Muscle for life

MFL Podcast 64: How much and what types of cardio you should do

MFL Podcast 64: How much and what types of cardio you should do

In this podcast I talk all about cardio: how much you should do when you’re dieting to lose fat, how much for building muscle, how much is too much, what types are best, and more…


Mike Matthews: Hello, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to another episodes of the Muscle for Life podcast. I am Mike, and today I want to talk to you about cardio. I get asked about it a lot. A lot of emails. A lot of messages.

People will ask me, how much cardio should I be doing, what types of cardio should I be doing, and based on different goals. I have people that want to build muscle. Should I be doing cardio at all? How much is too much?

On the flip side, people that want to lose fat, usually they assume they have to do cardio. Then the questions are how much and what types are best. So I thought it’d make for a good podcast episode.

I’ve probably spoken about these things a little bit here and there, but wanted to go over the entire subject and lay it all out. This will be a good one to refer back to and ford around and whatever, because it’s going to answer a lot of questions.

Let’s first talk about cardio in general. Cardio versus weightlifting. Most people associate exercise and health, they associate cardio with exercise and health, general health, heart health, and not being overweight and so forth, whereas weightlifting is almost….

I don’t know, people I talk with, it’s like a stigma almost, that’s it’s more for vanity. It’s for building big muscles and then looking cool, or looking good. Obviously if you’re listening to this you probably know that’s not true.

Ironically a research…I’ll link a couple of studies down below, you can see these things, but research shows that endurance athletes run in to more heart troubles, especially later in their lives heart disease, heart dysfunction, than even the average, sedentary, non-exercising public.

These are people that have really pushed their bodies hard in their endurance training and their cardio, essentially, for years and years and years. Marathoners also, they accumulate more arterial plaque than sedentary people. They have more heart complications later in their life.

Of course this doesn’t mean if you run marathons or if you do a lot of cardio, it doesn’t mean you’re going to have these problems. Remember, whenever you’re looking at research, especially observational epidemiological type of research, it means that you’re in that group that’s at-risk.

Depending on your body and depending on a lot of different factors that will determine if you have that problem, but you should know that if you’re doing a lot of cardio, say you’re doing a lot of running.

You run marathons a lot, you do that, you are putting yourself at higher risk of heart disease and heart dysfunction.

Also cardio does put stress on the body. Of course, exercise stresses the body. That’s one of the benefits is you have the acute stressor of exercise and then the body adapts to it, and that adaptation that occurs after that, response to exercise, is where a lot of the health benefits are.

I don’t know if you saw recently, it was like a week ago, study came out that confirmed that the hormone irisin, might be mispronouncing it. Irisin, I-R-I-S-I-N, I believe, which is a feel-good hormone that’s produced when you exercise that causes different positive changes in the body.

There’s a very physiological basis for the health benefits of exercise, but if you push it too far, then it goes in the other direction. It’s like the hormone cortisol. An acute spike of cortisol like what occurs when you exercise is good.

Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, so cortisone breaks down fat. It also breaks down muscle, but it’s a part of the fight or flight response of the body. Acute spikes of cortisol that then come back down, that’s good. It’s part of the stress response system of the body.

But if you have chronically elevated cortisol then you’re going to have health problems at some point. One of the ways that you can achieve that is by exercising too much doing too much cardio or too much weightlifting, as well.

You can run into that issue. I find that in my experience working with people and talking with people that the chronic cortisol type of cases tend to be people that are doing a lot of cardio.

It seems to be easier to get there doing a ton of cardio than with weightlifting, because the sheer amount of time. I’ll speak with people when they come to me and are not feeling good and they’ve stopped losing weight.

A lot of times it’s women, and they’ve lost their periods. Things are just not going well. They’re doing anywhere from one to two hours of cardio per day, seven days per week, plus the weightlifting program that might be another four to seven hours of exercise a week.

Now, with weightlifting, though, it’s pretty hard to do two hours of weightlifting, especially heavy weightlifting, which puts a lot of stress on the body. It can be done, but I see that people tend to abuse cardio more than weightlifting.

In a way, maybe it’s easier to go hop on a bike or hop on a treadmill or a Stair-Master and grind away for two hours every day while you watch your iPad or something like that.

Not that it’s easy. It’s going to be a bit less stressful than trying to do two hours straight of heavy compound weightlifting, for example.

If you’re doing too much exercise, one of the problems you’re going to run into is your cortisol levels are going to remain chronically elevated, and that causes a lot of different health issues.

The bottom line of cardio is how much you should do is dictated by your goal. My philosophy is there are definitely health benefits to cardio. There are a lot of health benefits to weightlifting, as well, going back to what I was talking about initially.

It’s not just for having big muscles that look good. Having large amounts of lean mass is in itself very healthy. It’s great for insulin sensitivity. It’s great for your immune system. That’s one of the things that people don’t know about having muscle.

That the total amount of lean mass that you have is associated…Researchers associate with all-cause mortality, meaning that the less muscle you have, especially as you get older, the more likely you are to die from a variety of different causes disease, falling down and breaking your hip.

Your quality of life is going to decline the less muscle you have as you get older, and the more likely you are to die from anything.

Yes, there is a vanity point of it. Of course, we’re in the gym lifting weights because we want to look a certain way, and that’s at least 50 percent of the reason why we’re there, but it’s also nice to know that there are a lot of different health benefits to it, as well.

It’s very, very healthy for the body. In all the stuff that I’ve read, and in my experiences with my body and working with a lot of people, I would say weightlifting really has the edge, in terms of overall health benefits, big cardiovascular benefits.

Especially with heavy weightlifting, your hearts gets going. Go do a bunch of heavy dead lifts, and you’re going to be struggling to breathe at the end of a few sets of that, for sure.

You get cardiovascular benefits, insulin sensitivity benefits, cholesterol benefits. Weightlifting is great for burning energy and for staying lean, and it builds and preserves lean mass, which cardio does not.

Cardio is…Obviously any exercise is healthy, but if you were to only pick one, I would say weightlift before doing cardio. That informs my general position on cardio, which is, “You should do as much cardio as it takes to reach your goals, and no more.”

That’s not as much as many people think. For instance, if I’m cutting, if I’m dieting to lose weight, I do no more than two hours of cardio a week, every seven days. That’s usually when I’ve worked up to that. I usually start, around an hour a week, and then as I…

If you’re a seasoned Muscle for Lifer, MFLer, then you know why. The longer you’re in a calorie deficit, the longer your body works against it to reduce your calorie expenditure, and then upping your cardio is an easy way to keep that energy expenditure high so you can continue losing fat.

But I’m never doing an hour of cardio a day or two hours of cardio a day. Uniformly, the people that I hear from that are having the biggest problems with cardio are the people that are doing that.

A lot of these people are people that are…The reason why they’re putting themselves through that is because they compete. The reason why I don’t do a bunch of cardio for losing weight is, one, it’s unnecessary.

Remember, you need to create a calorie deficit. You can burn quite a bit of energy, especially with heavy compound weightlifting, which burns a fair amount of energy while you’re doing it and burns a fair amount of energy afterward, that “after-burn” effect.

Also because cardio, it’s not as effective as many people think. A lot of people underestimate the amount of calories they eat. If they’re not following a meal plan and they wing it and go.

“Oh, I think I’m eating about 1800 calories,” and then they go add it all up and realize they’re eating 2,500 calories a day. A lot of people tend to overestimate the amount of energy they burned when they do exercise. Both of those things have been verified in scientific studies.

I don’t even need to…I already know that dealing with people, that’s the way it is. The reality is that if you’re doing…You have to work really hard to even burn 500 calories. That’s about an hour of steady state cardio where you’re working.

It’s not just an hour of walking. You’re going to have to really be moving your body. 500 calories, that’s good, but if you don’t really know what you’re doing with your diet, you can easily eat that 500 calories. A cookie could be 300 calories, for instance.

It could be a cookie and a piece of fruit, and then there’s that hour of gruelling cardio that you did, and you ate it all back. This is why, and either you’ve seen the studies that are being referred to or you’ve seen news headlines that say that.

“Exercise doesn’t work,” “Exercise doesn’t guarantee anything in the way of weight loss,” and that “People who do exercise programs wind up fatter.”

A lot of those angles to be controversial and say that, “Move more, eat less,” doesn’t work. What they’re not telling you is, when you look at what’s the substance of that research, it’s that these aren’t people like you and me that know exactly what we’re doing.

We know how energy balance works, we know how macro nutrients breakdown. We know how to make meal plans, we know what we’re doing. These are average people, they might see something on a TV show or read a simple little book that tells them to “eat clean” and do exercise every day.

Either they don’t lose weight or they maybe lose a little bit of weight in the beginning and then they get sick of the diet, and they get lazy and then they gain all the weight back or more.

What is partially underlined that is, of course, not understanding how food relates to weight gain and weight loss, that doesn’t help.

But also the fact that if you go do, lot of these shallow type of, Pinterest type of workout programs, the ultimate this workout, the ultimate 10 minute, 15 minute, they’re shorter. 15 to 20 minutes of high intensity exercise like interval training where you’re really pushing yourself.

I would say, in 20 minutes you could maybe burn 200 calories, maybe. You have to work for that, that wouldn’t come easy. Again, 200 calories, to someone that doesn’t know what they’re doing with their diet, is nothing.

I mean, 200 calories, that could be three extra bites at dinner, or that could be, “Oh, that little bit of extra dessert” or whatever. So, yes, it’s true. The prescription of “oh, just go do exercise”; if that’s all you told somebody that wanted to lose weight they’re probably not going to do well.

They might initially lose some weight because they’re not going to change their diet and they’re going to burn a bit more energy. They’re going to see that for two or three weeks. But then you know they might…

Because they are in calorie deficit they’re not going to be used to that feeling. Most people are not. They’re used to being pretty much full all the time. So, when they go into a calorie deficit they start getting hungry, and they go, “Oh, I’m hungry, I need to eat food.”

They don’t realize that hunger is not a signal to eat food. It is, physically speaking, but it doesn’t mean you have to go eat food. It’s your body saying, “I don’t want to be in a calorie deficit.” That’s not true.

Hunger is not a feeling of…the hunger that you’ve feel everyday when you’re in a calorie deficit; there are hormonal changes and there are things happening in the body, where the body is generally saying, “Hey, I need more energy, I need more energy, you’re not feeding me enough.”

And that doesn’t mean you have to do it though. You’re doing that intentionally and you’re saying, “Yeah bitch, deal with it. Get leaner and then you’ll get more food.” Obviously, the average dieter doesn’t understand that. Another thing that is good to know about, cardio.

Cardio in particular is that…there’s research that shows…I’ll either link a study down below or I’ll link an article where I’ll link all the studies. That’s quite better, I’ll link the article so you can go check it all out.

Where I’m talking about a lot of…I’ve written about a lot of these things and you go check out all the science behind it. Your body is going to adapt to the exercise and you are doing, it is going to reduce its calorie expenditure over time.

This is a simple matter of the body working to increase its efficiency. So, when you’re doing the same types of exercise, say, you do inclined walking on the treadmill, you do it every day, you do 30 minutes.

The amount of energy that you burn while you’re doing that is going to go down over time. So, what might have…you know, help you burn x number of calories on week one is now burning 20 percent less calories on week eight or week six or whatever. That’s something else you need to keep in mind.

Another issue which I mentioned earlier about doing a lot of cardio doesn’t preserve lean mass. It can even accelerate the loss of lean mass, especially if you’re in a calorie deficit, too big of a calorie deficit.

Not enough protein that’s really the worst way that you can go about dieting is to severely restrict your calories eat very little protein and do a bunch of cardio. Yes, you’re going to lose fat but you’re going to lose a lot of muscle.

Which leads to that skinny-fat type of physique, where body fat percentage or while the percentage could be relatively high but the absolute amount of body fat like ‘X’ number of pounds of fat on the body isn’t that high.

But because there is very little muscle there as well, the body looks amorphous it looks like you’re fat but if you’re to take measurements you waist isn’t that big, your arms or legs…this is more…girls run into this more than guys because girls get worst advice.

Lot of guys are told to go lift weights, do resistance training. Whereas, a lot of girls are told to do very little of that. Maybe some body weight stuff but to focus more on cardio and starving themselves.

So, their thighs, if they were to measure them are really not that big but they don’t have any shape, they look like sausages. So, those are some general things to keep in mind about cardio. Now, let’s talk a little bit more about some practical…what do you do?

So, if you’re losing weight, if you’re dieting to lose weight I highly recommend that you know that you do high intensity interval training. There have been quite a few…there is this another study that came out, I saw it a couple of weeks ago.

Every few months there’s a new study that comes out or a new review or analysis of previous studies that confirms that high intensity interval training is better for losing fat. It’s also better you lose fat faster doing it than lower intensity cardio.

It’s also better for preserving muscle mainly because you don’t have to do nearly as much. My hit cardio sessions are no more than 25 minutes, really no more than 30, usually 25 minutes though That’s it, 25 minutes. I enjoy my cardio, so right now I’m not cutting, I’m maintaining .

And I still do cardio three of four days a week because I find it relaxing because I can sit there…I’m watching some documentaries essentially. It’s either documentary or there’s this company called ‘The Great Courses’, which I highly recommend, they kick ass.

They go to professors all over the country, a lot of these professors have won awards and some of them are teaching in very prestigious schools. They teach whatever subject and The Great Courses comes to them and works with them to create like a…

It could be anywhere between a 15 to a 40-hour course on whatever subject it is that they teach. And it’s awesome, they have stuff on everything. Their marketing is incredible too. For what they’re doing…I’m impressed with their whole system. They are like a billion-dollar company.

So it’s not surprising. Anyways, I enjoy it. I can go and I do my cardio and no one is talking to me, you know what I mean. I can sit there and it’s almost like a relaxation for me even though I’m working.

Again, it’s high intensity interval and I’m pushing myself and that’s the important thing when you’re doing your hit cardio once you get going after your first few minutes when you’re in your high intensity, those high intensity sprint periods?

You should be at the point where you can’t comfortably hold a conversation. You don’t have to be gasping for breath but you shouldn’t be able to calmly talk to the person next to you. I do one-minute-long sprints followed by a minute and half of low intensity rest.

So after about 30 seconds into that sprint I’m at that point where I could talk but it’s going to be labored and you want to make sure, you’re pushing yourself to that point ’cause that’s related to your vO2 max which is related to the maximum amount of oxygen consumption that can occur.

Whether your body can…there’s a limit to how much oxygen it can absorb. So, you want to be hitting anywhere from 80 to 100 percent of your vO2 max, but the only way to really know that would be to hooked up to a metabolic cart and that’s obviously not practical.

But an easy heuristic way to know if that’s happening is if you’re at that point where you’re breathing is labored and you cannot easily carry on a conversation you’re in the right range.

Anyways, more back to the point is, I’m doing three to four, 25 minute sessions of cardio a week right now, because I enjoy it, and because it makes me feel good. It gives me energy. I feel energized after. I do it before dinner, and I work at night, so it’s a nice…

Either it’s weights, first thing in the morning, and that is a great way to start the day. It keeps me energized. I do my stuff all day, and then go home, do my cardio which then, I feel like it almost revives me a little bit, eat food, and then get back to work, so I like it.

When I’m cutting, I’m doing about the same. I don’t ever do more than five, 25 minute sessions a week, but it’s usually three to four sessions a week. If I were bulking, which I don’t really have a reason to do these days, because I’m not trying to get bigger.

And I don’t like getting fatter at this point. [laughs] I’d rather stay lean, because I have more or less the amount of size that I want, then I would cut that back probably to one or two sessions a week, and I’ll talk about why in a minute. We’ll focus on fat loss for now.

That one to two hours a week of high intensity interval cardio, that’s all you need. I don’t really see a reason to do anything else. Now, of course there’s an incidental “cardio.” I take my dogs for a walk every day, and that takes 15 minutes of walking.

I don’t even really count that. In terms of energy expenditure, it’s very low, and what does that really get me? It gets me half of my little chocolate snack that I have every day. Fine, so when I’m talking cardio, more exertion type of stuff. Now that’s my general standard recommendation.

Three to five, 20 to 25, maybe 30 minute sessions of high intensity interval cardio per week. I like to stick to recumbent biking, or upright biking, because the way it mimics a squat motion. There’s some research that shows that, the type of cardio that you do can have a bit of an effect on your strength.

So if you do a type of cardio like biking, that mimics a weightlifting movement, you’re going to see better strength retention, than if you did something that didn’t, like running, for instance.

Again, this is nit-picking. If you enjoy running, if you enjoy doing sprints, like actual road running sprints, which I do enjoy. I used to do them, but it would fuck up my legs so much, that it would mess with my lifting. Like if I was doing three sprints a week, I would do it on, let’s say Sunday.

Monday, my legs would be sore. Tuesday, still a little bit sore, so I feel it a little bit, and I’m dead lifting, then that makes them sore. Wednesday, I’m trying to run again with sore legs, and it hurts. Thursday, they’re still fucked up. Friday, I’m trying to squat. It didn’t work.

But some people, they don’t have that problem. They can sprint every single day, and they’d never get leg soreness, and that’s great. I tried it for at least a month. It was six weeks of it, and I still was getting too sore, so dropped it.

The type of cardio that you’re doing, obviously like certain types of cardio, are going to fit for high intensity type of training better, but the most popular, most common methods are biking, running, swimming is great.

People that are good at jump roping, if you have enough technical skill that you go really fast, you do that. Rowing is great. Rowing is another good option, because that pulling, so it’s mimicking a weight lifting movement. Boxing is great. Boxing is really tiring, so you can get creative.

The point is that…I’ll link an article down below, and for those that are listening, you can find it on Legion, the blog I run at Legion Athletics, on high intensity. If you Google Legion Athletics HIIT, H-I-I-T, three words, you’ll see it. It’ll come up on Google.

I dive into a bit more of the details of the intricacies of, how do you get the most out of your HIIT cardio, but those are the basic concepts. You have to push yourself hard for anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes, and then you’re going to have to do a low intensity, which is usually matched.

I’m now doing a minute…that’s not matched. It’s usually twice as long, so whatever your high intensity interval is, you’re taking twice as long of a rest period. Once that gets easier, and you’ll know that by, again, how labored is your breathing? How comfortable are you?

I got to a point where doing a minute on the recumbent bike, which also, it’s worth noting, that I don’t go really high on the resistance, because the point of HIIT cardio is to go really fast. Not really hard, not grind against resistance, but you are only going fast.

You want to get your heart rate going. I find it better. It doesn’t fry your legs, which again, matters if you’re lifting weights. If you’re doing heavy dead lifts, heave squats, you don’t want to be frying your legs out on your cardio sessions. I’m doing a moderate amount of resistance.

Somebody give me something to peddle against, so I can go really fast, but one minute, and two minutes of rest, it got to a point where it was too easy. My heart rate, it was coming down. It the beginning, it was reaching by the end of the workout.

Probably about 170, 180, on my high intensity intervals, and I couldn’t comfortably hold a conversation. After several months, it was coming down to the 140s, maybe 150, and I could talk. I was breathing a little bit, but I could still have a conversation.

Instead of making my intervals longer, which eventually, the legs are really what become the issue for me at least. It’s not my cardio, so much, it’s my legs get fried. Instead of making the intervals longer, which I’m going to have to eventually, but right now, I’m bringing my rest down.

I’m going to bring it down to a minute of high intensity, and a minute of low intensity, and see if that now, brings me back to that 170, 180 beats per minute, and labored breathing, and whatever.

That’s really what you want to be doing, and rinse and repeat. I do a one minute warm up and I get right into it, rinse and repeat for 20 to 30 minutes, and you’re done.

The bottom line is, if your goal is to lose weight, and of course health benefits doing cardio, we already talked about that, but if the reason why you’re doing it is to lose fat faster, then you don’t need to be doing more than that. You don’t.

You have that hour to two hours of HIIT cardio per week, plus anywhere from, let’s say, three to six hours of weightlifting per week, is plenty. You do not need to be doing more exercise than that.

Even that is…You’re probably not going to run into any over training to have issues with that, but that’s really pushing it.

I wouldn’t recommend doing more than that, than the six hours of weightlifting, because that’s quite high, and the couple hours of HIIT cardio per week. That’s everything. You can’t move more than that in terms of exercise.

Walking around and stuff very low intensity type of physical activity is not going to be a problem, but if you’re doing all that, plus, let’s say, you’re in school, and you’re playing a sport, that would be too much. You’re going to run into over training issues eventually. You’re not going to feel good.

When you have all that exercise in place, then it comes down to your diet, and knowing what you’re doing with your diet, and sticking to it, and not over eating, and not making any of the simple mistakes that people make, and you can get as lean as you want to get.

Really, I’ve done that, and with a couple supplements like caffeine, and green tea extract, and Yohimbine, and the stuff that you’ll find in my own supplements that…Again, you probably know that story. With Legion, I make the stuff that I’ve always wanted.

Where I had to buy six different bottles, and now I can make my own. Now, I can make Phoenix, and put it all on that, and then I can make Forge, and put the rest of it in that, and now, I only need two bottles.

Just with doing that exercise routine, plus the supplementation, plus proper diet, I’ve been able to get down to six percent body fat, give or take. It’s hard to know exactly.

I’ve got to a point where there’s no fat really left to lose. It’ll start to look ridiculous. You don’t need anything else, other than really what I laid out for fat loss. Especially with cardio, you do not need to be doing hours and hours of cardio per week.

A couple, I guess little, I wouldn’t say caveats, but questions that you might have, because you see that stuff out there is, one, what if your cardio is like sports, let’s say? You’re going to be playing hours of sports every week, and you don’t want to cut that back?

OK, that’s fine. You have to keep in mind though, that the more cardio that you’re doing, the more energy you’re burning, the more likely you are to lose muscle, and the more likely you are to lose strength in your weight lifting, but we can work around it.

A couple simple things is, to have some protein before you…If you’re going to go out and play, say you play soccer, and it’s going to be a two hour game, have a good 30, 40 grams of protein before and after. That can help. Make sure that you’re not on too large of a calorie deficit.

It can be hard to quantify how much energy you’re really burning when you’re doing something like playing soccer, because there’s a lot of sprinting. How do you really know? Personally, what I would do is, I would…It’s a bit of an experiment.

You’re going to have to learn your body, and you’re going to have to…I would go with a, catch me cardio type of approach, although the modifiers are a bit high. I’d go a little bit low with modifiers, and I would go, OK, my weightlifting, plus my sports, equals, let’s say it’s 15 hours of exercise a week.

So if it were 15 hours of exercise a week, I would probably try BMR times 1.6 or 1.7. For my TDE, for my total daily energy expenditure, and then cut it maybe 80 percent, or 70 percent of that, and see how my body responds.

I’m I losing weight too quickly? Initially, you’re going to lose a couple pounds a week, because of water and glycogen. If you’re relatively lean, like if you’re a guy under 20 percent body fat, or a girl under 30 percent body fat, after a few weeks.

You really should start seeing that fat loss, or that weight loss, to slow down to about a pound or a pound and a half per week.

If you’re still losing two or three ponds per week after being in a deficit for, let’s say, four weeks, and you didn’t start out very over weight, you’re probably eating too little, or moving too much, and you’re losing muscle essentially.

You’ll also know in the gym. One thing that you can know is, if you’re not losing strength in the gym, you’re not losing muscle, period. That’s not how it works. If you are losing strength in the gym, like if you’re losing quite a bit of strength, plus you’re losing a lot of weight, you’re probably losing muscle.

You can jockey those two factors, what’s your weight doing, and what are your lifts looking like in the gym, and adjust things accordingly. That’s one thing. It’s if you’re going to be doing a bunch of low intensity cardio, don’t add high intensity on top of that.

If you’re playing 10 hours of soccer a week, there’s no need to do anything more. Remember, the primary purpose of cardio is, to burn energy. In terms of fat loss, that is its primary purpose, so you’re doing a lot.

You don’t need to be doing more. You may even need to be dialing your weight lifting back a little bit. I’ve worked with quite a few people that won marathons, and they want to know, how do they work their weight lifting, as they’re running?

As they have to run more and more, coming up to this marathon, for their training? What do they do with their weight lifting?

You have to taper it back, so in some cases, people will taper then down to an upper body, lower body workout. One upper body, one lower body per week, because they’re running so much, and you just don’t want to overload the body.

Some people are able to do a three day, like push, pull legs, and occasionally, some people can get away for four day, but that’s rare, and usually comes down to a two, or three day. You might have to do the same thing, if you’re playing a lot of sports.

You might find that five days of lifting, plus all the sports, you just don’t…You’re energy levels are low. You’re hungry all the time. You’re irritable. You’re moody. You’re not sleeping well. Well then, something has to go.

If the sports can’t go, then the weight lifting has to go. You have to bring it down to three days a week, or even two days a week, make sure you’re eating enough food, so that’s one thing. Another thing is, that you’ve probably known people.

You have seen people that talk about they’re super lean, or have gotten super lean and said, “Oh, no cardio, you don’t have to do any cardio. It’s all diet, it’s all diet,” yeah, for some people.

I’m somewhere ecto, meso type of morph, type of body, I’m not super ecto. Growing up I was not super lean, I wasn’t a super lean muscular naturally type of person. I was relatively lean, tall, not super skinny, but skinny-ish, and I was more, endurance.

I played a lot of ice hockey and roller hockey growing up. That was one of my strengths, is I could do a lot of sprints in terms of skating. I was a good skater, and I was fast, and I didn’t tire easily. That was more my genetic strength, you could say.

With that, I find that the problem with no cardio is, I get stuck around nine or 10 percent body fat if I don’t do cardio, simply because I’m not able to burn enough energy with my weight lifting, and I have to reduce my calories over time because that’s how it is, and I’ve tried it several times.

I have not been able to get down to the seven, eight percent body fat range without, at least, doing that three or four cardio sessions per week. It really has made a difference. I’ve tried it, lifting and diet, and I’ll get to a point where I’m stuck.

And I don’t want to keep on dropping my calories because to a point where that also becomes counterproductive. Then I add my cardio back in, and like that, I’m losing my half-a-pound of fat a week again, and I can roll right into, right through the cut and be done.

Just know that that’s probably how your experience is going to be. If you want to get lean, sure you don’t have to do cardio. As a guy, you’re 18 percent body fat. Let’s say you want to get down to the 12, 13 percent range where you have some abs and you look good.

You don’t have to do cardio to do that. You can weightlift, and you can use your diet to get you there. As a girl, I would say if you want to get down to the 20 percent range, give or take, then you probably don’t have to do any cardio.

Again, if you do cardio you’ll get there faster, but you don’t have to do it if you really don’t want to, or don’t have the time, or whatever. If you want to get very lean you’re going to have to do cardio, you will.

Again, the only people I’ve known that didn’t have to were naturally, their entire life they were seven percent body fat, so who cares, [laughs] it doesn’t count.

Then over a period, they bulked and ate a bunch of food, and it took a shit ton of food for them to even get up to, let’s say, 10, or 11 percent, and then for them to get back to seven percent is to stop eating a shit load of food and their body, you know…

I’ve written about what’s called a body weight set point, and some people’s set points are low. I’ll link an article down below, or if you’re listening you can search for muscle for life set point in “Google” and you’ll find it. Some people, it’s a genetic gift, you could say.

Now, before I wrap up here, let’s quickly talk about cardio and building muscle. A lot of people think that doing cardio, or improving cardiovascular endurance, and building muscle are mutually exclusive, you can’t do both, and you shouldn’t be doing cardio if you want to build muscle.

I disagree, yes there’s a point where it becomes counterproductive because there’s quite a bit of research that shows that concurrent type of training programs, where you’re doing a bunch of cardio.

And a bunch of weight lifting, are just not as good for building strength as pure strength programs where you’re not doing any cardio. There’s really no refuting that and I’ve experienced that with my body. I’ve worked with a lot of people that have experienced it.

That’s pretty cut and dry. If you’re doing a small amount of cardio, one, it can help with recovery. I noticed when I started putting the biking in that my legs recovered faster from my dead lifting and squatting, and the faster you recover, the more…

It’s nice because it’s nice to not be blasted sore for as long, but also it can help you in that, like let’s say you’re doing some heavy pulling on a Tuesday, and then you’re squatting on a Thursday, or a Friday.

If your legs are still a little bit sore from the Tuesday, there’s a good chance that it’s going to affect your squats, not that you shouldn’t be squatting, but if your legs are still a bit tight it can impair performance a little bit.

Also, regarding frequency, if you’re trying to squat twice a week, or pull twice a week, that speed of recovery can really help. I also found that, and again, this is anecdotal, even Lyle McDonald has spoken about it as well, and I’ve seen it.

If you keep your cardio in when you are bulking, that when you flip to a cut, the transition seems to be smoother, and the fat loss…it your body, there isn’t a lag from that in the beginning, and you don’t have to fight for every to start getting this fat loss going. I found that to be true.

Insulin sensitivity is another good reason to do some cardio because it improves insulin sensitivity, which, of course, applies to your muscle tissue. Insulin sensitivity is one of the important…it affects muscle growth, and it effects fat storage as well.

The more insulin resistant you are, the less muscle you’re going to grow because insulin drives nutrients in the cells, that’s what it does. If your muscle tissue is very sensitive to insulin, that’s great because that means it’s going to be very receptive to the nutrients that you eat.

And it also means that your body is going to be able to shuttle those nutrients into muscles, as opposed to having to convert them into fat. That’s one of the reasons why high levels of insulin resistance, why carbohydrates, eating high carbs in those situations…

…is one of the reasons why its bad, is that if your muscles aren’t able to absorb carbs, eventually your body has to do something with them.

One of the things it will do with them is the liver will convert it into fat through a process called de novo lipogenesis, which I spoke about in the last podcast. DNL does not happen under normal circumstances, but to any degree you’d have to really, really go hard on carbs.

This is an abnormal circumstance where DNL can occur at a higher than normal rate, which is where there’s a lot of insulin resistance. That’s one of the things your body will do with the excess glucose, and the blood is trying to get it out, so one of the things it will do is start converting it into fat.

What you’ll find is, this is also one of the reasons why you want to stay relatively lean when you’re bulking and you don’t want to go crazy bat-shit, ham on food is, the fatter you are, the more insulin resistant you’re going to become.

The more insulin resistant you become, the more easy it is to gain fat even faster, and the less muscle you’re going to build. It becomes very counterproductive, to gain a lot of fat when you’re bulking, or to bulk when you already are fat.

That’s why I generally recommend that if you really want to look at this in the bigger picture, and you want to go from being fat to having a great physique, the first thing you need to do is you need to get lean.

As a guy you need to get down to the 10 percent body fat range, as a girl you need to get down to the 20 percent body fat range.

One of the big reasons for this is because, at that point, you’re going to have good insulin sensitivity. If you’re overweight there are no supplements you can take. There’s really not much you can do to counteract the negative effects on insulin sensitivity, other than losing the weight.

Cardio, coming back to cardio, it improves insulin sensitivity, and everything you can do when you’re bulking to keep that insulin sensitivity high is going to help you. Of course, there are supplements out there that can help, like berberine.

I’ve been trying to work berberine into one of my supplements, but it tastes so fucking bad that it can’t be in a powder.

I wanted berberine in Recharge for my post workout. It’d be a perfect thing to put in there because when your insulin sensitivity is already high right after you train, and then adding berberine, which there’s even…they’ll use berberine with people with diabetes and it’ll work as well as metformin.

It works there’s no question, but it tastes so bad that we can’t use it. I was even thinking, maybe I’ll throw it in a pill and have it as an add on to Recharge that’s optional, and can explain why, like, “Here’s something I wanted to put into Recharge but can’t.

So if you don’t mind spending the money, here, get this, and take this pill too.” Anyways, but something’s only going to do so much, like with building muscle and losing fat, you have to work for it, and if you’re working for it, supplements can help.

Same thing with this insulin sensitivity point, you can’t just be overweight, and lazy, and pop some pills, and have great insulin sensitivity. That’s another reason why I like doing cardio when I’m bulking, is to help maintain insulin sensitivity.

Now, in terms of how much, again, I try to keep it to maybe two sessions a week, no more than three. I stick to high intensity because I’m going to get really, the most bang for my buck, and not have to spend a bunch of time doing it.

Again, the amount of time that you’re going to be spending doing cardio matters when you’re, especially, it matters when you’re cutting, it also matters when you’re bulking. You really want to be doing as little cardio as you can, while still getting the benefits that you’re looking for.

I found in bulking that is, maybe an hour, hour-and-a-half max, but usually about an hour a week of high intensity cardio, and then again I’m walking my dogs every day, and stuff but that’s walking around, I almost don’t even count that.

I would say that you don’t have to do cardio when you’re bulking if you stick to your calories, maintain a slight surplus, five, 10 percent. Don’t go crazy on your cheat meals. Be smart about that, save your calories for those meals.

Don’t go in 3,000 calorie surpluses twice a week with a bunch of dietary fat and all the things that people, especially when they come out of a diet, so they’ve been cutting, and now they go right into a bulk and they’re like, “Ooh, now I get to eat anything and it, is a disaster.

At the end of a cut, at the end of that period where you’re in a sustained calorie deficit, your body is primed to gain fat very quickly. If you indulge it, [laughs] and you go pound Five Guys hamburgers every day, you’re going to gain fat very quickly and throw away everything that you worked for.

Then the insulin sensitivity problems, or resistance problems will come into play, and then you’re going to start gaining fat faster, you’re not going to build as much muscle. It becomes like a vicious downward type of spiral.

You can prevent that by doing a proper reverse diet after you’re done cutting, and then go into a slight surplus and maintain that. Don’t go crazy on your cheat meals. Do some cardio, which you factor in with your calories to make sure you’re in a surplus.

You’re going to have to eat a bit more, which is nice as well, and then maintain insulin sensitivity. When I’m bulking I like to go for, I would say, three months. At least you want to go three months, but personally I used to go, I try to stretch it out to even six months.

Where I would go from like eight or nine percent body fat to like, maybe 15 or 14, over the course of six months, but that’s great. That was six months of really making a lot of progress in the gym.

Going up quite a bit in my weights and strength, then get rid of the fat again, and then compare and see, “Wow, that’s a seven pound,” it wouldn’t be that much. In my case when I was bulking years ago, I gained my first…

Like when I really started learning what I was doing, my first bulk and then cut, I gained probably about seven pounds of muscle in the first year of that, which was pretty impressive, considering how long that I had been lifting at that point.

Although, I didn’t know what was I was doing, I had a little bit of like, advanced new beginnings in a sense. Anyways, you get the point that you can go six months, gain a few pounds of muscle, keep it all when you lose the fat, rinse and repeat, and then eventually you get there.

If you’re new to weight lifting you can gain quite a bit more. You can gain, if you were…like I’ve seen guys that started lean and just don’t put on fat easily, bulk essentially for an entire year, and gain 20 pounds of muscle, legitly 20 pounds of muscle.

Let’s say you bulk for six to eight months of that and then you spend last…let’s say its eight months of bulking and four months of cutting. If you can gain 15 pounds of muscle in that time, if you’re new to weight lifting, that’s great, in the second year you cut those numbers in half.

I’ll link an article down below, and if you’re listening, if you want to learn more about how much muscle you can build naturally, and if you’re listening you can Google, muscle for life build muscle naturally, and it’ll come up. That’s everything, it covers all of the questions I hear most.

One last thing is, do your weight lifting first. If you’re going to do cardio after your weight lifting, which I recommend that you split those workouts up if you can, but if you can’t, do the cardio after the weight lifting.

If you’re train fasted that’s fine. If you’re not, then you can have your…some guys, some people, they’ll do their pre-workout meal, they’ll lift, have a scoop of whey, and then do their cardio. I don’t know if that really matters.

Sometimes I’ll tell people if they want to be, if they’re like really scared of losing muscle, [laughs] I don’t think it’s really necessary. You probably have your pre-workout meal, lift, cardio, go have your post workout meal, and you’re good to go.

If you do your cardio first it’s going to suck energy that is better spent on your weight lifting, and pushing heavy weights, and then, if that means that your cardio session, you’re not going to push.

You’re not going to be able to go, let’s say, as fast on your high intensity intervals as you would have been able to if you did it first. Who cares, that’s not the point.

The point is that you’re getting your heart rate up, you’re reaching that high VO2 max, labor breathing, can’t hold a conversation easy, that’s what you’re going for. So yes, if you are on a time trial and you’re really trying to…

If you’re doing your cardio for performance reasons then they would be different, but you’re not. You’re weightlifting more for performance reasons and the cardio is supplementary. I hope that helps you. If you have any other cardio related questions, of course, you can comment down below.

If you’re watching this in the blog poster, you can email me, or go on “Muscle for Life,” and comment on [laughs] the podcast. You know how to reach me on social media blah, blah, blah.

Sometimes I should probably talk about some of the things that I have because I come out with new things we email about, and stuff. I never really promote shit on the podcast, which isn’t necessarily bad. I just don’t really even think of it.

I want to say that, over at Legionathletics.com we came out with a new product called Fortify, which is a joint support supplement, and one of the things that I really like about it is, it’s not a glucosamine supplement, it’s not an MSM, or Chondroitin supplement.

Which those molecules are underwhelming, period, and more for people that have arthritis, or arthritic symptoms. There’s no research that shows that they’re going to do anything for people with healthy joints.

It’s an unknown thing, but if we know that it isn’t even that great for people with arthritis it’s probably not, even if it does do something for people with healthy joints, it’s probably just not going to be much of anything.

This supplement, Fortify, is very different and contains a few ingredients that if you were to buy them separately, they’re expensive. Like for instance, Curcumin, Curcumin and Piperine, if you go look at…

I take Curcumin every day and I was buying it from some company, Viva Labs, or something like that. I was paying like 20 to $25 a bottle, for that alone. I’m getting the same dosages as 500 milligrams, that’s the clinically effective dosage.

And I believe like 25 milligrams of Piperine, is that what it is? I don’t remember off the top of my head. Piperine is to increase the absorption. Really the Curcumin is what gives you the benefits. A great anti-inflammatory agent helps lower inflammation in the joints.

Also, a type of collagen called undenatured type two collagen, which also, this is a very cool molecule that modulates the body’s immune response. What can happen is your body’s immune system can attack the collagen in your joints and that degrades it over time.

By supplementing it with this particular type of collagen, it teaches your immune system that it’s not harmful, so then the immune system stops attacking the collagen in your joints, very simple mechanism, but very cool.

There’s research showing that in people with healthy joints that it benefits, and it prevents that degenerative process that eventually leads to arthritis. There’s a clinically effective dosage of the collagen, there’s also a clinically effective of, it’s an acid, it’s a long word.

The acronym is AKBA and it comes from a plant called the boswellia serrate plant, and this is the plant where the frankincense comes from.

Like Curcumin, it’s a great anti-inflammatory agent because, obviously, if you’re lifting weights regularly, and if you’re physically active, if you’re playing sports, or whatever, you know that joint inflammation is one of the problems you can run into. Joint swelling, joint inflammation.

It causes pain, and then also it triggers that immune response which causes joint degeneration over time. Boswellia serrate, like Curcumin, similar in their effects of reducing inflammation, which also, of course, has other benefits in the body because inflammation is an important…

It’s like going back to where I was talking about Cortisol, where acute bouts of spikes of Cortisol in the right situations is good, that’s what you want. Acute inflammation is good if it’s like, for instance, in response to exercise, that’s good, in the muscles you want that.

That inflammatory response is part of the entire adaption process, which is why you’ve probably heard, or maybe even seen the research showing, that taking antioxidant type of things, like vitamin C, for instance, after taking a gram of vitamin c after weight lifting’s a bad idea.

Because it modulates that inflammatory response. That’s why that is because you want that inflammation to occur, and then your body has ways to deal with it. You don’t want to go in there and reduce that.

If you have chronically elevated levels of inflammation throughout the body that’s very bad, and that can lead to different types of disease states, and give you all kinds of problems. There’s some side benefits to stuff like Curcumin, and AKBA as well, because it does reduce systemic inflammation.

There’s also a clinically effective dosage of grape seed extract in Fortify, which is also in Triumph because there are quite a few health benefits. It improves eye health, reduces the risk of heart disease and other things.

But related to joint specifically, the grape seed extract, the mechanism is similar to the collagens in that it reduces that pro-inflammatory response from the immune system, in terms of attacking the collagen.

Anyways, that’s the product, it’s called Fortify, you can find it on “Amazon,” you can find it at legionathletics.com. I’m excited about it because, again, it’s less bottles that I… [laughs] not only, of course, is it cheaper for me, but it’s quite a bit cheaper for you if you go and see…

Like I know “Life Extension,” they sell the collagen alone, it’s like $30 a bottle, or $25 a bottle. If you look at how much would it cost to go buy all these ingredients separately because you will not find another joint supplement that has all of these ingredients together.

The vast majority of joint supplements are glucosamine supplements, or chondroitin MSM type supplements, and overhyped, and bullshit.

It would be quite a bit more to build this supplement to, hobble it together by buying all of the ingredients separately. That’s it for this week and I will see you next week.


How Much Cardio You Should Do (and How Much Is Too Much)

The Worst Way to Lose Weight

The Top 3 Reasons to Do High-Intensity Interval Training

How to Change Your Body Weight Set Point

How Much Muscle Can You Build Naturally?

Oh and if you like this episode want to be be notified when new episodes go live, then head on over to iTunes, Stitcher, YouTubeSoundcloud, or Google Play and subscribe.

Lastly, if you want to support the show, please drop a quick review of it over on iTunes. It really helps!

What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

admin admin

I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like what I have to say, sign up for my free newsletter and every week I'll send you awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious "diet-friendly" recipes, motivational musings, and more.


If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my bestselling books.

Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Want more awesome stuff like this? Enter your email address to get the weekly newsletter.
LIKE MUSCLE FOR LIFE? Let Google know!
Leave a Comment!
  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:


    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Alex Wunder

    Thoughts on berberine while maintaining?

    What is a clinically effective dose?

    Does it matter what time of day one takes it?

    I was thinking of taking some to keep insulin sensativity high while maintaining being at 7-8% just because.

    Not sure how much HIIT i want to continue doing becaue I dont enjoy it as much as just walking even though its less effective. Any thoughts?

    • Berberine is a neat molecule. I wanted to include it in Recharge but it tastes HORRIBLE. Like puke, actually, heh.

      You can read more about it here:


      Don’t need to do any HIIT if you don’t want to. Walking and diet are totally fine for maintenance.

      • Alex Wunder

        Thanks for the info! I’d probably take it in the pill form if I bought it.

        Would you reccomend taking it continuously, meaning in 3 doses of 500 mg a day, or would you recommend just doing it for a few months and then stopping?

        I guess I’m trying to decide whether this is even a worthy purchase.

        Thanks again mike !

        • I personally don’t take it because I don’t think it’s worth another bottle in my cupboard, haha.

  • Barkan Guven

    Mike thanks for the podcast, you’re the man, amazing as always.

    I recently bought Yohimbe HCL and currently doing BLS program and bulking. I am doing 30-30 rule before workouts.

    I am planning to take Yohimbine HCL before cardios because my insulin levels are usually low (I dont take much of carbs) but I am afraid I cant take it before weightlifting becaise I take 30-40 grams of high GI carb which I think would negate the effect of Yohimbine since its recommended to be taken in a fasted state.

    1. Wouid you take Yohimbine HCL when bulking ? if yes, when would be the best time to take it?

    • YW!

      As you said, the effects of yohimbine are negated unless fasted, and I don’t recommend fasted training when bulking because the goal is building muscle.

      So, I don’t recommend yohimbine when bulking.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Great podcast, Mike… keep doin’ your thang!

  • Tim

    Hi Mike, I don’t have a car and I bike a lot. To the gym and University it’s about 30 mins and back another 30 mins. All in all I would say I bike 3-4 hours every week. Is this in any case counterproductive? Can I do HIIT on top of that? Also related: When I calculate my TDEE should I factor biking in?


    • Ehh. That’s already a lot of cardio. I wouldn’t recommend anymore cardio than that.

      Yep, the biking needs to be factored in your overall activity.

  • Hey this was a great podcast to listen to while I was (ironically) doing cardio.

    Some key takeaways that I got for those who didn’t feel like listening to the whole thing:
    1. HIIT training (High Intensity Interval Training) has been known to be the best form of cardio when it comes to retaining muscle.
    2. Using a bike for HIIT training could potentially increase your squat since its a similar motion.
    3. Mike likes to use the bike rather than doing sprints for hit training because it doesn’t hinder his leg day. (doing sprints can make you sore for days)
    4. Make sure to take in 30-40grams of protein before and after playing any competitive sports if you are focused on retaining/gaining muscle.
    5. The recommended form of HIIT training is doing 1 minute of full on sprint/bike/row followed by a slower steady state for a minute and a half. Do this for approximately 25 minutes.
    6. HIIT training is more efficient than LISS (low intensity steady state) cardio since it’s a much shorter workout and will help you retain muscle.

  • Brian Giffin

    I started HIT on a spin bike VS my normal 30 min run. Liking it but it’s killing my ass!!!!!

    Got a padded bike seat, helps but not enough. Ideas?

    • Cool on the HIIT.

      That’s why I recommend a recumbent bike, haha.

      You just need to get thicker pad I guess?

  • Jonathan Martinez


    Two quick questions:

    1. I’m at 14% – 16% BF and doing 4 days weights, 1 cardio+weights, 1 cardio and 1 full rest. Should I do more cardio? You recommend 4 days. I am doing two 30 mins HIIT cardio a week

    2. One of the two days, I am doing a cycling class but only for 30 mins. The trainer really pushes you to the limit so I always do no more than 30mins. Are cycling classes good HIIT cardio or should I change that?

    Thanks again for all your help. I have gone down from 24% to 14-16% BF in 6 weeks thanks to your book and articles. Keep up the good work!

    • Good job on the results you’ve gotten so far! Glad the books and articles have helped. 🙂

      1. More cardio would help accelerate the fat loss. Up to 5 cardio sessions a week is fine (the cycling included in the five)

      2. That’s fine on the cycling class. I can’t say if it’s HIIT. That depends on how the class is done. To see the protocol for HIIT, check this out:


      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Clay Eamer

    Mike, in BLS and in this podcast you said that if you have to do cardio right after fasted lifting to have a protein shake on between. Do you mean just some whey, or whey with some carbs? What about doing another dose of HMB?

    • Just whey is fine. You can save the carbs for post-cardio.

      If you want to keep up the fast, you’d take a serving of HMB instead of whey between the weightlifting and the cardio.

      Hope this helps! LMK.

      • Clay Eamer

        Is one way necessarily better than the other?

        • If the priority is to accelerate fat loss, I recommend taking HMB and continuing the fast.

  • Davie

    Mike, this cardio thing is really confusing me… I’m just not too sure on how you go about doing it in terms of working and rest. The only cardio I’ve done before is tabatas, where you go all out for 20 seconds, then rest for 10, and so on, so this whole 50% of Vmax thing and 1:1 ratios is confusing me.

    Could you give me a simple 25 minute HIIT cardio example, like the one you do, for rowing or biking? I’m guessing it would be something like 30 seconds all out, 30 seconds rest, and repeat, but I’m not sure.

    Thanks for your time.

      • Davie

        So if i’m bulking, would it be an OK idea to do Monday-Friday lifting, and then Saturday and Sunday cardio?

        And also, will I need to add in more calories on top of the added bulking calories to compensate for the cardio? You recommend a 10% surplus for bulking… how much additional calories will 2 days of cardio add on top of that?

        • Yep, that works great!

          The cardio should be counted in your total hours of weekly activity when calculating your intake. You can calculate it here:


          LMK how it goes!

          • Henry

            How many calories would you say the kind of cardio you advocate adds on top of the TDEE?

          • It depends on how long you do it for and your weight but the average for a 20-30 min HIIT session will be 250-350 cals.

  • Pineda Jaycee

    HELLO EVERYONE THIS IS THE OPPORTUNITY TO JOIN THE ILLUMINATI CULT CALL +2347064693371 AND GET RICH WE APPROVED MONEY TO PEOPLE THAT ARE OUR MEMBER SO WE WELCOME YOU TO JOIN NOW AND SAY BYE BYE TO POVERTY AND GET 2MILLION DOLLARS AFTER INITIATION CALL OUR AGENT +2347064693371. YOU ARE WELCOME TO THE GREAT BROTHERHOOD ILLUMINATI KINGDOM, WHERE YOU FOUND ALL KINDS OF HAPPINESS, BLESSING JOY IN LIFE. Are you tired with the kind of life you are living today do you want your life to be change totally, and for you to fulfill your dream, then you have the opportunity to join now so that your life story will be changed immediately. Are you poor and you want to become rich in life , like other people or you want to be famous in life, are you a graduate looking for job. you have to join now. or a business man or woman or star who want to be fame and powerful, you don’t have to waste any of your time, are you suffering in life, make up your mind and join the Illuminati church of devil today, to become a wealthy man or woman and also to become famous and powerful in life.The higher you get the richer you become Illuminati, it makes your business grow faster than you can ever imagine, illuminati brings out the talent in you and make you famous, as you become a member of illuminati order you will receive 2,000,000 US DOLLARS instantly on your Bank Account, or any way you choose to receive the money, there are many more other benefits you stand to gain, so if you are interested to be a member contact me now on +2347064693371 or our EMAIL [email protected] JOIN US TODAY & BECOME RICH, POWERFUL AND FAMOUS IN ALL YOUR LIFE or better still on whatsapp via +2347064693371

  • Elijah Laughinghaus

    I am a pretty scrawny guy, so my focus now is bulking. But at the same time I do have a bit of a gut. I want cardio in my routine simply because I want endurance, aside from fat considerations. But Right now I do NO cardio and my muscle gains are pretty unsatisfactory slow. Should I continue to wait for bigger muscle gains before I start? How often and where would you recommend putting it into my routine?

    • I’m sure you can include some cardio in your routine and be fine. An hour or so of HIIT per week should fit your needs.

      Check this out too:


      • Elijah Laughinghaus

        Actually I wonder if bulking now is a good idea? Would it be easier to try and work off the gut first, now, while I’m still overall scrawny, than it will be later after getting bigger?

        • Hmm it depends. What’s your BF%?

          If you don’t know, you can calculate it here:


          • Elijah Laughinghaus

            I am somewhere around 12-14% probably.

          • Let’s cut to 10% BF. Then you can focus on building muscle. It’ll give you more time to properly bulk.


          • Elijah Laughinghaus

            I’ll take your word on it! But yeah that seems to make sense.

          • Cool. 🙂 I look forward to seeing your results!

  • Anthony

    Hey Mike,

    Great article made a lot of sense with some ‘common sense’ tips that most just dont think of, any who after a year out (plateau unfortunately) i decided a wise thing to do would be to start jogging just to get my HR up and the plan was after increasing HR/fitness levels i’d proceed with hypertrophy. I’ve exercised HIIT previously but wanted to try my hand at jogging consistently for 30 mins at no more than 10 kph. My diet struggled for 2,000 calories per day but was hitting my protein targets of 180-190 g per day. I found myself gaining weight and relatively lean.

    Whats your thoughts/conclusion? oh and i’m a mesomorph/slight ectomorph btw love to hear your thoughts 🙂


  • Ransom

    Hey Mike,

    You said in the pod that you would recommend splitting up the cardio (hiit or otherwise) from your lifting. I always worry that if i do, i’ll be sore from the cardio (especially as someone who has been really lax on their cardio for a while) and it will hurt my lift day the following day.


    • Hey hey! I understand your concern. To help with soreness, check this out:


      If you’re still concerned with soreness, just make sure you’re not doing leg day or back day the day after cardio.

      Hope this helps! What do you think?

      • Ransom

        Thanks for the response. I did check that article (it’s something my roomate and i have pondered uselessly over for a while).

        The biggest problem with your advice is i do some legs on every lift day. I’m on a modified version of the stronglifts/starting strength program. I’ll probably just go into cardio a little more gradually to try to mitigate the soreness factor.

        Also, I wanted to say I do think it’s really cool you get to answering as many reader comments as you do. Keep up the good work man!

        • YW!

          Ah okay. That does make it difficult, haha. Taking it slow is a good idea. You could also try more frequent HIIT sessions, but done for less time (maybe 10-15 minutes) and see how that goes.


          Happy to stay in touch. 🙂

  • Vanessa

    Hi Mike!

    I am a huge fan of your work, book (TLS), articles, and research!

    I got sucked into working with a coach (went in with a friend) and she started us both off with cardio 5x/week of HIIT and the training in ridiculous volumes (like 7 sets of 25…) 6x/week (1.5-2 hours lifting alone). I was very skeptical given that I was training based on your book (and loving it!), but wanted to be supportive of my friend. Anyway, long story short, I did lose weight (went from ~134 to ~124), but I also lost most of my strength. I was lucky enough to not lose much muscle mass…(I track with calipers). However, I have decided to stop training like this, as it has been detrimental to my mental and physical well-being, and would like to ease back into my TLS routine.

    What is the best way to cycle off/cut down on all of this cardio without blowing up (gaining)? Also, I have been in a deficit since May (and still am), yet I’ve reached a fat loss plateau. Not to mention that I have had a few binging episodes (probably due to starvation/overexercising), which I had not experienced prior to starting this craziness.

    Should I take a diet break and eat at maintenance, since I have been in a deficit since May? If so, for how long? How should I approach increasing calories and cutting back on cardio without regaining the weight back? I have goals I want to reach (full-on abs!), and felt like this was a big step back for me–despite the weight loss :(.

    Currently: I am at 124lbs. ~16-17% bf. Eating 1500 cal/day.

    Thank you for your support and knowledge! Can’t wait to ease back to TLS!

  • romankol

    Hey Mike!

    I can’t get my heart rate higher than about 150 anymore, regardless of how hard I go at it. It seems the fitter I get the lower my max heart rate is. Does this make sense? I have been increasing the interval times and I’m currently at 45 seconds High Intensity and 45 seconds of rest and I couldn’t hold a conversation. Even if I go full blast for 60+ seconds the heart rate doesn’t go higher than about 150. My resting heart rate is also down to 49/50 (used to be in the 60’s). BTW: I’m 32 years old, 5’11”, 166lbs and about 12% BF going down to 10% to finally start my first bulk. Cheers, Roman

  • Hossein Yaghoobi

    what i would miss if i do cardio immediately after weightlifting?
    i really cant separate them by hours.

  • Carl Stevenson

    Hi Mike,

    Great Article!. My question relates to cutting. I have been cutting for 15 weeks now. My abs have just started to show and I am at around 11 – 12% bf. Is it OK to keep cutting for a further few weeks or have I been in a deficit for too long? I do want to start bulking but I want to get to 10% before i do. Whats your advice? Thanks


    Hi Mike,
    I’m 32yo, 164 LBS, 5’9 with approx. 11% BF. I would like to get to 9% BF before starting a clean bulk. I work regular office hours. I workout 5 days a week (weight lifting) and on Saturdays and Sundays I play beach volleyball competitively. What would you say my Activity Level Multiplier should be? And how much cardio should I do based on the info above?
    Many thanks!

    • Hey there! It depends how long your workouts are, but I’d probably go with the 4-6 hours 1.35x activity multiplier.


      With cardio, I recommend doing as much as needed to reach your fat loss goals. A good place to start when cutting is about an hour a week (3 or so HIIT sessions), and add more as needed. You might like this article:


      Since you’re already playing volleyball on the weekends, it might be best to start low with the cardio and see how you do.

      • CESAR M

        Thanks for your response. My workouts (5 day split) last about an hour a day, except on days when I have to do abs (3 times a week) in which they are extended to 20 extra minutes. That will put me at 6 hours a week approximately, plus HIIT cardio which is an hour a week, plus volleyball on weekends (about 6 hours per week). Does cardio counts towards my activity level multiplier? Based on this info, do you think I should still go with the 1.35x activity multiplier?

        • Yes, the activity multiplier includes cardio. I’d go with 1.35x and then adjust based on your results. If you’re losing weight too fast, you can raise your cals a bit.

Sign in to Muscle For Life
or use your MFL Account