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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Borer

Cardio & Fat Loss

I listen to Mind Pump Media's podcast on a regular basis and am also finishing up one of their fitness programs right now. I love their no BS approach to fitness, and coming from three knowledgeable trainers, I also trust the information. With this in mind, the other day, I received an email and heard a discussion on their podcast about cardio and fat loss, and I wanted to share my thoughts.

First up, to set the stage for this topic, I'll quote one of the hosts of the article, Sal Di Stefano:

"Although cardio burns the most calories per time spent vs. other forms of exercise, an over reliance on steady state cardio may contribute to metabolic adaptations that are not favorable for people who want to burn body fat and keep it off long term. Over time an over reliance on cardio signals the body to become more efficient with calories (slow down) which leads to less muscle mass and a slower metabolism. For long term fat loss success, make resistance training your focus. It tells the body to prioritize strength and muscle which tends to speed up the metabolism."
What does this mean exactly? Let's break it down.
An over reliance on steady state cardio sets your body up for adaptation, meaning that your body adapts to that cardio that you are doing day in and day out. If you used to burn 100 calories in 30 minutes of steady state cardio, eventually your body will become efficient enough to only burn 75, then maybe 50 calories per that same 30 minutes (these numbers are arbitrarily chosen to make my point).
So, if this is the case, the only way to increase the calorie burn would be to increase the amount of time. Eventually, you're going to run out of time because who has 4-6 hours a day to spend in the gym on a piece of cardio equipment.
Someone whose goal is to burn fat and keep it off needs to consider the benefits of strength training instead. Resistance training builds muscle which allows our body to burn more calories at rest AND increases our metabolism which starts to decline as we age. Plus, with resistance training, you also get what you can all the "after-burn" effect, meaning you continue to burn calories after you finish a strength training session for up to 36 hours post-lift. Cardio? Not so much.
The other important aspect is the variability of strength training. You can adjust so many variables in an attempt to continue to build muscle (reps, sets, weight, rest periods, etc). This helps keep your body from settling in and adapting.
What is my point in all of this? Throw out the VERY outdated that in order to lose weight AND keep it off, you need to just hop on the bike or treadmill and kill yourself for 30-60 minutes. Get in the weight room and start building some muscle! Not sure what to do? Find a trainer in your area to help you get started. Even 1-2 sessions can go a long way.
Does this mean I hate cardio for everyone? No necessarily. Even though I hate cardio (besides walking), it is important to have movement in our daily lives. But, if your goal is fat loss, you might consider a different modality to achieve your goal.
xoxo Olivia

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