Wise Eats Guide to Cardio

When I first got into fitness back in 2009, I lost 90lbs mostly by running, since it was all I knew. Years later, once I decided to get in great shape and optimize my health instead of focusing only on weight loss, I turned to popular programs like P90X and Insanity, but those didn’t work for me. I assumed that the more cardio I did, the better shape I would get in. WRONG. I wasted a tremendous amount of time and energy working in programs that failed to get results, but I did learn one important lesson along the way: to absolutely fall in LOVE with working out. And that’s what I’m hoping to help you do today.

That’s me doing P90X in 2013. I had so much to learn!

In this article, I’m going to discuss the benefits of cardiovascular exercise, how much of it you should do, what types I recommend, share my current routine, and help you decide what type of cardio is right for YOU.

Benefits of Cardio

Cardiovascular fitness, whether it be from low, moderate, or high-intensity, has amazing benefits:

  • Burns calories to maintain a healthy energy balance
  • Improves heart health
  • Increases lung capacity
  • Reduces risk of heart attack, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and cancer
  • Boosts energy and mood
  • Helps you sleep better

The question is, what kind of cardio should you be doing and how often? Well, that depends on your fitness level and goals. The first step is evaluating your current state of health and physical abilities/limitations, for which you should consult a doctor. Assuming you’ve already done that and are good to go, let’s proceed.

After I lost 90lbs, I jumped from program to program and yo-yo dieted for years. I had no idea what I was doing.

Here’s how I look at it:

  • If your goal is to build muscle and improve your physique, focus your attention on weight lifting 3-6 days per week and minimize cardio to 1-3 days per week.
  • If your goal is to run a race or improve cardiovascular endurance, focus on cardio and minimize strength training.
  • If your goal is improving overall health and fitness, use a mix of strength training and cardio.

How Much Cardio Should You Do?

If you’re anything like I was back in the day, your idea of starting a fitness routine involves spending countless hours running on a treadmill or some other piece of cardio equipment. Well, I’m here to tell you that those days are OVER.

I got myself in the best shape of my life doing very little “cardio”. Currently, I average about 10,000 steps a day, lift weights 3-6 days per week, and stay lean by doing just that. Of course, I throw in some cardio to maintain health and because I love it, but if you don’t want to, that’s perfectly fine, and here’s why:

Traditional cardio is NOT REQUIRED to achieve an athletic physique.

That said, it does help and can be great for your health. Here are the general recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine:

  • At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (40-60% of HRR) on 5 or more days a week (150 minutes total) or
  • 20-25 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (60-85% of HRR) on 3 or more days per week (75 minutes total)

Deciding on how much cardio depends entirely on your goals and current fitness level. My moderate/high intensity cardio is limited to 1-3 days per week when focused on building muscle. If I were focused on cardiovascular endurance, I would be doing cardio 3-6 days per week. The duration and intensity are going to vary substantially from person to person.

Doing some HIIT in the backyard with my best bud

What Type of Cardio Should You Do?

The most important question when it comes to deciding what type of cardio to do is WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO DO? What gets you excited to move?

If the answer is “nothing gets me excited to work out”, that just means you haven’t found the right form of exercise yet. But you’ll get there!

Exercise can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. Most humans simply need to get out and GO FOR WALKS. It starts there. I walk every single day and it’s my FAVORITE FORM OF EXERCISE. Add some stretching, foam rolling, and some core routines/mobility. That’s my “cardio” on most days.

So, what type of cardio should YOU do? The answer is simple:

FIND SOMETHING YOU LOVE.

Kettlebell HIIT in the sun might be my very favorite form of cardio

Cardio doesn’t have to be boring or torturous. I ultimately fell in love with exercise around 2015 doing an at-home cardio/weight lifting program called UFC Fit. It worked great for me because I could do everything at home, the workouts were unique, challenging, and got me in incredible shape. I absolutely love the program and still do some of the workouts to this day, because they get me EXCITED to work out and make me feel great.

Today, my favorite forms of cardio are:

  1. Walking
  2. Biking
  3. HIIT with kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, running
  4. UFC Fit – Great for cardio, mobility, endurance and full-body strength

Obviously, the options for cardio are endless. Here are some other ideas:

  1. Swimming
  2. Jump Rope
  3. Group fitness class
  4. Group sports
  5. Elliptical
  6. Stair climber
  7. Rowing
  8. In-Home workout programs like P90X, Insanity, Body Beast
  9. YouTube

There is something out there you’ll love to do, I promise. You just have to find what resonates with you. But don’t stop there.

The truth is, cardio is great, but if you really want to make permanent improvements to your physique, resistance training is the way to go.

Lifting weights at home whenever possible!

And you don’t have to get too crazy with it. You’re not going to get big and bulky if you lift weights; I PROMISE. Even just 1 day of resistance training per week can make a big impact, especially if you’re a beginner or coming off a long break. If you have more time, dedicate 2-6 days per week if you’re really serious. But, 1-3 days per week is PERFECT for a beginner.

I know we’re dealing with cardio, but weight lifting really is where you’re going to get your best bang for your buck, so I urge you to consider making that the focus of your exercise time.

My History & Current Routine

I originally lost 90lbs strictly through calorie restriction and cardio

I began my fitness journey back in 2009 at 270lbs and virtually no muscle. I did a whole bunch of running, some weights here and there, and consumed a mostly junk/processed food diet. I lost 90lbs by restricting calories and doing endless amounts of cardio, but at the end of it I was just sick, skinny and unhealthy. Once I focused on healthy nutrition and consistent weight lifting, it completely changed my life.

I might’ve lost weight but I didn’t transform my physique just by doing cardio!

Ten years later, after a ton of hard work, here’s what my current exercise routine looks like. This isn’t exactly what I believe YOU should be doing, because you’re at a different level of fitness than I am and may have different goals. This is to give you some ideas on where and when to incorporate exercise into your own life. You can do something very similar based your time availability, goals, and skill level.

The schedule below is based on a 5-day “body part split” weight lifting routine. I also switch it up to a 3-day, full body routine or several other combinations depending on my current situation and goals:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Getting fit should be FUN!

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

  • Morning: Fasted Walking, Constant Walking Throughout the Day, 20-min Stretch/Mobility
  • Afternoon: 20-30min HIIT Cardio Session: Kettlebells or UFC Fit
  • Evening: Relax, Stretch, Walk

Sunday

  • Active Recovery: Walking All Day
  • Rest, Stretch, Mobility
  • Cold Baths, Cold Showers, Foam Rolling

All Day, Every Day

  • Staying Hydrated
  • Moving Constantly
  • Eating Real Food
  • Going to Bed Early
  • Resting Fully
  • Minimizing Stress
  • Minimizing Poison

The bottom line is, I stay in great shape without doing a ton of “cardio”. I remain fairly lean all year and have an athletic physique. In the above routine, I’m only doing moderate-high intensity cardio once per week!

And it’s all because I focus on WEIGHT LIFTING, which is so much more efficient and beneficial than cardio in my opinion. Both are important for your overall health, however.

Again, finding something you love to do or that you will do consistently is the key. I can recommend the latest and greatest workout program for you, but if you’re not going to do it, what’s the point?

So, that’s my crash course on cardio. I hope you enjoyed reading it. If I left something out or you have additional questions, feel free to hit me up at WiseEatsPodcast@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Instagram @weswisefitness.

If you want some workout ideas, I have several HIIT-style kettlebell routines over at Wise-Eats.com/Workout. When I’m ready to break a sweat, these are some of my favorites. I also have a quick start guide to weightlifting there if that’s something you think you’re ready to try.

To stay plugged into all the different stuff I put out, whether it be podcasts, articles, videos, head over to WiseChoiceNation.com and sign up for my free mailing list.

Take care, thanks for reading, and make wise choices!

Doing some UFC Fit in the backyard!

Building Muscle, Fitness & Business w/ Bryan Parady

As discussed in Episode 19 of the Wise Eats Podcast:

Back in 2009, I was 90lbs overweight and decided to make a change to improve my health.

Over the course of the next year, I lost the weight and changed my life forever.

The only problem was, now I was just skinny with disordered eating patterns and problem drinking.

Took many years to get here but I did it! And you can do it too!

I was lighter and somewhat healthier, but sick all the time and feeling miserable.

It wasn’t until I improved my nutrition and developed a consistent weight training program that I began to optimize my health and finally get the athletic body I wanted.

Today, not only do I maintain a healthy weight, but I’m in great physical shape also.

So, what I’m trying to get at here is that I went from being big and fat, to sick and skinny, to athletic and fit.

I suppose you could say that I went from skin and bones….to….bulk.

Our guest in Episode 19 is Bryan Parady, creator of BonesToBulk.com. He has an incredible story of going from “skin and bones” to muscular and fit, just like I did. We dish up exactly what inspired him to take control of his health and eventually launch Bones to Bulk along with plenty of other diet/fitness tips!

How Bryan Became Passionate About Health & Fitness

Bryan: “I was about 21 years old and not into fitness or health at all. I weighed 118 pounds. I was a tiny dude and somebody recommended I watch the Rocky movies. I’d never seen them and so I watched and absolutely loved them. I think I binged them all in one week. By the time I was done watching I was like I want to be buff. I want to look like Sylvester Stallone. So, the very next day, I went out to a sporting goods store, bought a bench and some weights and set it up in my house and just went at it!”

“I did every single thing wrong you can imagine from lifting to nutrition to everything I just had no clue what I was doing. It was probably about six months in where I had been consecutively lifting four or five days a week and saw just absolutely no progress. That’s when it kind of came to a head I was like okay I can either stop and figure out what in the world I’m doing or I can give up and so I was like let’s go all in let’s try to figure this out. That’s when I really started researching and getting into the nutrition side and how to properly lift and it was from that point that I began to start seeing change over the long term”.

Personal Training Experience

Bryan has been personal training for about 4 years and initially got into it because it’s something he loves and wanted to get some credentials behind his name. He’s coached around 50 clients one-on-one and countless more through group settings. He also offers a personalized coaching and regimens on his website, BonestoBulk.com.

Check out the Bones to Bulk podcast! Highly recommended!

Biggest Mistake Among Fitness Clients?

Nutrition is by far the biggest mistake, especially when you’re trying to gain muscle. There’s a lot of misinformation in the weight loss realm, as well, but especially in muscle building. Most people think you just need to start drinking more protein shakes and get in the gym and that’s simply not enough.

Advice for Aspiring Personal Trainers?

Bryan: “Go into it open-minded and ready to learn everything you can. Usually, the agencies provide really good study material as far as getting certified and passing the exam. From there, it’s really a matter of taking what you know personally and applying it. It’s not so much having a lot of the head knowledge as having that personal touch. You know what you’ve been through and that’s really gonna draw people to you. You can google just about anything out there but having someone who’s actually lived the journey and walked through what you’re trying to teach others that adds so much. So, really dive into that aspect of it and offer yourself because people are gonna be drawn to your story and your personality and what you have to offer”.

Advice for Beginners?

A common misconception I see is that to build muscle you just need to eat as many calories as possible regardless of the source. I used to have a bad sweet tooth and would just eat sleeves of Oreos at a time. Trying to break the mindset of “dirty bulking” is what I find most often with beginners. It’s not about just how much you eat but you’ve got to be eating the right things along with the right quantities.

Advice for Intermediate/Advanced?

Once you’ve lifted for a while your muscle building progress begins to slow a bit. Similar with weight loss. Learning how to figure out those fine tweaks to continue making progress is what I do most often with intermediate to advanced weight lifters. It ends up being small things like adding extra healthy snacks, focusing more on form, and slowing down on repetitions to increase time under tension.

Another tool for intermediate-advanced is known as the squeeze method where you squeeze the weights as hard as possible to increase blood flow and increase the muscle stretch. As we get more advanced, we focus too much on numbers and hitting a new personal record. Sometimes it’s better to lower the weight and pump out 10 really good, slow form reps.

Your Current Training Regimen?

Bryan: “I’m currently doing a push-pull leg split. So, I do six days a week push-pull-legs push-pull-legs and I vary my exercises from the first half of the week to the last half. Some exercises stay the same and some I switch up. I found it to be really good overall and it’s hitting all your muscle groups twice a week which makes a huge difference. It’s early on but so far I’ve really likes the results I’ve gotten from it”.

Your Current Fitness Goals?

2019 was rough. I suffered a pulled bicep tendon and then got really sick toward the end of the year. This year, I want to focus more on my overall health, avoid injury, and re-build my strength. I think listening to my body will make a huge difference. Being really in tune with each workout and how my body feels and responds.

What is Your WHY for Bones to Bulk?

I want to be a good example to my audience and represent what I preach. I also want to be a good example to two daughters, they’re seven and three. I have a home gym that I work out in sometimes they’ll come out there and lift dumbbells and I’ll show them some things. My older daughter is already very conscious of what she eats. So, I want to be a good example to them and try not to force anything because it’s important for them to make their own decisions at this age. Also, I always say that I want to be one of those 80 year old guys who’s still crushing it in the gym.

Balancing Work, Family & Passion for Fitness

Balancing Work, Family, Passion

Strict time management and team work with my wife are crucial! We both work full-time and take care of the kids. Physical health is important to both of us which is critical to be able to handle the load. Each week, we have a meeting where we discuss everything we have going on for the week and plan it out. Then, usually on Saturday nights, we put the kids to bed and go to town working on our businesses. We find that time to be more rewarding than going out or watching Netflix.

Daily Routine?

Bryan and his wife

My day usually starts at 4am. We’re not always perfect with that! My wife goes to the gym while I spend some time reading and having some personal development time. If that’s not done first thing in the morning it’s not going to happen. As soon as she gets home, I leave for work. Come home from work then hit the gym with the kids. Home from gym, have dinner, family time, work on our businesses, then go to bed pretty early.

A Normal Diet Day for You?

Who does that?

It’s a little different right now because I decided to go vegan for the month of January! But here is a typical day:

Breakfast: Oatmeal or granola with some fruit like a banana. Mid-morning I’ll have some berries and tree nuts.

Lunch: Pasta, chicken, homemade tomato sauce made with olive oil. Lunches are usually pretty calorie heavy. One of my favorite pastas is made out of soy beans which adds extra protein.

Snack: This varies quite a bit. Sometimes a protein bar or sometimes dates with peanut butter spread on them.

Post-Workout: Protein Shake.

Dinner: Lots of variety here. We do lots of stir fries. Chicken and veggies over rice or quinoa. We love to do turkey chili. Also tacos with beans, corn, chicken, or turkey with whole wheat tortillas and lots of veggies.

Snack: Toast with peanut butter and banana slices or a protein shake.

Quick Bites!

Biggest Factor Holding You Back from Getting Healthy?: My mindset. Lots of self-doubt and self-esteem issues.

Favorite Exercise Routine or Program?: Push-Pull Split and Chest/Triceps Day.

Favorite Specific Lift?: Bench Press or Standing Overhead Press

Favorite Healthy Recipe?: A chicken-pasta-hummus recipe:

  • Cook spaghetti and chicken separately. Have those ready to go.
  • In a big frying pan, mix some pasta sauce with a cup of hummus
  • Dice grape tomatoes, spinach, garlic, mushrooms and add to pan
  • Mix in pasta and chicken
  • Sounds kind of weird with the hummus but it’s delicious!

Favorite Un-Wise Choice?: Either pizza or soft baked chocolate chip cookies.

Favorite Recipe for Success?: Consistency. Breaking a habit for just one or two days can easily turn into weeks or months. So, whatever your goal is, just stay consistent with it.

One Item in Your Kitchen You Can’t Live Without?: Food-wise it would be whole wheat pasta. Tool-wise it would be T-Fal pans. Nothing sticks to them and they’re not too expensive.

Favorite Source of Inspiration?: Gary Vaynerchuk. I also love audiobooks. I really enjoyed Bear Grylls’ book called “Mud, Sweat and Tears”.

Favorite Workout Music?: There’s so many. Imagine Dragons, Red, Skillet are a few.

One Song You Refuse to Take Off Your Playlist?: Spaz Out by Army of the Pharaohs.

Food You Recommend to Clients Most Often?: Quinoa. Very underrated health food. Great source of complex carbs and protein.

One Last Piece of Advice?: Don’t feel like you need to have everything together before you start. When I start a project, I want everything figured out before I ever start it. That’s usually so detrimental because we’re never gonna have it all figured out before we start. We learn so much as we go, so take what you already know and get going. Once you do, you’ll be amazed at how things begin to snowball and you’ll begin to learn new things and it will also give you the confidence to just keep growing and learning.

Also, don’t ever think you’ve arrived or “made it”. There’s always more to learn, not only in fitness but in anything.

Your New Year’s Resolution?: I have lots of things I want to accomplish with my family and finances, but for fitness I want to be in the best shape of my life at the end of 2020.

You can follow Bryan Parady @BonestoBulk on Instagram or at BonestoBulk.com.

“No matter what obstacles are in your mind, what things are stressing you out or you feel like you just can’t overcome…you CAN accomplish ANY goal that you set your mind to. You’ve got this!” – Bryan Parady

Submit questions, comments, feedback to WiseEatsPodcast@gmail.com or to @weswisefitness on Instagram. Thanks for watching, listening, reviewing, liking, subscribing, and sharing. Be good to yourself, be good to others, and make wise choices!