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:


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:




Getting fit should be FUN!




  • 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


  • 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!

SHRED Your Body Fat with These 12 Strategies

As discussed in Episode 9 of the Wise Eats Podcast

Any time I set a goal to lose weight, the method I use to achieve it can be broken into 7 general steps:

Step 1: Establish a goal to lose body fat.

Step 2: Estimate my daily calorie needs based on activity level.

Step 3: Eating 300-500 calories less than my needs in order to create a deficit.

Step 4: Eat real, whole foods and drink plenty of water. Also avoid toxins and refined sugar as much as possible.

Step 5: Track every meal and stay as close to my calorie and macronutrient requirements as possible.

Step 6: Lift weights 3-6 days per week to grow and retain muscle and doing 20-30 minutes of cardio a couple times per week

Step 7: Rest fully, minimize stress, and recover actively

Effective weight loss all comes down to energy balance. How many calories does your body burn on a daily basis? How many additional calories does it burn based on your activity level? When you combine those two numbers to get your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), you have a pretty accurate estimate of the calories you need in a day to maintain your current weight. From there, it’s simply a matter of taking in slightly less calories to lose weight, or taking in slightly more to build your body up. After that, it’s just dedication and consistency. Also, keep in mind that as your body changes, so do your daily needs. As my bodyweight decreased during this weight cut, I eventually had to drop a few hundred calories per day in order to keep the weight loss going. After the cut was over, I slowly increased calories to maintain weight and build some strength.

Here are 12 tips to help you along in your fat loss journey:

  1. If I Can Do It, You Can Do It. I’m not a certified trainer or nutritionist, yet. I’m not a bodybuilder or training for a competition. I’ve never even played sports. I used to be 90lbs overweight, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, living solely on fast food, and bordering on alcoholism. I abused my body with no regard for my health or longevity. But, I turned it all around, and today I’m in the best shape of my life. If I can start from the bottom and work my way up, you can too. I promise.
  2. No Fad Diets Necessary. I didn’t use Paleo, keto, Atkins, or any other secret formula to lose weight during this time. Essentially, the strategy I use to lose weight in 2019 is the is the same I used back in 2009. Eat based on energy requirements, exercise consistently, stop poisoning yourself, and try to have healthy foods in wide variety as much as possible.
  3. You Have to Meal Prep. Honestly, I spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen, but cut corners everywhere I can. Making large batches of food to have for several meals is key. At the start of the week, I’ll make enough of the breakfast energy bowl to have for multiple days. I’ll prep salads two at a time to have for today and tomorrow’s lunch. I’ll bake large portions of chicken, potatoes, and steamed rice all at once to have on hand for quick and easy meals. Accountability and preparation are key in your ability to improve your health.
  4. Think of Food as Fuel. On average, I had around 6 meals per day and ate every 2-3 hours based on activity levels during this weight loss. Most meals were designed to either fuel up for or recover from a workout, nothing more. Try to think of food as fuel rather than just for pleasure or satisfaction. Of course, I absolutely love the healthy meals I eat on a regular basis, but the primary goal is to always keep my body and mind performing at its best. If you can’t get up and go for a quick jog around the block because of what you just ate, then you done messed up.
  5. Treat Yourself in Moderation. Discipline will help you see results much faster,but treating yourself can also help keep you motivated and avoid burning out. Throughout the 13 week cut, I had about one cheat meal every week. Sometimes, it was eating out, sometimes it was home cooked. Sure, I could’ve lost weight faster without cheating, but I’m pretty proud of the shape I got in despite going off the rails here and there. The trick is not allowing yourself to spiral out of control. I didn’t let one meal turn into an entire day or weekend or full week of bad eating like I used to. Enjoy just that one meal, don’t lose sight of your goal, and get right back on track.
  6. Lose Fat Faster with Cardio. I know I said in Episode 8 that cardio is not required, and I stand by that statement, but after losing an average of 1lb per week in the first half, I was able to lose an average of nearly 1.5lbs per week in the second half. The biggest change I made was increasing cardio through walking, biking, and a few high intensity kettlebell routines. Cardio does not need to exceed 20-30mins a couple days per week to get results, so don’t overdo it. You don’t even have to do it at all, but it might get you to your fat loss goal faster. Plus, it feels amazing and is really good for your overall health, so if you love doing it, more power to you.
  7. You Gotta Lift Some Weight to Lose Some Weight. Weight training is my favorite form of exercise, and offers the best bang for your buck when it comes to fat loss and improving your body composition. During this weight cut, I gained strength consistently during the first half and felt great despite being in a calorie deficit. It wasn’t until the last few weeks where I experienced a noticeable drop-off in gains and energy levels. At that point, I knew it was time to call an end to the weight loss challenge and give my body some much needed rest. Lifting weights is the best way to build or retain muscle while getting lean and losing body fat, so I can’t recommend it enough.
  8. Avoid the Clean Eating Trap. Prior to this weight loss, I spent years trying to gain as much muscle as possible, but got to the point where I was easily eating up to 5,000 calories a day, including excessive amounts of dietary fat. I figured since I was lifting weights and building muscle, I could just eat as much nutrient dense food as I wanted. Wrong. Just because food is healthy doesn’t mean you can eat as much of it as you want and not gain extra weight. Bummer, I know.
  9. Be More Mindful of What You Eat. Specific ingredients, total calories, and macronutrient amounts. Once you control these things and understand them, changing your physique becomes a matter of routine, math, and proper dietary choices. Some experts debunk calorie counting, but I can say for sure that it’s worked wonders for me, both in my original 90lb weight loss and this 15lb weight cut. Calorie counting or not, you need to take control of what you put in your body.
  10. Reverse Dieting. After a period of sustained weight loss, your body is highly susceptible to gaining fat very quickly if overfed. It’s important to “reverse diet” by slowly increasing your calorie intake to avoid putting the body fat right back on. If you just call an end to your diet and start eating like crazy, you can quickly undo any progress you’ve made. So, after this challenge, I slightly bumped up calories each week, which allowed my energy levels to return to normal and start building strength again.
  11. Get Hooked on Improvement. Tracking your meals and workouts takes some work, but the feeling of knowing you’re in control and making progress becomes addictive. Plus, it’s a lot harder to move forward when you’re not sure where you’ve been. Evaluate your performance and strive to keep getting better. Get more reps, lift heavier weight with good form, or increase your intensity. If you’re getting better each time, chances are you’re doing everything right. If you’re not making progress though, something is likely off with your training, diet, stress levels, or rest. Also, if you’re monitoring your weight, don’t get caught up in day-to-day fluctuations. I recommend weighing yourself each day and taking an average for the week, which is a more accurate indicator of progress than the day-to-day number. Stay focused and, over time, the scale will move in the direction you want.
  12. Keep Exercise Simple. If you’re just beginning a workout routine, don’t make it too complicated. Start with some light activities that you can do safely and comfortably then build yourself up from there. Go for walks and focus on quality bodyweight movements like squats, burpees, jumping jacks, lunges, and core routines. If you can’t even do a push-up or pull-up, it’s probably too early to start throwing weights around. Just get out there and get your body moving. You don’t have to break yourself down for an hour in the gym to get an effective workout. You just gotta start somewhere.

I got into the best shape of my life using these strategies. Summer is coming, so it’s time wise up. Make one positive change today and it will add up to major benefits in the future! Thanks a lot for reading this article. Now, get out there, get ready for summer, and start making some wise choices!

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