I present this question because I used to be an energizer cardio-bunny in undergrad (hence this comic picture). Running 50 miles a week or doing an hour on the elliptical. But now that I understand my body better, I am learning how horrible that was!! The more cardio I did, the more my body adapted and needed. So if I didn’t do my usual hours of cardio, I would just put on body weight.
Is all cardio bad? Absolutely not. I am a huge endorser of High Intensity interval training (HIIT) 1-3 days per week. Cardio is definitely important when you desire to lose body fat. It is LOW intensity, steady state cardio that you should shy away from (unless your goal is to run a marathon). If you can carry on a conversation while doing cardio- then it is not very beneficial (in most cases).
Why steady-state, low intensity cardio may not be ideal…
- When you go outside for a long distance run or hop on the elliptical machine for an hour, your body produces more and more cortisol over time. Cortisol is also released due to stress. So really, you are soaking your body in a stress bath. It can lead to injury, loss of bone density, and muscle breakdown. In the words of Mark Sisson “Internally, this is just stress, but we call it exercise and do it 3 – 5 days per week, even though that last little bit of belly pudge won’t go away. That little bit of pudge is so stubborn because your body is in a panic and it is trying to keep some energy stored close to your organs where it will need it most through this time of hardship.” HIIT does the opposite; HIIT preserves muscle mass and promotes the production of Human Growth Hormone which helps in muscle recovery.
- If you are an endurance athlete, then you have a valid reason. Otherwise, why are you doing it? Do you think it is the only way to lose weight? Because putting on more muscle and eating clean are the REAL answers…not excessive cardio. Which of these ladies would you rather look like- the sprinter or the marathon runner?
- This next statement is quoted from Simply Shredded. “The more mitochondria you have and the more active they are the greater oxidative capacity you will have for fat loss. HIIT increases mitochondrial capacity and you actually increase the amount of mitochondria you produce. Studies show that you get greater fat loss through high intensity training because of the increase in oxidative capacity. Whereas with low intensity cardio, you’re only burning calories at that precise moment, there’s no 24 hour energy expenditure (boost in metabolism) and it hurts you down the line because your body adjusts to it and you end up needing more to lose fat.”
- A study conducted by Wilson et al. from the University of Tampa shows when you add in low intensity steady state cardio, you get a temporary boost in weight loss. Subjects lost a couple of pounds the first week and after that they lost nothing. This likely happened because their metabolisms completely adjusted to that amount of cardio and that became their new baseline to what they HAD to do just to maintain weight. So that is why it is suggested female competitors do low-intensity, steady state cardio for the week before their show only. The rest of contest prep should focus on HIIT only.
- Here is another great article about why women especially should avoid steady state cardio- here.
Is this you?
If you are addicted to steady state cardio and ready to break up with it and switch to HIIT, we can help.
Here at Beautiful to the Core we offer 1-on-1 Coaching services for people just like you; people who are motivated to be the healthiest they can be however do not know the next best step. Let us educate you on proper cardio and slowly reverse you off steady state cardio to HIIT.
Just like reverse dieting, some women need reverse cardio to live healthier and happier. Reverse dieting is great for women who have poor metabolisms as a result of eating very low calories. So the process involves slowly increasing macronutrients over time, without gaining weight.
The same is true for cardio. We will help you slowly decrease your steady-state cardio over time and transition to just HIIT, without gaining weight. Is it possible? Heck yes! As a past cardio-queen and obsessed runner, I am living proof it works. Personally, I never do cardio anymore. I maintain weight with simply a great training program focused mostly on heavy, compound movements and flexible eating. The only time I even do HIIT is if I have a photo shoot or vacation coming up. So if you are questioning whether you can maintain weight, tone up, and look great without all that cardio, the answer is and always will be HECK YES.
Ready to get started with Coaching?