As far as most of us are concerned, there are a few constants in this world; death, taxes….and the necessity of cardio to lose weight. Sound about right to you?
If you’re like the majority of people in the gym, or working out at home, you’ve got a few pounds you’d like to lose. Following conventional wisdom, you know how important your cardiovascular work is. You may even be aware of the fact that non-steady state cardio, i.e. HIIT or anything that has you changing speeds, is better for you than a simple jog. Congrats, you’ve clearly been reading this blog and picked up on something I harp about often.
Perhaps you follow the old, “eat less, move more” adage, that has you cutting back on calories and doing more cardio in hopes of losing weight. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Take in fewer calories, expend more calories during exercise, and you should lose weight, right? But hold the phone….if it were so simple to lose weight, why are so many people (yes, even those who exercise regularly and eat right) still so out of shape? Hordes of soft, jiggly, and out of shape bodies fill treadmills and ellipticals at gyms across the country. Why are these cardio freaks still so out of shape and soft looking?
You’re Running Yourself Fat with Too Much Cardio?
Ready for a little irony? The reason the majority of the above mentioned soft-bodies are still so out of shape is because they are simply running themselves fat. Let me repeat that….they are running themselves fat.
How is that even possible?
Well you see, when you fall into the standard line of thinking that is so often pushed by mainstream fitness magazines, fad diet plans, and other less than reliable sources, you set yourself up for failure. You’re told to eat less calories, eat less fat, go light whenever possible. It’s pounded into your head that cardio is the key to weight loss, so naturally, you assume the more cardio you do, the better off you’ll be.
But here’s the problem; when you run or perform other forms of cardio excessively, you’re not only burning calories for energy, you’re burning muscle. Couple this with a reduced calorie diet, and your lean muscle mass starts doing a disappearing act. So your body begins eating up muscle, doesn’t have enough calories to rebuild or form new muscle, and gradually enters into a state of slowed metabolism. This slowed metabolism is largely impacted by the loss of muscle mass. The higher percentage of muscle mass you keep on your body, the better off your metabolism will be. Take the muscle away, and your metabolism slows down. Simple as that.
What most people don’t realize is the extra calories they burn during their marathon cardio sessions are often LESS than the calories they are no longer burning at rest because of their sluggish metabolism. Just because you burnt 800 calories during your workout, doesn’t mean you’ve burnt more TOTAL calories throughout the day. Your metabolism needs to remain high in order to have more TOTAL caloric burn over the course of the day.
This explains why some of the biggest cardio junkies are also some of the softest and weakest out there…..they’ve got no muscle! Their bodies adapt to their regular cardio routines, their metabolism slows, they increase their cardio and caloric deficiency to compensate, and enter into a recurring cycle of disappointment.
Be Smart About Exercise
Exercise is a double-edged sword. It is highly effective at helping you reach your goals if you do it smartly and follow a well-designed plan. If you go about it without much knowledge or a plan, you can easily set yourself further back than from where you started. The key is to exercise smart. Exercising smart involves your understanding of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how it will bring you closer to your goal. If you’re doing something but not sure why you’re doing it, or how it’s helping….it’s time to re-examine your plan.
It’s no secret that the most lean, fit, and athletic individuals are ones who lift weights, vary their routines, perform explosive cardio, and eat a healthy and balanced diet. In order to lose the weight and get out of that cycle of disappointment, you’ve got to start including some serious lift sessions in your fitness plan. We’ve got hundreds (literally, hundreds) of workout plans for you to choose from. Some great routines to include with your cardio would be our muscle-building superset complex workout plan or the 20-minute cross training circuit routine.
Whatever you decide, the bottom line is this: you’ve got to include weight training into your overall fitness plan to maintain, and build new muscle mass. A muscle-less body, is not hot. It’s soft, weak, and sickly looking. You should forget about the scale, focus on your physique, and make strides to follow a well-rounded fitness plan.
It doesn’t stop there however. You could be doing the best weight training routine in the world, but if you aren’t giving your body the proper fuel (protein) and calories to build muscle, nothing is going to happen. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking in ample protein sources, and enough calories to power through your workouts. The biggest mistake newbie exercisers make is they don’t eat ENOUGH. As long as you’re choosing healthy sources, avoiding sugar and other simple carbs, and eating balanced meals, you shouldn’t have to worry about fat gain. Do yourself a favor and re-read that last sentence. Notice I said FAT gain? This goes back to what I just mentioned….forget the scale. The scale is NOT your friend. A 135-lb female body with 10% body fat is fitness magazine worthy. A 125-lb female body with 25% body fat is nothing to write home about. You’ve got to keep this in mind when you’re working out. Far too many people have their progress stunted by becoming a slave to their scale; avoid using a scale at all costs. Rather, measure your waist line, legs, etc. to really gauge your progress. Examine your physique, your definition lines, your strength, and you’ll see that maintaining a healthy weight and body isn’t about endless hours of cardio or starving yourself.
It’s so much more enjoyable when you realize you don’t have to spend 8 hours a week on the treadmill…or limit the things you enjoy eating. Being healthy and fit is about being well-rounded in the gym and in the kitchen, and understanding the importance of maintaining a speedy and efficient metabolism. Once you are able to beat that in to your head, you’ll be amazed at how fast the weight starts dropping.