If you have been doing a tonne of cardio but you are not losing weight or if you are planning to start incorporating a lot more cardio to lose some extra body fat; you are definitely going to want to first read this article.
Even though cardio can be very beneficial if done correctly, most of the people that you see at the gym spending countless hours on the treadmill, elliptical, and stair climber are doing it completely wrong.
And many of them look the same week after week and month after month because without even knowing it they are setting themselves back further rather than making progress with their weight and especially their body composition.
So, in this article I want us to go over the biggest cardio mistakes that cause you to waste your time and can even make you fatter rather than leaner. After we go over the 5 mistakes, I’ll give you the 5 best ways to actually incorporate cardio into your routine the right way.
Also read: 7 Simple steps to get in shape fast
I know it might sound unbelievable that too much cardio can hurt your weight loss efforts more than it can actually help, but I assure you this is true! How does too much cardio lead to less and less fat loss?
First of all, due to the low intensity, high volume nature of steady state cardio our bodies will perceive long duration steady state cardio as a prolonged stressor.
If you do too much cardio it causes your body to release hormones that are actually bad for fat loss like cortisol which can make your body store more fat instead of burning it.
As you increase the time you spend doing cardio per week closer and closer to that of an endurance athlete; study shows that cortisol levels rise significantly.
Now, people who are big supporters of pro-longed cardio sessions counter this by saying that overtraining with any kind of exercise can lead to higher cortisol levels. And this is true but we see these elevated levels in endurance athletes much more than in strength athletes.
When cortisol is elevated your cells become resistant to insulin. You experience more inflammation throughout your body and you’ll also feel hungrier because of the effect that cortisol has on your hunger-regulating hormones like ghrelin and leptin.
A change in your appetite will likely negatively affect your body fat percentage much more than your cardio sessions will positively affect it. By doing too much cardio you will find yourself hungrier not only directly after your cardio sessions but also long after you’re done.
And unfortunately, unlike weight training, cardio doesn’t continue burning calories hours after you are done. If you overdo it and that causes you to become really hungry, not only can you eat so much that you negate the calories burnt from your workout but you can even eat more calories than you ever lost from your work-out, to begin with causing you to store more body fat.
Another hormone that could become an issue for people that run really long distances is testosterone. Extreme endurance workouts over long periods of time have been shown to lower the production of testosterone.As you do more and more cardio, your body will adapt more and more. Your muscles, lungs and heart, will all become more efficient at handling the cardio workout and you’ll burn less and less calories from the same workout. Click To Tweet
As you do more cardio your cardio workout starts to abide by the law of diminishing returns. (the law of diminishing returns is used to refer to a point at which the level of profits or benefits gained is less than the amount of money or energy invested.)
This is one of the reasons why people usually overestimate the number of calories they burn from their cardio workouts. Now, most people that do cardio will notice that they are seeing smaller and smaller changes to their bodies from their cardio sessions.
So, their solution is to incorporate more cardio whether it will be longer sessions or more frequent sessions throughout the week. This leads to overtraining as well as overuse injuries, especially around your ankles, knees and hip joints.
If you sustain an injury to even one of those joints, you won’t be able to work your whole lower body significantly decreasing the number of calories you burn throughout the week.More cardio does not necessarily mean more fat loss. Click To Tweet
I hope that most of the people reading this article know that So many people actually believe that just because they go for a long run or bike ride every day they can get away with not paying as much attention to what they are eating.
Like I said earlier, not only will too much cardio increase your appetite but if you couple that with allowing yourself to eat in a more unrestrained way you are going to negate all that hard work.
Instead of creating a situation where you eat less and move more you are eating more and moving more which doesn’t exactly produce the same results.
Remember what you eat and how much you eat always comes first. If your diet sucks, cardio will not help you burn fat. And if you notice that cardio significantly increases your appetite, you might be far better off skipping cardio altogether and simply eating less.
Also read: 20 Foods that’ll help you lose belly fat
Now let me make this crystal clear, for an ideal body composition, with plenty of fat-free lean body mass you don’t need to do any cardio at all but if you are doing a lot of cardio, you have to incorporate strength training.
The reason is that cardio especially long duration cardio is notorious for creating body compositions with less muscle mass.
You don’t have to look further than your average marathon runner to see this. If you are doing cardio without supplementing with strength training program, your body will do the smart thing and rid itself of all that useless excess metabolically expensive muscle mass.
This is because that muscle will reduce running efficiency because it’s heavy and it costs your body extra calories to maintain even while at rest. Your body wants to save all the calories it can, especially if those calories are constantly being used during your long duration cardio sessions.
By incorporating a couple of days of strength training per week you can promote muscle growth rather than muscle loss. And at the very least you’ll be giving your body a reason to keep more muscle around.
They never switch it up. Like I said earlier, your body will look for ways to become more efficient with any kind of activity you consistently engage in. Now, this becomes especially true when you constantly do the same form of cardio.
One of the main ways it does this is by decreasing the overall energy output which means you will be burning fewer calories to do the same activity.
Let’s take jogging, for example, your muscles in your legs, as well as your whole cardiovascular system, will become more efficient at handling the endurance required for long duration steady state running.
We have already touched on this earlier when I said that cardio abides by the law of diminishing returns.
Just by changing up your cardio workout from jogging to stair climbing, or swimming, for example, you will be engaging different muscles in a different way allowing you to burn more calories once again.
Just like repeating the same weight training program again and again will provide fewer and fewer returns; doing the same form of cardio over and over again has the same effect. Switch it up!
Also read: 5 Running Tips for Beginners 🏃
The target heart rate zone is roughly somewhere between 55% and 75% of your maximum heart rate. And it used to be thought of as the fat burning zone. It has long since been proven to be a myth but this myth still continues to be widespread and most people still believe in it.
In fact, there is a huge gym franchise that I won’t mention the name of, but this gym’s whole model is built around this myth of getting into your “fat burning zone”.
On top of that, almost every treadmill has a target heart rate chart on it and has mental sensors designed to read your heart rate in the middle of your run.
The idea is that when you are in this zone, you burn more of a percentage of calories from fat rather than carbohydrates in the form of stored glycogen. It might even be true; however, this theory doesn’t take into account that more intense exercise above 70% of your maximum heart rate burns significantly more overall calories.
So let me give you an example to help illustrate this. Let’s say a low to moderate intensity cardio workout in your target heart rate zone burns 500 calories, with 60% of those calories coming from fats, and only 40% coming from carbs. 60% of 500 calories would mean you burned 300 calories from fat, not bad!
Now let’s take a look at a high-intensity workout that burned 1,000 calories in the same amount of time spent but since we are not in our target heart rate zone we only burned 40% of those calories from fat and the other 60% was from carbs. 400 is obviously more than 300.
The point is that higher intensity workouts will almost always burn just as many if not more calories from fat as lower intensity workouts within the target heart rate zone.
Those are the 5 biggest cardio mistakes that I constantly see. Now, as I said in the very beginning of this article; cardio can be a great thing as long as you do it correctly. So, I will give you 5 very quick tips to help you do the type of cardio that improves your body composition rather than hurts it.
Also read: How to lose weight while you sleep