How many times have you been told to do cardio for fat loss? Many trainers still advise their clients to run for hours on the treadmill. Unfortunately, this strategy only works on short term. The more cardio you do, the faster your body adapts to exercise. As a result, it begins to burn fewer calories. Not to mention that cardio “eats” your hard-earned muscles and increases stress.
Contrary to what you may have heard, cardio training is not necessary. It does have its perks, but there are better ways to drop weight. Too much aerobic exercise can actually stall your progress and take a toll on your body. After a long cardio session, you’ll feel hungry and tired. Your muscles will be swollen and painful. The stress hormone cortisol levels will go up too, which in turn, affects testosterone production.
Evidence shows that long, frequent cardio workouts increase oxidative stress in the body, leading to cardiovascular problems. This form of training has been also linked to a higher risk of depression, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions that can be worsened by stress. Additionally, excessive cardio puts your body into an acidic state, causing further damage to your muscles and joints. Here are some common signs that you’re doing too much cardio:
Tiredness and fatigue
Inability to lose weight
Reduced muscle tone
Chronic joint soreness
Slow recovery from training
Getting sick more often than normal
Decreased mental focus
In a study conducted on fit older men who have run over 100 marathons over the years, those who trained the longest and hardest showed signs of myocardial fibrosis, such as heart muscle scarring. Recent research suggests that endurance training may lead to cardiac arrhythmias. When you do cardio for too long, your body enters a catabolic state in which muscle tissues break down. This form of exercise decreases immune response, affects sleep, and creates microscopic teas in your muscles. Over time, your risk of injury increases.
Doing cardio every now and then is unlikely to cause any harm. It can actually boost your endurance and cardiorespiratory fitness. Its weight loss benefits shouldn’t be overlooked wither. However, a few minutes of cardio per day are not the same as hours of aerobic exercise. Too much cardio can drain your energy, put stress on your joints, and lead to fitness plateaus. You’ll feel weak, tired, and worn out despite eating clean and staying active.
If you want to get lean, give your workout a makeover! As we have previously mentioned, strength training and HIIT are more effective for fat loss than cardio. According to a 2004 study, subjects who did HIIT for 15 weeks dropped more fat than those following a traditional cardio program for 20 weeks. What makes high intensity interval training so great is the afterburn effect. Basically, it raises your heart rate and forces your body to use more oxygen after exercise. This leads to an increased energy expenditure.
Ideally, HIIT should be performed at 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Its optimal duration ranges between five and 20 minutes. You can try different HIIT workouts, such as 10-20-30 training, tabata, or the Little Method. The harder you work, the greater the afterburn effect will be. With HIIT, you can achieve maximum oxygen and muscle fatigue in a quick burst of exercise. Your body will keep burning calories for up to 48 hours after training.
Some HIIT routines, such as tabata, last four minutes or less. Three weekly sessions are more than enough to burn stubborn fat and maintain your fitness.
For example, your workout can include a 30-second sprint followed by a 30-second walk. Repeat for 15 minutes. With tabata, you can do push-ups, burpees, or any other intense exercise for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat. Combine different moves, such as push-ups and squats, sit-ups and high knees, or mountain climbers and seal jumps. For best results, lift weights before HIIT or leave a few hours between the two.