Number one mistake I see people make in the gym? Logging endless hours on cardio equipment like the elliptical.
When we start working on fat loss goals, people immediately shift towards the elliptical or treadmill, mostly because we LOVE viewing tangible results from our efforts reading “500-600 calories burned” and feeling nice and sweaty. But that’s not the whole story.
Cardio (or aerobic) exercise is basically any exercise that lifts your heart rate. It usually results in a high calorie burn, which is why it’s so appealing to so many.
First, the cardio equipment has no idea who is standing on it. Even though it will ask gender, age, and weight, it has no idea your body composition, which is a key part to understanding your caloric expenditure. There are also a number of other factors that play into calorie burn, like resting metabolic rate, etc. so the numbers identified on the equipment can’t be trusted.
Second, cardio focuses on weight loss, not fat loss (these are two entirely different things.) When someone says they want to lose weight, typically they mean fat…because no one wants to lose their muscle or organs, right? When the scale drops with cardio, you lose fat and muscle…so you end up the same body fat percentage, just a smaller size. The loss of muscle will reduce your resting metabolic rate, which decreases the amount of calories burned at rest. So your metabolism is less efficient…so you plateau and then have to eat less and less and less until you’re so hangry you find yourself at the bottom of a tortilla chip bag, wondering what happened. Speaking of hangry…
Those training for marathons often gain weight. Not what you’d expect, right? This is due to suppressed leptin levels. Leptin is the hormone that tells our brain we’re full, sending the body a signal to stop eating. When these hormones are suppressed, we no longer receive this message. Yes, we need more calories when working out to function; however, we often overeat the amount burned because we are no longer able to recognize fullness.
Because of all of these effects, our results start to plateau and then we think the solution is MORE. We amp up our routine from 4-5 days a week to 6-7 and start overtraining, or what it should really be called, “underrecovery.” The body needs time to rest and repair and it can’t do that if we’re here logging 2 hours+ cardio of the elliptical every day. Overtraining can elevate cortisol levels (our stress hormone), which can cause fatigue, energy loss, interrupted sleep, artificially increased hunger/cravings, bloat, decreased athletic performance, injuries, etc. These effects cause the body to burn fat less efficiently, making it way harder to reach your goals than you’re hoping for.
Cardio is still important for heart health and can play a role in fat loss, but how?
Instead of long duration, steady state, moderate intensity training, go for HIIT. High intensity interval training is anaerobic training, where we spike the heart rate to above 85% of its maximum and then bring it down to about 65% of its maximum. This form of training burns more calories throughout the day as the body recovers (known as EPOC, excess post exercise oxygen consumption), increase cardiovascular endurance (aka the heart is able to handle more) and increased production of human grown hormone, commonly known as HGH. The beauty of HIIT? True HIIT can’t be done for anymore than 30 minutes, which is WAY more appealing than 2+ hours on the treadmill.
If you love cardio, by all means, go for it 1x a week. I don’t know where I would be without LES MILLS BODYCOMBAT (probably serving a 20-30 year sentence.) I always advise my clients to make the cardio workout a fun one, but don’t overdo it. If your goal is fat loss, prioritize HIIT and strength training and feel free to skip the treadmill (best news EVER.)
Interested in HIIT, check out Shannon’s HIIT Demo Saturday, 3/14 from 10-10:30am. To reserve your spot email Shannon