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  1. #1
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    Diet vs Cardio when it comes to staying/getting lean

    Hey guys,
    So when it comes to getting down to low bf% (8-12%) is cardio the key essential factor in maintaining and achieving that level of conditioning? Or is diet the #1 important factor?

    What dietary changes are necessary? Is it all down to eating less calories or eating cleaner foods?

    Can’t I just do 2-3 hours of cardio a day to stay lean and eat 4K+ calories?

    What personally helps you stay lean? Do you actually have to eat less than someone with more body fat?
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    Moderator SuffolkPunch's Avatar
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    No. Plenty of people got very lean with no cardio.

    It burns calories - and IMO is rather a time-inefficient way of altering your net deficit.

    It of course has health improvement aspects too. Another thing it can do is make you feel better and it can suppress appetite in some people. So if you are dieting and it's an off day from lifting then a short cardio session can be beneficial. When I do this, I feel warmer and less hungry.
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    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    No. Plenty of people got very lean with no cardio.

    It burns calories - and IMO is rather a time-inefficient way of altering your net deficit.

    It of course has health improvement aspects too. Another thing it can do is make you feel better and it can suppress appetite in some people. So if you are dieting and it's an off day from lifting then a short cardio session can be beneficial. When I do this, I feel warmer and less hungry.
    It must be extremely difficult for someone to stay at 10% with no cardio though. You’d be eating very little at that point, no?
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    Moderator SuffolkPunch's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by JustCallMeJonny View Post
    It must be extremely difficult for someone to stay at 10% with no cardio though. You’d be eating very little at that point, no?
    Not really. I doesn't affect your TDEE as much as people think. Being lean can affect your appetite though because of leptin production.

    In practice, not many people stay that lean year round.
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    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    Not really. I doesn't affect your TDEE as much as people think. Being lean can affect your appetite though because of leptin production.

    In practice, not many people stay that lean year round.
    Why is that? Does staying lean really require more discipline? How so?
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    Originally Posted by JustCallMeJonny View Post
    Why is that? Does staying lean really require more discipline? How so?
    Because your appetite is constantly elevated.
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    Originally Posted by SuffolkPunch View Post
    Because your appetite is constantly elevated.
    So I’m guessing the guys that can stay leaner than 12% year round simply don’t experience that issue, or they just have iron willpower?
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    Also how lower is your TDEE when you get leaner?
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    My personal rule is: Cardio makes you fitter - Dieting (calorie deficit) looses weight. Exercise doesn't burn as many calories as people think. I'd much rather eat less than run 10 miles every day.
    I can only please one person per day, today is not your day and tomorrow doesn't look good either.
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    Originally Posted by JustCallMeJonny View Post
    Can’t I just do 2-3 hours of cardio a day to stay lean and eat 4K+ calories?
    Michael Phelps ate around 8,000-10,000 cals/day. He swam about 6 hours/day. So as a rough reference, you could guess how long your cardio/day needs to be @4,000+ cals based on your cardio intensity compared to the world's best swimmer.

    Also, to stay lean you have to be lean.
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    At your size, 2-3 hours will crush your knees if you are thinking about jogging.

    Personally, I eat in a deficit when I want to cut, and I will also do cardio, but I don't eat those calories back and I am not doing the cardio to put me in the deficit. I am doing it for overall health/heart benefits. I just feel so much more fit when my conditioning is through the roof.
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    Originally Posted by JustCallMeJonny View Post
    Also how lower is your TDEE when you get leaner?
    Depends, but not likely much more than a few hundred calories tops; unless going from very obese to lean.

    As for why most do not stay lean: it is hard, and you pretty much need to focus on it every day, monitoring calories, ect. Unless it's a hobby you're really into, or your job, most wont be up for it. Some are just naturally very lean, either due to just being very active or not having a large appetite.

    Even those Instagram models do not stay super lean all year, plenty of videos/stories on this. They get really lean and take a ton of pictures and then release them slowly over the year to make it appear they are always contest ready. When in reality, they are not as lean for the whole year, it's all about perception.
    Short cuts to success are often paved with lies.
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    Originally Posted by JustCallMeJonny View Post
    So I’m guessing the guys that can stay leaner than 12% year round simply don’t experience that issue, or they just have iron willpower?
    Speculating a bit here - but there is always variability in different people. Some will stay lean without a problem, I suspect those that were overweight to begin with and dieted down will have the hardest time staying lean. Perhaps this is down to the point at which the body starts reducing leptin production.

    There is a lot that is not known about bodyfat set points and the longer term effects of dieting down.
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    I think it depends a lot on the person in question. There is a lot more headroom for move more than eat less but it also requires active time. Also doing cardio makes you even more hungry. Some people may prefer eating large amount and burning it off while others might eat back all the calories and get worn down and have more success limiting the diet. For me I know my lasting changes are always just that things you change that don't feel like your on a plan. I can actively walk every day but that means I have to give that time up and I don't have the time to give every week. The leanest guys I know all have active jobs as they burn calories while working all day. In short though whatever you find is easier and more natural in lowering your set point could be more restriction or activity or some moderate amount of both just have to find something that you feel like you can do forever. In my personal expeice however I don't know many males that are lean that don't do a significant amount of cardio or have high NEAT. By contrast most the lean females I know don't do cardio and have more success eating small amounts that I could not imagine eating with any kind of consistency.
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    I hate cardio so I do HITT. Twenty minutes and I'm good. Battle rope/box jump/kettlebell/sled and I'm good to go.
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    Getting lean is a case of staying in a negative energy balance (burning more than you eat)

    Staying lean is a case of staying in a neutral energy balance (eating around the same amount as you burn)

    Both of these things are entirely dependent on how much you eat. Therefore the only way to achieve either of them is to control what you eat, there is no 'either or'.

    The more active you are, the higher your TDEE is and therefore the more you can eat while still remaining in a deficit or at maintenance however as mentioned above it doesn't make a huge difference. As in an hour of cardio will allow you one extra sandwich or something like that. Cardio is deeply inefficient at creating deficits when it is possible to erase a long period of cardio in several minutes with a relatively small amount of high calorie food. Focus on your diet, cardio can supplement this somewhat
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    Originally Posted by JustCallMeJonny View Post
    It must be extremely difficult for someone to stay at 10% with no cardio though. You’d be eating very little at that point, no?
    its pretty easy tbh honest.

    It’s like 80% diet or more about how lean you are, along side with enough fat and protein with resistant/weight training to maintain / build muscle m

    How many calories burned working out is vastly over estimated. I run a 5k a day but if I don’t my daily caloric needs really only change by about 200 calories if even. Unless I’m doing like hours of hiking or miles of swimming I do not adjust my calories for cardio
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    A lot depends on your NEAT burning during the day. For sedentary people that are inactive outside of the gym are more inclined to need some form of cardio to make up for the lack of activity. When it’s all said and done diet will be the determining factor on fatloss and maintaining low body fat. At some point however those that find it necessary to stay very low calorie to maintain low BF and a decent amount of muscle will come to the conclusion that it just isn’t worth it.

    Everyone wants muscles and low BF until they realize what it takes.
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    If you want to just lose weight and then be "skinny fat" go ahead and just diet and not workout.

    Both are a must if you want to look good.
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    Seems like diet is the major factor, but like someone here mentioned, most lean guys you see irl are very active or train very rigorously. I don’t even know how some people have the time to do multiple hours of cardio a day if they’re working/school full time
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    So personally what do you guys find easier? Being more active and burning a lot of calories to be able to eat more, or just restricting your diet with minimal activity?
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    Originally Posted by JustCallMeJonny View Post
    So personally what do you guys find easier? Being more active and burning a lot of calories to be able to eat more, or just restricting your diet with minimal activity?
    "Burning a lot of calories so you can eat more"?

    Bro you got the wrong train of thought.

    Just stay in a defecit. Work out, drink tons of water, and good rest. Make sure your callries come from good sources and are not empty. Stay away from simple carbs. Complex only. Cardio csrdio cardio.

    In a month you will see and feel the difference
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    Originally Posted by JustCallMeJonny View Post
    So personally what do you guys find easier? Being more active and burning a lot of calories to be able to eat more, or just restricting your diet with minimal activity?
    I stay very lean year round. I am female between 13-15% bf which for a female is really low. I do less than 30 minutes of cardio but it’s not a needed at all for me to stay lean. I do weight training daily for about 60 minutes to 90. I would never recommend some trying to lose weight only through cardio. I mean dropping 400 calories in most diets is fairly easy. Dropping condiments/ coffee creamer/using lower fat products. Etc
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    Originally Posted by latverian41 View Post
    "Burning a lot of calories so you can eat more"?

    Bro you got the wrong train of thought.

    Just stay in a defecit. Work out, drink tons of water, and good rest. Make sure your callries come from good sources and are not empty. Stay away from simple carbs. Complex only. Cardio csrdio cardio.

    In a month you will see and feel the difference
    Isn’t it more difficult to adhere to a diet of 2500-3000 calories than to maintain on 4000 calories with say 2 hours of daily cardio?
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    Originally Posted by JustCallMeJonny View Post
    Seems like diet is the major factor, but like someone here mentioned, most lean guys you see irl are very active or train very rigorously. I don’t even know how some people have the time to do multiple hours of cardio a day if they’re working/school full time
    Doesnt take multiple hrs. If you are a busy man and have littke time to spare . wake up 45 mns earlier thwn you nornally do. Then find another 30 45 mins later in the day

    If you look for a reason not to work out,jog,lift. You will always find an excuse not to. In the end if you dont its usually cause you never really wanted to to start with.

    Its a lifestyle change you must make. Not a diet. And its not goibg to come fast or easy.

    If you work out and its easy. Or yiu sre not covered in sweat when you are done. Then you are not doing it right
    "it takes a wise man to know when he is in error and a noble man to admit to it"
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    Originally Posted by JustCallMeJonny View Post
    Isn’t it more difficult to adhere to a diet of 2500-3000 calories than to maintain on 4000 calories with say 2 hours of daily cardio?
    When you crunch numbers its different for everyone depending on their size,weight and goals
    "it takes a wise man to know when he is in error and a noble man to admit to it"
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    Originally Posted by latverian41 View Post
    Doesnt take multiple hrs. If you are a busy man and have littke time to spare . wake up 45 mns earlier thwn you nornally do. Then find another 30 45 mins later in the day

    If you look for a reason not to work out,jog,lift. You will always find an excuse not to. In the end if you dont its usually cause you never really wanted to to start with.

    Its a lifestyle change you must make. Not a diet. And its not goibg to come fast or easy.

    If you work out and its easy. Or yiu sre not covered in sweat when you are done. Then you are not doing it right
    So is 2 hours daily doable for the average person?
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    Originally Posted by JustCallMeJonny View Post
    So is 2 hours daily doable for the average person?
    on top of weight lifting and trying to build muscle. No. Who has 3 hours to work out daily? And your leg days will suffer

    Cardio is not a replacement for a diet at a deficit.
    Insta is username snails.r.us
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    Originally Posted by snailsrus View Post
    on top of weight lifting and trying to build muscle. No. Who has 3 hours to work out daily? And your leg days will suffer
    Isn’t that how a lot of athletes specifically mma fighters, swimmers, triathlon, etc. train?
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    And I’m mainly talking about maintaining that level of leanness without struggle.
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