Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fat Loss : Why Cardio Is Not the Answer!

Now that I've got your attention, we can begin.

I have always been amazed at the number of people who run marathons each year (over 550,000 Americans alone in 2011, and growing, according to Runner's World.) I have also been equally amazed that we continue to get fatter each year as well, despite such numbers suggesting that we are more active than we have ever been. So, what gives? 

Historically, our weight gain problem is due in part to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles and increased caloric intakes. It's pretty easy to see how sitting too much AND eating too much, is a recipe for getting fatter. 

Harder to see is how the combination of exercising too much (generally cardio) and not eating enough can make you fatter. Any temporary gain in weight loss is offset by the long term problems of weight and muscle maintenance. 

It's a fitness Ponzi scheme! 

The initial weight loss blinds us to how we lost the weight. It is primarily due to the breakdown of muscle tissue. This muscle breakdown simultaneously slows our metabolism and increases our body fat percentage. 

The duplicitous nature of this type of weight loss means that not only is it is harder to continue to lose weight, but that it is also easier to put it back on. Double whammy! 

If this does not apply to you, please check out the Bob Wells Fitness YouTube channel for more great workouts, like our ViPR workout

If this does apply to you, or even if you are just curious or skeptical, then keep reading. 

Now that we better understand the problem, we can come up with a real solution. The first thing to do is to determine your BMR(Basal metabolic rate), aka your daily caloric needs. You will need to know your weight and body composition for the most accurate numbers. (Email me at to set up a body composition test with me or one of my colleagues.)

The next phase is a two pronged strategy of eating right and exercising smartly. A great program for eating right is John Berardi's Precision Nutrition. A few guidelines include:
  • eat balanced meals (protein and vegetables at every meal)
  • eat every 2-4 hours (this decreases blood sugar peaks and valleys)
  • eat healthy fats, such as nuts and avocados daily
For more great nutrition strategies, check out "Sculpting the Perfect Body : One Bite at a Time"

The second prong is a balanced exercise program that incorporates flexibility training, strength training, and of course cardiovascular training. However, cardio training should mean high intensity interval training, and not the slow steady state cardio training that many of us are accustomed to.

Research shows that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)--comprised of various periods of short bursts of activity, such as sprinting, following by a short recovery period, is a great way to torch calories and burn fat. 

Another great benefit of HIIT is that it does not cause the same muscle breakdown that is associated with steady state cardio. (Think one to two hours on the bike or treadmill.)

Now you know the truth about cardio, and knowing is half the battle.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to leave comments.