In this article you’ll read about how to lose fat and why cardio is not always the best solution!
When I first got into fitness as a professional, my understanding of fat loss was based on simple math. Calories in vs calories out. I learned through certification courses and through fitness magazines that if you wanted to lose weight all you had to do was eat less and move more. If someone wanted to lose weight I would just have them do a lot of cardio and tell them to eat less. It was SO SIMPLE!!! Or was it?
This formula was so simple and easy to follow yet people were getting fatter and fatter. “They just lose motivation” or “they lack discipline” were my thoughts. All I had to do to be a successful trainer was motivate and inspire and BOOM all my clients would succeed!! I soon learned this wasn’t exactly the case. Although I bought into these notions, I also had this nagging feeling that it wasn’t the right approach…
As a trainer I was very charismatic and motivating. People loved to train with me and I loved to train them. It seemed like the perfect recipe for success. The vast majority of my female clients in particular wanted to lose weight, so our workouts revolved around cardio. “Burn as many calories as possible” was my motto. In a few short months, my female clients would lose weight and everyone was happy!! “This will be an amazing career” I thought.
It was going great during my first 12 months of training, and then things started to fall apart. My clients would plateau HARD. I would up their workouts and their intensity and NOTHING would happen. Little by little they all increased workout time, frequency and intensity and they dropped their calories lower and lower until things would get ridiculous. I would have some female clients doing an hour of cardio type workouts 6 days a week and they would only eat 1200-1300 calories a day JUST TO MAINTAIN their physiques.
One day, one of these clients came to me and said “You know what, I can’t keep this up forever. If I take just the smallest break or if I eat the occasional higher calorie food, I gain body fat FAST. It’s not worth it.” This was a wake up call. I wasn’t helping these people at all. This is when I decided to dive deep into the science of fat loss and the human metabolism. I opened my mind and decided to throw all “common knowledge” out the window and, as a result, I had some paradigm-shattering, breakthrough moments. Once I applied this new understanding my clients responded in ways that were truly shocking. Below I am going to list some of these paradigm shattering knowledge bombs. Prepare yourself, because I am about to turn your understanding of fat loss upside down. At the end of this article I will give you a basic template for an exercise routine that’s vastly superior to any fat loss workout program you have tried.
Cardio Sucks For Fat Loss
Bear with me… I know it sounds crazy to say that cardio sucks for fat loss. Its true that cardiovascular activity burns more calories per time spent than any other form of exercise. It’s true that while you do cardio you burn more fat vs any other type of exercise. Those statements are true AND THEY ARE ALSO THE PROBLEM.
When you exercise or move you burn calories but you also send a SIGNAL to the body. The signal tells the body to ADAPT. This is because exercise stresses the body and they body is always trying to mitigate any stress by becoming more resilient or efficient to this stress so that next time the same exercise doesn’t cause the same stress. This is true for all of the adaptation processes of the body.
It’s literally no different than getting a sun tan from exposure to UV rays. When you go outside and you expose your bare skin to UV rays your body ADAPTS to those rays by increasing melanin production which darkens your skin. In other words the “signal” was damage from UV rays and the “adaptation” was to get darker so that these UV rays don’t cause the same amount of damage. Make sense?
Okay, so lets look at cardio and understand it from the same perspective. Cardio causes a LOT of calorie burn, which is a stress on the body. It’s a stress because your primitive body evolved from thousands of generations of people who lived during times of food scarcity. Burn too many calories and you may actually STARVE the body. Cardio the “signal” tells the body to “adapt” by becoming MORE EFFICIENT with calories. In other words you SLOW YOUR METABOLISM DOWN in a short period of time.
This isn’t just my theory either. Its been observed in athletes many times, by scientists and medical experts. An athlete will actually burn LESS calories as their bodies become “better” at doing cardio. This happens to you as well.
That’s not all though. Over time your body will burn less calories by reducing muscle mass (this is why endurance athletes carry such little muscle), it will change hormone profiles (this is why female endurance athletes stop menstruating) and it will change behaviors so that you move less when you don’t exercise. Basically you end up shooting yourself in the foot and in a situation that usually leads to burn out and fat gain. Except this time your metabolism is slower than before. Sound familiar? Happens ALL THE TIME,especially to women. Probably because women tend to be more afraid to do the one form of exercise that will truly SPEED UP THE METABOLISM… they don’t LIFT WEIGHTS.
Here is the first step to real, effective and long-term fat loss: LIFT SOME WEIGHTS
Now I don’t mean do cardio with weights like you would with circuit classes or for super high reps. Those modalities of exercise will send a similar signal to the body as regular cardio does.
What you need to do is lift weights to BUILD and to GET STRONGER. By doing so you are sending a signal to the body that says “strength and muscle are a priority” and since traditional weight training doesn’t burn a ton of calories during the process becoming “efficient” is an after thought. Lift weights PROPERLY and the result is a raging hot metabolism.
When I applied this new understanding to my clients the results were literally insane. Women who used to gain fat by eating over 1200 calories now could consume 1800-2000 calories and LOSE fat. Cardio was reduced to almost nothing as well.
This can work for you as well however there is one main caveat: all weight training exercise aren’t the same. Some are extremely effective while others are almost a waste of time. In other words…
It wasn’t that long ago that the fitness industry had a money problem. Gyms had no issue attracting men but women weren’t exactly showing up in droves. And why would they? Weights made people look like body builders and most women wanted NOTHING to do with looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Women also make up the majority of consumers in almost any market so if gyms wanted to make real money they had to figure out how to attract the female consumers. So they invented some new words and exercises that were “just for women”.
Raise your hand if you want to build tons of bulky muscle. I bet very few or none of you raised your hand. Now raise your hand if you want a really toned body. Ahh…there you all are. Guess what? Toning is a MADE UP WORD. The fitness industry made it up to get women to buy gym memberships. Muscles don’t tone. They either build (hypertrophy) or they shrink (atrophy). The “hard” feeling you get in your muscles is just a small degree of building.
Not only did the fitness gym industry make up the word “tone” they also made up new methods of resistance training, since the ways that most men lifted weights built muscle. In other words gyms said “use resistance this way and you don’t have to worry. You wont build big muscles, you will just tone.” This is crazy once you fully understand the following: building muscle is HARD. It’s hard for men and they have much more of the muscle building testosterone in their system than females do. For women it’s even harder. In fact, I dare you to try to build muscles like a body builder (without taking steroids) and watch what happens. You will just get really “TONED”.
The exercises that are the MOST effective for muscle building are the exercise you should do the most of. Forget all the “female” exercises like the bodyweight leg kickbacks or the short choppy high reps exercise classes. Instead do the most effective muscle building exercises known to man. Do barbell squats, deadlifts, bench presses, rows, lunges, curls and overhead triceps extensions. Also… use heavy weight. High reps DON’T build muscle very well at all.
Train like you want to build and you will send a powerful signal to your body which will result in a faster metabolism, a sculpted hard body and an ability to get away with the occasional high calorie food day.