Many people equate cardio to weight loss, and figure that they must do it to lose weight. What’s more, they believe that the more they do the more weight they will lose.
The instant someone ‘thinks’ about going on a diet or losing some weight they see cardio machines. Endless, boring and energy sapping running on a treadmill or cross-trainer. It’s a tiresome thought!
While cardio does burn calories, and burning more calories is necessary for weight loss, it’s easy to think ‘I need cardio to burn calories, and the more I do, the more weight I’ll lose!’. However, when dieting to lose weight it would be a big mistake to do excessive cardio.
Why’s that, Rich?
Well, there are 3 main reasons for this:
1. Too much Stress = Burnout
Burnout presents in a lot of ways but the ones you’ll notice and ‘feel’ are the following:
- Lower mood
- Lack of motivation
- Lowered immune system
- Joint pain
Your body is already stressed out from not getting enough calories to maintain it’s weight (calorie deficit). Adding a ton of moderate to hard cardio for long durations adds another layer of stress. Not getting this balance right can quickly lead to the above symptoms and ultimately leads to quitting!
2. Reduced motivation to exercise
If you’re doing some form of resistance exercise as your main workout (you certainly should be) and then have to do a 30+ minute cardio session you could easily be in the gym for an hour and half! Not only is this unnecessary but it will eventually become harder and harder to maintain.
As your energy levels start to drop off week by week this gradually becomes a monumental task. The biggest reason people don’t reach the goals they set is lack of consistency and is what causes the high motivation at the start of ‘diet’ or ‘mission: look good naked’ but soon dwindles after a few weeks as it becomes less manageable. This then becomes the vicious cycle of ‘ALL or NOTHING’ that lands you right back in the same spot as you started!
We have a million things to juggle in modern life and if you can’t maintain motivation to eat smartly and exercise, you’re success is much less likely.
3. Metabolic slowdown
Ever come off a diet and feel like just smelling something tasty makes you gain weight? Eating a lot less and doing a lot more (mainly cardio) is a sure fire way to decrease your metabolism speed. This essentially means that your body has sensed much less energy available (from dieting) and will lower the amount of energy requirements, simply to survive – It’s what it’s designed to do.
This reduction in metabolic speed is what makes it seem impossible for a lot of people to maintain their new weight after losing weight. Because the body burns less calories, sometimes by a lot, that person can no longer eat the same amount of food they did before they started the diet.
This metabolic slowdown is sped up by doing excessive amounts of exercise, in particular ‘cardio’ , when your body is already in a calorie deficit.
Take home points:
- Your body is already stressed out from not eating enough (purposely) and cardio only adds to that stress
- Steady, long duration cardio is boring and very inefficient time-wise. How long can you maintain that?
- You can actually slow down how many calories your body burns on a daily basis. This is a major problem if you’re on a restrictive ‘diet’ and plan to finish it and resume ‘normal’ eating patterns.
- You can achieve a great level of leanness without doing any cardio at all! How your nutrition and weight-training workouts are setup are the two vital things you need to establish and add in cardio, if necessary, later.
- Cardio is a tool for weight loss, but doing a lot of it, on a regular basis, is not the best way to achieve effective and sustainable body fat loss. A much more time effective way to incorporate cardio into your routine is ‘high-intensity interval training’ or commonly known as ‘HIIT’. This style of cardio is also great at keeping all your hard-eared muscle, which is exactly what you want if looking good naked is your goal!
I’ll discuss the benefits of HIIT and how to integrate it into your routine in a future article!