Finally!  The “best” cardio exercise, unveiled!

A discussion about the “best” cardio workout can involve debate about lots of things:

-the best machine to use

-the best time of day to exercise

-to do it on an empty stomach or after a snack

-to strictly stay in the “fat burning zone” if your goal is to maximize fat loss and avoid the “cardio training zone”

-to interval train or not to interval train?  What does interval training mean??


Between things you see on the internet and read in magazines, not to mention all the chatter at the gym and at work from people who “know,” there is a lot of information to sift through when it comes to finding the “best” way to do cardio.   There are a few bottom line statements I want to make, although we will certainly come back and dig deeper into some of these points in future posts. First off, there is no “best machine” for cardio exercise. If I’m going to even use a machine for cardio (which I almost never do…), I like the elliptical or rowing machines for the following reasons:

-they use arms AND legs, not just legs (and the more muscle you work, the more calories you burn.  The more calories you burn, the greater your potential for fat loss).

-they use “unusual” movement patterns rather than the same old, same old walk/run or cycle that your body is very used to doing (and – your body is a master of adaptation too so it’s a good idea to mix it up and avoid the trap of doing the same thing all the time).

-the rowing ergometer and elliptical machine are both kind to my arthritic knee since there is no impact involved with either.

Answer: The Best Cardio Machine…

boring cardio


The bottom line is the best machine is the one you will actually use and enjoy!  If you like the treadmill and find that it works for you, go for it!  As I said I almost never use cardio machines so if you were wondering what I DO use, it’s my own body.  I have a home gym with an elliptical in it and also my road bike on an expensive wind trainer, both of which are handy clothes dryers at the moment…  Most of the time, I like to train machine-free using cardio drills like skipping, burpees, mountain climbers and other drills (including strength training exercises) in a circuit format.  (Did I just give something away about circuit and interval training as super-effective fat loss tools?!)

More on the topic of circuits and interval training methods in a bit…  Moving right along…

Answer:  The Best Time of Day for Cardio…

The best time of day to exercise largely relates to the time you have the most energy to give.  If you have read that doing a good, intense cardio workout in the morning is best for results since you can burn more calories all day long, there is certainly truth to that.  If you can only spare 10 minutes in the morning to go for a walk or if your energy is low in the morning, perhaps a lunch hour or after-work session is better.  Sure, morning sessions are great – but not if you’ll be late for work or if you can barely put one foot in front of the other before 9 am.  If you think that you won’t get the best results unless you do your cardio in the morning, you are wrong!  If you can only do after-work sessions, all is not lost!  I remember reading about a 50-something bartender (and then seeing the “before” and “after” pictures) who trained to get under 10% body fat and did so in the middle of the night after his shifts!  Don’t let any potential obstacles – either real or perceived – derail your training efforts!

 Answer:  Cardio on an Empty Stomach…

Speaking of efforts, can you exercise with your most intense effort on an empty stomach?  I can’t!  The bottom line with this one is that the more calories you burn, the betterYou can likely work more intensely and burn more total calories after eating a small pre-workout snack than you can fasting.  This is a topic around which there is much debate.  There are theories that a person can burn more fat first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.  Let’s come back to this topic again and take a look at the research.  Until then, the next time you’re in to see the nutritionist, ask about the costs and benefits of working out on an empty stomach.  The explanations relating to fat loss might really surprise you!!


The chat I really want to have related to cardio exercise is about why circuit and interval training workouts are so awesome for losing body fat!  They’re awesome for your heart, your muscles and for maximizing your precious time without sacrificing your equally (if not more) precious fat burning goals!  Are you with me?!  Let’s start with some of my questions for you:

What is your cardio workout of choice?

When you do cardio, do you focus on steady state training in the ‘fat burning zone”?

What have you heard about interval training?  Do you do interval training as part of your exercise program?

Have you heard about the Tabata Method or other “hot” workouts that promise great fat-burning results?

Post your answers and stay tuned to MCC’s blog for my next post about Interval Training for Maximizing Fat Loss!!