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Does Cardio Burn Fat? (Is It Good For Weight-Loss)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Last updated: September 30, 2022

As a personal fitness and strength coach, I often deal with clients who just want to lose some unwanted fat cells or athletes who are going through a targeted cutting phase.

And the question always comes up whether a cardio exercise routine actually works to burn fat effectively. Some people point out that the calorie expenditure might not be high enough.

Others argue that it’s an effective way to achieve a calorie deficit.

So, our team at Total Shape decided to do some more research.

Quick Summary

  • A cardio exercise routine is often something people turn to when they want to get rid of fat tissue.
  • But there are only certain types of cardio that shrink your fat cells efficiently and burn more calories consistently without your body adapting.
  • Switching around your cardio exercises plays a key role in consistent fat loss.

Is Cardio Good For Burning Fat?

Using a treadmill for cardio

Yes, cardio is good for burning fat and achieving a healthy diet.

However, it’s important to understand that there are different types of aerobic exercise, and they will impact your body and metabolism in different ways.

It’s also important to understand that scientific research indicates that cardio is more effective in getting rid of fat than strength training [1]. What does that mean?

Essentially, you need to up the intensity levels regularly to avoid hitting a plateau or even weight gain.

The more intense you push your cardio sessions, the better the effect will be on fat reserves [2].

Let’s look at some options.

What Type Of Cardio Burns Fat?

Cardio workouts using stationary machines

Highly intense cardio workout sessions will burn more fatty tissue, and there are a few ways to approach this [3].

Cardio Machines

If you regularly head to the gym, then the easiest thing you can do is to try out a few different cardiovascular exercise machines.

The typical ones you’ll find are:

  • Treadmill
  • Elliptical
  • Rower
  • Stationary bike
  • Stair climber

Now, there is cardio that you do to improve heart health and general endurance. But the cardio you need to do for weight loss has to be a bit more intense.

And the last thing you want to do is a leisurely jog on a treadmill for 15 minutes, thinking that this will make a big difference.

Related Articles:

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT burns as many calories as a cardio machine, but it does this in a much shorter time frame [4]. This is something that suits many people who don’t have a huge amount of time to spare to go to the gym.

A typical HIIT session will combine cardio machines and resistance training, with the idea being that you push your body as hard as possible for 30 seconds and then take a short rest.

The more you push through different heart rates at intervals, the more calories you could burn to lose weight.

Steady-State Cardio

Using a rowing machine for cardio

This is typically a moderate-intensity or low-intensity cardio. For example, you might go for a run and never change your speed.

One problem with this approach is that people often go for multiple short runs.

This is less likely to help you lose fat as your body will first use glycogen and glucose reserves [5]. Only when those reserves are gone will you start metabolizing fat.

With just a few short runs, you won’t impact all that fatty stuff as you’ll burn fewer calories.

CrossFit

This is a form of HIIT that involves cardio and weight training to build up muscle mass and burn fat [6].

The strength training isn’t necessarily designed to turn you into a bodybuilder shape.

But there is a heavy emphasis on burning more calories from fat to look lean and mean.

CrossFit gyms are a great way to get a maximum amount of effective cardio with instructor-led sessions to keep you on track.

Related Article: Is CrossFit Worth It?

How Does It Burn Body Fat?

Pinching body fats on belly

Cardio burns fat by first reducing the available energy stored in blood glucose and then forcing the body to burn more calories from other sources.

And the most readily available source when blood glucose drops is fatty tissue in muscles and around the thighs and the belly.

According to Harvard research, a 185-pound person could burn up to 440 calories in 30 minutes on a stationary rowing machine [7].

That’s more than you have in glucose reserves, and when you row at a higher intensity, it will help to lose weight.

Is It Essential For Losing Fat?

No, cardio isn’t essential for losing fat, but it’s one of the more efficient ways to achieve consistent weight loss.

Regularly pushing your body to a stage where your breathing and heart rate speed up a lot will impact your base metabolic rate [8].

You’ll certainly also need a healthy diet, but it’s amazing how your body will adapt.

“The increase in metabolic activity from exercise can outlast your workout. In fact, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) can last for more than a day after you stop exercising, depending on the duration and intensity of your physical activity.”

- Kamal Patel, Editor, & Co-Founder of Examine.com

FAQs

Is Too Much Cardio Bad for Burning off Fat?

Yes, doing too much cardio can be bad for burning off fat. As you add more strain to muscles, it can reduce metabolic rates making your body less effective at burning calories.

Is Fasted Cardio Better for Burning off Fat?

Fasted cardio can be better for burning off fat mass. However, for most people, it will be better to focus on increasing cardio training intensity to burn calories more effectively.

Take The Right Cardio Approach

You will need to do some regular cardio to effectively achieve your ideal body composition. High-intensity intervals, running, and rowing should all play a role in getting to that healthy weight.

And to speed up your weight loss journey, you should consider adding a fat burner designed for runners to your daily routine as well.

Certain nutritional fat-burning ingredients can get you to your goals that bit faster, even if it’s not going to be overnight.

Try out the combination of such supplements with regular cardio sessions, and you’ll soon notice the difference it makes.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3544497/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2991639/
  3. https://www.nature.com/articles/0803781
  4. https://time.com/5393676/which-exercise-burns-the-most-calories-heres-what-science-says/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6019055/
  6. https://www.crossfit.com/what-is-crossfit
  7. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-for-people-of-three-different-weights
  8. https://examine.com/nutrition/is-my-slow-metabolism-stalling-my-weight-loss/
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