The Cardio Fat-Loss Myth

It amazes me how many people I see at the gym doing endless cardio—particularly those who are out of shape. Granted, some are training for a race, but most aren’t. Regardless, you all deserve a big high five if you’re putting in that kind of effort, because it can be exhausting.

I’ve often wondered why the general population resorts to this method when trying to get back into shape or lose weight. I think something inside us tricks our minds into thinking “if I sweat a ton, then I will lose fat.” I have even found myself in this type of thinking. That was before I really started getting into anaerobic training (strength training/interval training). After all, isn’t it as simple as calories in versus calories out? So, if I run and burn a ton of calories and cut my calories in eating, then voila, I will lose fat, right? That’s not entirely true.

Too much aerobic exercise with a low calorie diet will result in decreased muscle tissue.  This is because you will use the muscle for energy and your body will start storing fat as a survival mechanism. This is bad. Your resting metabolic rate (metabolism) will drastically decrease. That is why most people gain their weight back so easily after throwing in the towel with the cardio routine, coupled with a low calorie diet.

The best approach to fat loss, whether you’re male or female, is in this exact order: 1) A sound nutrition plan; 2) Strength training; and 3) Interval training.

Eating the right balance of healthy carbs, fats, and proteins with the proper portions and timing will allow you to cut fat and utilize your foods more efficiently for your exercise routine and daily activities. Strength training will increase your lean body mass, giving your metabolism a boost, which helps burn calories at rest all day, every day.  Remember, muscle weighs more than fat and takes up way less space, so don’t let the scale fool you. Focus on your body fat percentage and body measurements decreasing (simply how your clothes fit) as a better gauge of fat loss. And finally, interval training can be done in half the time of steady-state cardio, and target fat much more effectively, especially right after a session of strength training.

This process and approach has been proven time and time again, and my clients have seen a lot of success from this.  Remember, the wrong approach of cutting your calories drastically will result in starvation response. Also, doing hours of steady-state cardio every week will leave your body vulnerable to gaining the weight back more easily after you stop your routine. If you’re training for a race, or if you love running or long bouts of cardiovascular exercise, by all means, continue with it. However, don’t solely rely on this for fat loss. Add strength straining to your program, which will have added benefits come race day. Also, make sure you’re eating the foods that will support your training to enable you to feel your best and achieve the best results!

For further questions on this topic, feel free to shoot me an email at travis@leantrition.com and I’d be happy to help!