Meal planning for Cardio by ratios

Training endurance? Let's make sure we balance your nutrition for cardio gains.

Remember, when we talk about endurance or the ability to sustain, we are talking cardio!

And, of course, the reasons to improve your cardio include:

  1. Prepare for an event, comp or race
  2. Drop body fat and weight
  3. Improve stamina or energy boost

so you will want to begin to train inside the gym, or inside your activity outdoors as you increase rep volumes and workouts.

The smartest way to improve your gain of course includes high rep count and little rest periods of active rest. Further, you must sustain this work rate for a bare minimum of thirty minutes.

30 minutes is the base limit for improvement in cardio gains, I have learned from years of experience.

We burn 270 to over 440 calories in that half hour. As such we need to fuel our system to achieve during our cardio training!

The Average Cardio is 11.5 miles per hour

11 minute mile meal planning

60% to 85% is cardio

Cardio work has a definition.

In  fact, if you need to progress in your cardio and get better, you should perform within these parameters anyways. Those parameters, or range is typically 60% to 85% or so percent of your max heart rate.

(Your max heart is of course, 220 – [your age]).

This number, the percentage, is your work range and is typically “cardio.” You can do weight lifting, hi-reps, or active movement like jogging, treadmill work or even the rower. Still, if you keep your heart within this range, it is cardio.

Perform cardio for at least 30 minutes – on cardio days – to see gains.

It’s a simple “rule” I have seasoned over 17 years of training hundreds of folks.

Generally, less than that and you might not break your lactate threshold. (This is if you are not in great shape)

With this information, know that you probably burn between 220 and 470 ish calories per half hour. The number changes based on your current weight. So, at 200 pounds, you are burning 440 calories during “cardio” day.

Stats like this are important. They form the baseline for our meals.

 When meal planning for cardio, we need to know what we are burning

If you burn, say, 400 calories for cardio days, we establish three strategies.

  1. Eat fewer for body fat drop
  2. Consume the same for maintenance
  3. Take in more to build lean mass.

Why cardio requires Carbs

We can see that the “cross-over” point is where you go from burning fats as primary fuel to carbs. And, this means we have passed the lactate threshold –  the point were your heart rate and oxygen consumption rate diverge, and you need oxygen to sustain workout intensity.

Let’s then break it down a bit.

These 4 scenarios are common:

  • Should you workout in the gym for 20 minutes under your threshold, you will burn mostly fat during a workout
  • 30 or so minutes, also below your threshold (determined by your endogenous, fitness level) you, still burn mostly fat but might cross-over for a few minutes
  • Work very, very hard for 20 minutes, break your threshold, you will start burning carbs and fats.
  • Work for a period past 30 or so minutes, above threshold, you are most likely to burn carbs.

You will probably burn about 50% of each.

meal planning for cardio | basic plan


We should try to eat fruits earlier in the day. Breakfast offers the best time to eat fruits.

You get to stabilize your blood sugar and “prime your pujmp” for later fat burning.


Aim for higher in fiber. Largely, lunch offers us a time to add more fiber. And, we can stabilize our hunger by eating light.


Eat before your workouts – consume sugary foods before cardio like smoothies. After your workouts, think about complex carbohydrates.


Here, try to eat foods heavy in complex carbohydrates and lighter in protein. Sticking to a ratio of two-thirds carb to one-third protein works best.


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