No matter how far you run or how much your pedal the stationary bike, you may be on the path to nowhere and might actually be sabotaging your efforts to lose weight. While cardio—endurance training—plays an important role in everyone’s fitness program, it may not be the best way to lose weight. In fact, it may cause you to gain weight. Is cardio making you fat? Many factors affect the answer to that question. If you’re only doing cardio and nothing else, you may be running toward extra pounds rather than away from them.
Are you doing the same cardio every day?
If you’re running the same length of time and at the same pace, you might be setting your body up to become more efficient. Efficiency is a good thing, right? Not when you want to lose weight. When your body repeats the same movements for a while, it finds ways to burn fewer calories and become more efficient in that movement. That causes plateauing, making it harder to lose weight. The whole goal for cardio when it comes to weight loss is to burn calories. You have to change your exercise program on a regular basis to maximize the calorie burning effects.
You may be burning lean muscle tissue rather than fat.
If you’re not getting enough calories and exercising too long, your body wants to store the fat. It prepares for leaner times and that store of fat may be what it needs for survival. When you initially start the workout, your body uses the glycogen that is stored in your muscles and liver for fuel. After about 30 minutes that runs out and then the body burns fat stores if the exercise is moderate. High intensity exercise can cause burning muscle tissue instead, which also occurs if your diet is too low in calories.
Your body produces cortisol if your caloric intake is too low or your cardio too rigorous.
Cortisol is the catabolic hormone that converts muscle tissue into energy. Cortisol is a stress hormone and that’s exactly what you’re doing to your body at that point, stressing it. Cortisol is also associated with the accumulation of abdominal fat. Not only are you burning muscle tissue that helps you shed weight, you’re also adding to any weight around the middle, which is normally what people want to lose.
- Don’t give up cardio entirely. Variety is the spice of a healthy life. You should have at least some cardio or endurance training in your workout routine, just as you should have balance, strength and flexibility exercises.
- If you want to shed pounds, while retaining lean muscle mass, strength—resistance—training is the route to go.
- Not only does strength training maintain and build muscle tissue, it also helps protect against osteoporosis as you age.
- A healthy diet that’s lower in calories, but not excessively low, combined with resistance training, helps you shed fat faster than you would with a moderate or rigorous cardio workout.