#116 – Cardio Is Not a Magic Bullet

It’s January, and that means there are millions of people trying to make good on their New Years’ Resolutions. For many, this resolution involves losing weight, cutting body fat, and “leaning up.” And predictably many resolutioners first instinct is to hit the cardio machines — treadmills, ellipticals, exercise bikes, etc.


Losing fat, or rather body recomposition as we like to call it, involves more than just losing weight. It also involves gaining muscle mass. Or, for an already trained person, it involves maintaining muscle mass while losing fat mass. Either way, muscle mass — lean mass — is the key to the equation.


Cardiovascular training does little to create new muscle mass. For a completely sedentary, untrained individual, jogging around the block likely will build some initial muscle mass, but the results drop off after a few weeks of training. After that, the force production demands of cardio are simply not enough to stimulate growth of new muscle mass. Moreover, certain forms of cardio, in particular long slow distance (LSD) type training, triggers hormonal mechanisms in your body which prevents you from gaining new muscle mass, and may even cause you to lose it. See Dr. Sullivan’s exceptional work The Barbell Prescription for details on the AMPK “switch.”


So, what is a resolutioner to do? First, you need to strength train, and/or continue strength training. That will ensure that you build and maintain a high level of lean mass, which in turns drives your metabolism up higher. Secondly, you need to eat in a small caloric deficit. You need to eat less calories than you burn. About 10% reduction in calories is usually as much as you need to get this process started — that’s typically only a couple hundred a day, depending on your baseline.


This can be done without doing any cardio at all! Food and lean mass will be the biggest drivers of fat loss in this process.


However, if you begin to stall with your fat loss and you are continuing with your strength training, you may want to add in one to two conditioning workouts each week. Keep these workouts short and intense, as they will give you the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to fat loss. Tabatas on the echo bike, pushing the prowler, sprints on the rower — these are all great choices for HIIT cardio training.


But don’t be fooled… cardio is not a magic bullet for fat loss!


Muscle cells crash course: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ktv-CaOt6UQ&feature=youtu.be


You can find Charity on Instagram at: @charity_silverstrength





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