What cardio mean? To run quietly for 30 minutes on a carpet, to do an hour of jogging or cycling? You’re right; it’s cardio. But it’s the form of cardio that will offer you the least benefit. By doing this type of cardio training, you will probably lose some fat and improve your cardiovascular abilities, but that’s it …
It’s not bad you’ll say, except that to get a semblance of results you have to spend several hours a week doing cardio. And that’s just for cardio because if you’re doing weight training or any other physical activity, you’ll spend all your free time doing sports. We will see an emphasis on the new generation of cardio.
Cardio can make you lose fat and develop your cardiovascular skills but at a much higher level. But also, according to your goals, gain strength, power, mass and muscular endurance, work skills specific to your sport, strengthen your weak points, etc. All in much less time and with varied cardio and hyper motivational training.
What is cardio, exactly?
Cardio is the simplified term for styling cardiovascular fitness and also known as aerobic fitness. Cardio is used primarily to improve the capabilities and effectiveness of the cardiovascular system. Before the 1970s, no one had heard of cardio until the publication of Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s aerobics book. Dr. Cooper is the father of aerobics and defines it like this: “It’s a method of physical exercise, designed to produce beneficial changes in the respiratory and circulatory systems, through activities that require only a modest increase in oxygen delivery.”
Dr. Cooper also gave his name to the Cooper test, which was initially intended to determine the Vo 2 Max of US Army soldiers. All of this goes in the right direction, right up to the aerobics grip of the fitness industry to sell Nike shoes, Gatorade drinks or fill gyms. With all the propaganda around low-intensity cardio, it has become popular and remains in people’s minds as the best way to improve health and lose fat.
The problem with the “classic” cardio is that if you want to continue to progress and always get more results, you must vary and change the pace, time, and distances of your workouts. Your body adapts when you push it beyond the limits it knows. For your cardiovascular abilities to improve continuously and to reduce or maintain your body fat level, you must always run faster, longer, and more often. With the traditional cardio form, if you want to keep progressing, you’ll have to like Forrest Gump spend your life running. And nowadays, few people have enough free time to spend several hours a week in running shoes, walking on dirt or asphalt.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND CARDIO
To understand how to improve your cardio workouts, you need to know how your energy systems work. The human body is designed to work and even work hard and adapt to the constraints imposed on it. Your body adopts the “use it or lose it” principle, which determines which system will be secure or weak.
Your body maintains or develops the system you use most often. The problem is that with our modern sedentary lives, the body does not need to build our muscles or our cardiovascular system. That’s why it’s essential to stimulate your body through cardio or strength training.
In terms of physical effort, energy is defined by the ability to do a job. The more your body can transfer and release energy during a given activity, the more you can work hard. The energy used by your muscles does not come directly from your food.
ATP is the only molecule of energy that your muscles use to produce an effort. Whatever energy system you use, there is at the end a molecule of ATP to supply your muscles with energy. Your body can produce ATP in 3 ways.
Thanks to energy systems, aerobic (with oxygen), anaerobic (without oxygen) lactic and anaerobic lactic. The galactical anaerobic system is the energy system used during short and intense efforts, not exceeding 15 seconds, as in sports that require strength, power, and speed. During the first 2 to 3 seconds your body uses ATP stored in your muscles, then it uses the reserves of creatine phosphate to produce ATP for about 10 seconds.
The anaerobic lactic system is used during intense efforts, which can last between 15 seconds and 1min30, as for the 400m in athletics, the 200m in swimming and the sports of combat (judo, fight). It is the glycogen stored in your muscle cells that are used to produce ATP. This transformation also produces lactate (lactic acid), which disrupts muscle activity and forces the cessation of effort usually after 2 to 3 minutes.
Both anaerobic systems cannot provide a large amount of ATP because they are limited mainly by storage capacity. The aerobic system is a significant producer of ATP. The aerobic system uses carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and oxygen to produce ATP through a series of chemical transformations. Because of the large number of chemical reactions involved in the process, the aerobic energy system needs several minutes to be productive.
This is why anaerobic energy systems are essential for producing energy quickly. But once the aerobic system is productive, it can create a large amount of ATP and provide sufficient power to achieve low-intensity efforts for very long periods. The aerobic system is also the only energy system that uses body fat to produce energy. This is why cardio is widely recommended for burning fat.
How to simulate the aerobic system to do extraordinary cardio workouts
The aerobic system is stimulated in two ways. During long, low-intensity physical activities and also to recover from periods of intense physical activity. For example, when you sprint as quickly as possible, you primarily use your anaerobic system to produce a large amount of ATP quickly, and your effort can only last a few seconds.
The high demand for ATP, coupled with a short working period for the aerobic system to intervene, creates a significant decrease in your ATP reserves.
At the end of your effort, the aerobic system takes over to produce ATP and recharge the reserves. That’s why you’re more or less out of breath after a sprint, depending on the oxygen demand of your aerobic system. Your body also needs the energy produced by your aerobic system to lower your heart rate and body temperature and perform other activities necessary to return to a healthy state of balance.
This phenomenon of recovery after an intense effort is called “oxygen debt,” but more generally known by the acronym EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Consumption).EPOC stimulates the aerobic system to produce a large amount of ATP and restore the other two anaerobic systems. The EPOC depends on two factors: the fitness level of the person and the intensity of the effort.
The lower your fitness level, the higher the intensity of your effort, and the higher the EPOC will be. During EPOC you burn more calories than usual at rest. And with short and intense workouts followed by active recovery, you can burn the same amount of calories, as with long, low-intensity runs.