In my previous article I discussed why weight training (in particular lifting heavy weights) can help increase your metabolism (meaning up to 36 hours post workout you will be burning more calories) and shape your body. Hopefully I have already persuaded you that weight training is a must for the war waged on fat loss!
However, I think I would be safe to assume that most women still believe in order to lose fat and get a better body we need to eat less and burn more calories….and as cardio is so hard and makes you so sweaty it must be doing good right? By this rationale people do more and more cardio, figuring each minute is one minute they don’t have to watch what they eat and one closer towards their fat loss goal.
Lets just set the record straight from the beginning, when I say cardio I am talking about chronic cardio. I’m sure most of us have been there at some point (I know I have). You start off with a few classes or a run here and there, start to see results, get addicted to the feeling and then next thing you know everything stalls. The weight stops falling off so you start doing a little bit more and more until you are so burnt out and frustrated that you give up or push on tirelessly with little to no results or worst case start to regain fat. This may be in a few weeks, months or years but the outcome will inevitably be the same.
So lets look at the facts:
Our bodies have a handy way of always adjusting to our environment, so if we go from little or no exercise to a high-energy output from cardio, of course at first you will experience greater fat loss. Your body burns more calories, becomes more insulin sensitive, and increases its ability to burn fat. However eventually our bodies will adjust accordingly and use its energy and oxygen more efficiently. This is when your workouts start to feel a bit easier and your results begin to stall. So you start training a little bit harder, longer or more frequently to feel that cardio high again, sound familiar?
It’s at this point we put our bodies under a great deal of stress. We become over trained and quite frankly exhausted but can’t imagine reducing our output after getting such good results right?! The problem is the damage is long lasting. Put simply, when you do cardio, you are stressing your body, which in turn causes it to release cortisol. This is fine in short bursts, however excess in cortisol will promote fat storage (especially around the abdominal region) and muscle loss. This is because it makes it hard for our bodies to access fat to burn as well as suppressing our growth hormone and testosterone – both of which we need to build muscle and which if are suppressed cause us to hold onto fat.
An increase in prolonged cortisol will also have us reaching for that sweet sugary stuff and could increase our appetite, making it harder for us to keep on that healthy eating plan we promised ourselves!
Stress from prolonged cardio, coupled with the fact nearly every women I know is trying to be a million things to a million people and thus in a highly stressed state on a daily basis – creates an environment in which losing fat is very difficult.
So No More Cardio?
No not at all, it is about managing your cardio with a solid resistance training program, reducing your stress levels and maximizing your recovery.
If you have reached a plateau then try this little 8-week plan:
- Cut out all cardio for a couple of weeks (is that a gasp I hear?!) I know it might sound scary but lets be honest what do you have to lose if you are already either in stalemate with your fat or its even winning the war?
- Focus on a solid resistance program (4 weights sessions a week)
- Manage your stress levels through sleeping more and taking more time for yourself
- Prioritize your diet (see my next article mistake number 3 for more)
- Then after a few weeks once your body has had time to recover you can add in 30 minute walks a few times a week
- Slowly but surely you can increase this to a few HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions (no more than 20 minutes to keep cortisol low)
This should kick start your body into getting the results you have been working so hard for. But remember; your body WILL adapt again so keep it guessing! Play around with your HIIT sessions (4 weeks on, 4 weeks off for example), always include a solid weight lifting program and always have recovery as a priority.
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