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How to Use Cardio (properly) To Help You Lose Weight - The Box Plan

Cardio may be an excellent method to help you reach your weight loss goals while also improving health and fitness. Why, then, doesn't it work for everyone? Simply put, they're doing it wrong. In this post I'll be going through how you can use cardio properly, to help with your weight loss goals.

Why adding cardio to your plan doesn't always work?

1. You need to do more than you think

If you want to lose weight from cardio alone, you need to do a lot of it. A research review showed that moderate intensity cardio between 150 and 250 mins per week only provided a small amount of weight loss. That's a minimum of 30mins 5 x per week. Finally, the good news is that if you do this much exercise in conjunction with a modest calorie deficit, weight loss is more apparent.

If you enjoy exercise, exceeding 250 minutes each week, or 45 minutes six days a week, has been demonstrated to help you a significant amount of weight.

2. Don't do too much!

Although we know that cardio can help with weight loss, don't overdo it! Despite what many people believe, more cardio can actually down regulate your metabolism (how many calories you burn at rest) meaning you burn less calories during the day. This is however, mostly seen in untrained individuals highlighting how the goal should be to try and get fitter.

From experience (over 300 metabolism tests), I consistently see that fitter individuals still have higher Resting Metabolic Rates (RMR), so don't worry too much that doing cardio will negatively impact your metabolism. The point is that you shouldn't overdo things at the start of your weight loss journey.

Research has also shown that severe calorie restriction along with exercise can actually prevent any additional weight loss. So if you're going to add cardio in to your plan, don't drastically cut calories as this could actually hinder your weight loss efforts.

3. Watch your NEAT

NEAT stands for None-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and represents all the energy you burn doing everything else besides sleeping, eating and formal exercise. Research shows that when you create an energy deficit by doing more exercise, then the amount of calories you burn from “non-exercise” movement such as fidgeting or ordinary daily activities also decreases.

4. You become fitter

The amount of energy required to exercise is known as movement economy. We know that as you get fitter, the amount of energy needed to perform the same activity decreases. Essentially, you become more efficient as a result of your fitness gains which doesn't always help with weight loss!

5. You lose weight

After weight loss, your body requires less energy to move, which results in a smaller calorie burn during exercise. One study showed how weight loss can lead to a reduction of up to 15% of calories during an a similar exercise session! This is why it’s important not to give up on cardio just because the weight isn’t falling off as quickly as you’d like.

So what can you do? The Box Nutrition and Performance Cardio Plan for Weight Loss

When it comes to your cardio, you can't expect to follow the same plan week by week and continue see results. Your plan needs to adjust with the change to your fitness. This means an increase in either volume (how long you exercise for) or intensity (how hard you exercise).


If you're looking to lose weight and get fitter, make sure you check out Ignite, our signature fat loss diet and exercise programme. Combining metabolic testing, a cardio and weight plan as well as nutrition programming.


Step 1 - Build up to 20mins of continuous exercise 3 x per week

If you're new to cardio, we want you to get to a point where you can exercise continuously for 20mins without having to stop. This can be walking, running, cycling or any machine in the gym.

How hard?

You should be looking to exercise at a moderate intensity, which will be at your aerobic threshold or zone 2 intensity. You'll know this if you've had a VO2Max or fat max test. If you haven't, then work at a pace where you can hold a conversation without being out of breath. The good thing about your easy sessions, is that they don’t need much recovery time, making it easier to do more.

Step 2 - Work towards 150mins of moderate exercise per week

Once you're comfortable exercising for 20mins without stopping, then it's time to add an extra 5-10% on top of what you're already doing each week until you get to 150mins of total cardio exercise. This could be either adding extra days, or increasing the duration you're exercising for.

Step 3 - Incorporate HIT training once or twice per week

HIT stands for high intensity interval training. This is where you alternate periods of high intensity work with low intensity rest. High Intensity Interval Training is a potent weapon to increase fitness and to help with fat loss, however, HIT places a lot of stress on your body, impedes recovery, can increase hunger and reduce NEAT. This is why I recommend to do it only once or twice per week.

A HIT session could look like this -

Other consideration

  1. Calories matter - Remember, the key to weight loss is a modest calorie deficit. Don't rely on cardio alone to see results, but use it as part of a well-rounded approach that includes resistance training and eating less. Ensure that your calorie deficit isn't too aggressive. Check out this post on setting your calorie deficit or use our Resting Metabolic Rate Test to know how much you should be eating for your weight loss goals.

  2. Do your weights - Incorporate some kind of resistance training to your plan to help to maintain muscle mass, which is crucial when weight loss as it helps to keep your metabolism elevated.

  3. Track your progress - Tracking your weight and body composition helps dictate when you need to adjust your plan. If you progress has stalled then it's likely time to either increase the amount, or intensity of what you're currently doing.

N.B. Tracking how well you're doing goes beyond the scales. Are you covering more distance in your exercise sessions? Are you finding the workouts getting more comfortable? Are you enjoying them? Do you have more energy during the day?

Bringing it all together

If you're looking to lose weight, adding some cardio to your plan is a great way to help, IF you do it properly. By following the steps above, you can gradually increase the amount and intensity of your cardio, which will help you see results. Just remember to track your progress and adjust your plan as needed to ensure you're seeing the results you want.

If you're looking to lose weight and get fitter, make sure you check out Ignite, our signature fat loss diet and exercise programme. Combining metabolic testing, a cardio and weight plan as well as nutrition programming.

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