Stop doing Cardio for Fat Loss

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Chronic Cardio

Cardio has so many health benefits and should be a part of a well-rounded training regimen, but as a fat loss tool, it just doesn’t work.

Let’s take a real world scenario.

Think of anyone you know who has been doing mostly cardio for years. On the treadmill, on the elliptical, on the rower, doing group cardio types of classes…

What is their body type? Are they lean and muscular, or do you find they often look the exact same no matter what?

There’s a reason for that. We’ve been told to do lots of cardio for fat loss. This is outdated and dangerous information.

Why dangerous? Because it’s keeping you from focusing on what is maximally of importance and has far more impact on your body’s ability to burn fat, and that’s building muscle.

So what’s happening?

What you’re doing by engaging in excessive cardio is telling your body to adapt to the stimulus you’re giving it.

The body is incredibly intelligent. When you’re sedentary and begin a cardio heavy program, your body has to work to adapt because you are giving it a new and more intense stimulus than it’s used to.
That’s why you may see some results shortly after beginning a cardio program. But then the body, having been put through a new stressor, and in an effort to become more resilient to that stress, begins to adapt and that stressor become easier.

During intense and consistent cardiovascular activity, your body is burning lots of calories for the duration of the exercise. That’s good, right? Not so fast. Your body doesn’t want to burn that many calories all at once because it signals that you are in an extreme situation and are in danger of not having enough essential energy to sustain life, reproduce, etc.

For this reason, the body will down regulate your metabolism in an effort to become more efficient. It sees all those calories burned as an energy expense and doesn’t want to give up the amount of “amps” being used, therefore it begins to look for ways to “save electricity” so you can continue to survive.

Here’s the kicker, it not only does this during your activity, but also when you are inactive…hang on to that thought and we’ll circle back.

Since muscle mass is not a necessary commodity in extreme cardiovascular activity, it will reduce the amount of muscle mass you have in an effort to adapt and survive.

It translates like this

Begin an intensive cardio program, this is novel to the body and therefor a new stressor and this will often bring some immediate weight loss. The body adapts to survive, gets rid of muscle and hangs on to fat to help you burn FEWER calories so you can store them for the necessities of life (remember, the body is just trying to help you survive this consistent over stressor) and your results come screeching to a halt, the weight often comes back, you get frustrated and just go harder because surely you just aren’t doing enough, right?

So what’s a girl to do?

Two words will remedy this entire situation. Lift. Weights. Strength training truly is the fountain of youth. When you lift, you experience a new adaptation, only this adaptation looks completely different.

You will burn far FEWER calories during your lift time than you will during your hour on the treadmill, BUT, you will continue burning fat and calories long after you’re done lifting…not the same with cardio (remember, with cardio you burn a lot during but stop when the activity is over).

Just by building muscle mass, your body has to work harder (burn more calories even when you’re at rest) to sustain that muscle which means, over time, you can work even less hard to sustain what you have. Instead of overworking, you are becoming a self-oiled machine, as it will work to take care of itself. Once you get the muscle you desire, you have to work less hard to keep it than you did to get it. Cool, huh?

Because this is a progressive adaptation over time, and not an extreme one all at once that tells the body to reserve fuel to become more efficient, you continue to torch fat while leaning out and actually changing the way you look, feel, and perform on day to day activities.

The only way to continue to build muscle mass and lose fat is to take your body through new adaptations. So over time, you can lift more, slow the tempo, add a balance element….any of these are new things the body has to adapt to.

Sooo, if you’re thinking, great! I’ve been lifting for years! 5 pound bicep curls must be doing my body good! Hang on there…why are you still lifting 5 pounds? You’re capable of more and to change your body composition, you have to add a new stimulus…i.e.: weight, tempo, reps, etc.

So if you’ve been doing 5 pounds, you’re likely able to do 100 reps…unnecessarily, and will NOT give you the necessary stimulus to produce muscle growth. Now it’s time to go for 10’s. If you can do more than 8-12, you need to try twelves’…and so forth. A broad rule of thumb is 5-10 reps… if that 5th to 10th one is super hard, you’re on the right track!

Do you continue to add weight constantly? You don’t have to! Remember, you just need something new for the body to adapt to. Before moving to 15’s, try slowing down the timing of the lift. It’s harder! That’s a new stimulus and something new for the body to adapt to!

As long as there is something NEW to challenge your body with every week or two, you’ll continue to lose body fat while preserving and growing lean muscle mass that will change your body composition in a way that will blow your mind!

By the way, this can be done utilizing your own body weight, bands, kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells…the key is to progress so your body continues to adapt to the stressor and provide changes.

Back to cardio…

Implement it. It’s good for the heart, mind, and soul (especially if you’re doing it with a friend!), but don’t do it for fat loss. And don’t overdo it… period.

Aiming for 10K steps a day means you are moving quite a bit and avoiding being stationary.

I personally like to run wind sprints 2 days a week as part of my cardio. And every day I’m focused on my 10k steps.

When I’m working with a new client, there are lots of aspects I factor in before putting them on a strength regimen, but it’s not long before even the most sedentary of those I work with begin to lift.

Best case scenario, you hire a personal trainer to make sure your form is excellent because that is most important when beginning a new lifting regimen. And if you’re new to lifting all together, mastering movement with body weight is not only safe, but it may be new to you which means your body has to adapt (ie: change) to keep up…just don’t forget to change the stimulus and challenge the movement every week or two so you continue to see changes!

Muscle mass helps stabilize blood glucose, prevent injuries, stabilize joints, balances hormones, and as Dr. Gabriel Lyons says, is the organ of longevity.

Don’t forget that you need to get in enough calories and protein specifically, to build and sustain muscle mass. Be sure you’re getting no fewer than 90g of protein per meal, and aim for 3 full, whole food meals, not through snacking most of your day.

Want a fit, healthy physic? Lift more. Do crazy amounts of cardio less. And watch
your body transform.

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About Lisa…

I’m passionate about helping you achieve energy, joy, and fun over 40 so you can live your most confident years, yet.
My heart and mission is to help women of all ages start living a bold, intentional life right where they are!
My heart for your health stemmed from years of figuring out how to help my own. 
With a combination of a poor family health history, combined with autoimmune conditions, chronic fatigue, and congenital heart defects, I was motivated to make significant shifts to give myself the best chance of a life lived vivaciously, boldly, confidently, and energetically!
And because I want all of that for you, I’m passionately walking in my purpose of helping you create all of that and more for yourself! 

More about Lisa…

  • 30+ years in the health & fitness industry 
  • Mom and wife living in Louisiana 
  • Alternate for NBC’s Dancing With Myself
  • Bachelors degree in Health
  • Master’s in Exercise Science
  • Certified NASM personal trainer
  • Nutrition Coach
  • IWHI Integrative Women’s Health Coach
  • 2 time former gym owner
  • Former fitness presenter

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