You eat healthfully; a diet built around lean proteins and fiber and greens. You know losing fat is a matter of burning more calories than you take in and according to the calorie counter on the Stairmaster at the gym you are burning about 300 calories in 35 minutes. You feel like you’re busting your ass. When you get off the Stairmaster, you’re drenched in sweat, your face is red, and you are huffing and puffing like Darth Vader. Yet you are gaining weight? So what gives? You couldn’t figure it out. Then you saw an ad for an at-home workout program that told you, “Cardio is making you fat! Do this instead. Buy this program!” That can’t be true, can it? CAN IT? Why are you gaining weight? Is it all that cardio?
And if it is cardio that’s contributing to your weight gain, what can you do about it?
YOU NEED TO DO SOME STRENGTH TRAINING
If you have read any of my stuff or have heard me as a guest on Jay Casale’s THE LIGHTER SIDE OF WEIGHT LOSS PODCAST, you know I am going to say that a fitness program that consists solely of cardio is missing the most important element of any fitness program. Strength training.
Strength training will change your overall body composition. And it requires a ton of energy and calories are energy. If creating a calorie deficit (or not creating a calorie surplus) is your goal, strength training is a great way to do that.
Strength training is not only a great way to burn calories but is also increases your metabolic rate after you have finished working out. Putting on some lean muscle will allow you to burn more calories in a rested state. Because it requires more work for the body to build and maintain muscle.
That’s right; you can put the food that you eat (providing you are eating the right foods and not too much of them) to better use as it will help in rebuilding muscle fibers after your workouts and as fuel to work harder and more efficiently before your workouts.
Plus, there are so many variables to play with in strength training, adding weight, shrinking rest periods, adding reps, super setting exercises, drop sets, etc. You can progress a weight training program endlessly.
OKAY, I GET IT. YOU WANT ME TO LIFT, BRO, BUT IS CARDIO MAKING ME FAT?
Cardio isn’t making you fat but it does have the potential to make you feel hungry as your body wants to maintain stasis and your brain might very well start sending signals to your tummy to replace the calories you just burned on the stationary bike as soon as possible.
It’s possible that you are eating too little early in the day or going for too long in between meals and, as a result, find yourself ravenous later in the day and end up binging, or taking in more calories than you realize. Again, I don’t know exactly what you’re eating so this is pure speculation. Just throwing out some possibilities out there.
Do you know exactly what you’re eating? Here’s what I suggest you do: record everything you eat and drink, the time that you are eating and/or drinking over the course of a week. Take a look at the results and ask yourself the following questions: how many calories am I taking in on average in a day? How long am I going in between meals? Am I taking in too much sugar? Am I taking in extra calories here and there with condiments or juice or sports drinks that are adding up throughout the day? Taking a detailed look at what you’re putting into your body may help you make minor adjustments.
How many calories per day do you take in on average? You should know. You can do an item-by-item Google search to find caloric values, but there also a number of apps you can download that make it easy to track your calorie count.
SO, IS CARDIO A COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME?
If you need to choose between a cardio session and a strength training session, you should absolutely prioritize strength training. I am hesitant to tell people to stop doing cardio entirely though.
There is a chance, even if you’re strength training…
You still might need to squeeze some cardio in.
AFTER ALL THAT, YOU STILL WANT ME TO DO CARDIO? WHY?
If you want to lose fat, you do need to create a calorie deficit and cardio will help you do that. Yes, it’s true as your body adapts to a cardio activity, you won’t burn as many calories as you did when you started doing it but…
If you are sitting in front of a desk for the better part your workday, you might very well need to make up for your lack of activity on the treadmill or Stairmaster or elliptical or whatever. You might not burn as many calories as the first time you performed this task, but you will still burn more calories moving than not moving, you need to do something to put a dent in your caloric output to make sure you don’t gain weight.
HULK HOGAN SAID IT BEST
Our modern lives are too sedentary to meet our bodies’ needs. You want to find little activities throughout the day where you can burn calories and you don’t necessarily need to limit these to gym activities. Riding your bike or walking when you can instead of taking the car is a great way to get your cardio in, little by little throughout the week. Walk, take the stairs, carry the groceries home, park your car further away from the entrance. As Hulk Hogan once said, “Life is a 24-hour gym, brother!”
ALL KILLER, NO FILLER
If you are already in decent shape, you can trade out traditional steady state cardio for High Intensity Interval Training. If you’re running a treadmill, rather than running at a moderate pace for thirty minutes, try running for ten to twelve minutes. Warm up for two minutes at a moderate pace and then sprint for a minute, bring it back down to a slower pace for a minute, sprint for a minute, rinse, repeat.
IF YOU REMEMBER ONE THING FROM ALL OF THIS:
You gotta lift!
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