Are you doing hours of cardio 5-6 days week and not seeing results?
You have come to the right place. I'm here to tell you why cardio is the least effective method for burning fat and what you can do to finally see results. First things first! What is the definition of cardio? Cardio is short for cardiovascular exercise. It improves cardiovascular endurance, strengthening the heart, lungs and organs to transport oxygen more efficiently throughout the body. There are different types of cardio but the most common is called steady state cardio where you walk, run, swim, cycle, row, stair climb or use the elliptical for prolonged periods at a low to moderate intensity. This can be very boring for most people. However, cardio has many amazing health benefits that reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, lung cancer, obesity, and boosts overall mental health. Which is why it shouldn't be ruled out of your training program completely.
The cardio myth
So, where did this myth come up that cardio is the best option for fat loss. It's quite logical, cardio uses the body's fat stores as source of energy in order to perform long durations of exercise. You might be saying to yourself right now, "omg, cardio is the answer". But here me out..... Although, you do burn fat during cardio, you don't initially start out using your fat stores, glycogen ( carbohydrates) is used first. Because cardio is performed at a low to moderate intensity, it takes longer too burn up your glycogen stores which results in long hours of cardio or not doing enough cardio to tap into your fat stores. Also, steady state cardio is less taxing on the body and doesn't require lots of energy to sustain long durations of cardio so you end up burning very small amounts of fat during a typical cardio session. The average person will spend about an hour a day doing cardio. Doesn't sound like fun to me but if that's your cup of tea, then, go for it.
What can happen if you do too much cardio
Metabolism slows down because the body doesn't require much energy to perform cardio
Muscle mass (if you have any) will slowly start to diminish, giving you a soft, unshapely look
Burns fat at a slower rate, making you feel like you are not doing enough cardio when you do an hour everyday
Energy levels, physical performance such as strength, endurance and speed decline
Chronic Injuries and pain may arise at the hip, knee, and ankle joint from overusing cardio machines or running on pavement.
If cardio is a not the answer, then what is the most effective way to lose fat?
Resistance training! Yup, resistance training is the best method for losing body fat. I know what you are thinking.....you'll gain a ton of muscle and look like a man [laughs]. I rest assure you, that will never happen. I've been training for about 3 1/2 years and I would hope that I don't look like a man from all the resistance training I have done.
So, what's the deal with resistance training and how do you burn more fat?
Resistance training is a form of exercise that uses resistance or applied force ( weights, machines, bands, bodyweight ) to contract muscles. When the muscles contract against a repeated resistance, the muscles start to tear, lactic acid ( burning sensation ) slowly builds up in the muscle causing it to eventually fatigue. After you workout, the muscles begin to repair and rebuild to make the muscles stronger so that the next time you workout, the exercises will be easier. Overtime, if you resistance train consistently, you will start to build lean muscle and shed body fat.
During a resistance training workout, the body starts out by burning up glycogen (carbohydrates) for energy. When glycogen runs out, the body switches to fat for energy just like when you do cardio. The awesome part about resistance training, it tends to burn up glycogen stores quicker, in a short amount of time than it would during a long cardio session. All you need is 30-45 minutes of resistance training 3x a week. You already know that once glycogen runs out, the body will use fat as an energy source. Which is why resistance training is the way to go.
After your resistance training workouts, your body uses energy to bring your body back to homeostasis since you just jacked your heart rate and breathing. This requires your body to use more energy. Then, it starts the muscle recovery process to repair and rebuild the muscles.
Not only that, the more muscle you build overtime, the more energy is required by your body to sustain and preserve the muscle it built. While you are sitting at your desk job, watching T.V, and sleeping, you are burning calories. That's right! You are burning calories at rest. Talk about maximizing your calories burned for the day.
Tell me the other benefits of resistance training
Sheds fat and burns calories during and after your workout
Improves body composition: tone, sculpt and shape your body
Gain and preserve lean muscle
Increases muscle strength and endurance
Improves bone density, preventing osteoporosis
Reduces the risk of injuries such as back pain
Reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases: stroke and heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and other illness
Improves overall quality of life
3 simple, guaranteed ways to get you results
1. Nutrition is key: incorporate all kinds of leafy greens, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, and fruits in your diet. Start to remove processed foods high in refined sugars, trans fat and limit the amount of alcohol, if you drink. Make sure to drink about 64 ounces of water or more a day. Cleaning up your diet will make a huge difference in your overall mood, make you feel better, and improve your body composition. Your body thank you.
2. Resistance training + cardio: Combine resistance training with cardio for the best fat burning and lean muscle results. But there's a method to it. Resistance training should come first, then cardio. Remember, the first 30 minutes of a workout, your body uses energy called glycogen which comes from the carbohydrates you consume. Carbohydrates are the body's main source and preferred source of energy. Once the glycogen is all used up, fat is then used.
Try this workout schedule out!
Days per week: 3x a week
Resistance training: 30-45 minutes
Cardio: 15-20 minutes
Exercises: Incorporate exercises that target all major muscle groups: legs, chest, back, and core
Monday: full body resistance training + cardio
Wednesday: full body resistance training + cardio
Friday: full body resistance training + cardio
3. Set a schedule, stay consistent, believe in yourself and trust the process. Everything will fall into place.
Till next time, happy lifting my friends and thanks for reading!
Ho, Suleen S et al. “The Effect of 12 Weeks of Aerobic, Resistance or Combination Exercise Training on Cardiovascular Risk Factors in the Overweight and Obese in a Randomized Trial.” BMC Public Health 12 (2012): 704. PMC. Web. 19 Apr. 2018.
O’Keefe, James H. et al. “Potential Adverse Cardiovascular Effects From Excessive Endurance Exercise.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings 87.6 (2012): 587–595. PMC. Web. 19 Apr. 2018.
THOMAS, MICHAEL H., and STEVE P. BURNS. “Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training.” International Journal of Exercise Science 9.2 (2016): 159–167. Print.