio session, you will usually burn around 250 to 500 calories during that session. But when doing resistance training and building bigger muscles, you not only burn calories during the training sessions, but your bigger muscles will burn more calories throughout the day and even while you sleep, than if your muscles are smaller. This can be compared in an analogy to two different ways to create incomes to make a living, such as active income and passive income. An active income is the income that you make while doing some sort of work, such as a weekly salary for coming to work every day and performing a job. If you stop going to that job, then you would stop making money. That is a good analogy of how cardio for burning calories works. You can burn calories manually with cardio, but once you stop, it stops. But a more productive way to produce an income is by a passive income. A passive income is an income that you will make whether you are there working or whether you are asleep. Examples of passive incomes are…

  1. rental property
  2. owning a business: once those systems are developed and you get the right people in place, you can have a business that effectively runs without your involvement
  3. private investing: returns from investing in a business  
  4. Interest income: drawing interest from money in bank
  5. Royalties: earning royalties from things like books sales, music, etc.

Building muscle is similar to developing a business. It takes work, time, discipline, and commitment to get everything set in place, but once you do, then you can reap the benefits of it without constant thought and effort put out 24/7. Just as a passive income has the potential to produce far more wealth than an active income, building bigger muscles burns more calories overall than just doing cardiovascular training.


1 The Relationship Between Heart Rate and Exercise Intensity by Anthony L. White Updated August 21, 2019

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