I have been planning to do a post on the myths we believe about cardio, specifically LSD (long slow distance) running, and why it is detrimental to the body. And then I found this excellent article by Ryan Faehnle. Check out his blog at The Fat Loss Solution.

Me dying at the end of my Sprint Triathlon in 2011.
Me dying at the end of my Sprint Triathlon in 2011.

What comes to mind when you think about good fat burning workouts?

What about jogging and other long-duration cardio methods like exercise bikes and ellipticals? After all, they’re proven to burn loads of fat right?

Well, if that’s what you think, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, over 36 million people turn to jogging every year in the hopes of getting a lean and attractive body.

But unfortunately, those folks are in for major disappointment. And so…

I would personally like to say “I’m sorry” to you on behalf of the entire fitness industry. If you’ve been on the cardio-craze band wagon, please accept my sincerest apology for the myths and tall-tales that have been leading you down the garden path.

And if you were thinking of taking up a cardio routine to shed a few pounds, make sure you read this entire page to discover exactly why that’s a very, very bad idea that will end up making you even fatter!

There’s no sugar coating it. You have been lied to, plain and simple. Every magazine you’ve read, every website you’ve visited, and every local trainer you’ve met who has told you that you need to do steady-state cardio to get lean has been wrong.

I’m talking about those hard 45 minute distance runs, the tough marathon sessions on the elliptical, and the brutally hard aerobics classes. Please ditch those right away if you want to accelerate your fat loss and keep the weight off permanently.

But you might be thinking…“I sweat like crazy, my heart is racing, and I’m exhausted after those cardio sessions, so they must be helping me strip off my body fat, right?”

Wrong!

Unfortunately, relying heavily on steady-state cardio (where you keep the same pace for the duration of your workout) in the so-called “fat-burning zone” to get leaner is a recipe for actually getting FATTER.

Here why…

The 3 Ways Your “Cardio” Is Making You FATTER

1. You’re increasing the “gas mileage” you get out of your calories

Humans aren’t cars. Getting 70 miles per gallon in your new hybrid car is awesome. But, when you’re looking to lose bodyfat, the last thing you want is to be fuel-efficient.

You want to be a gas-guzzling — calorie burning — machine! You want to be more like a high-octane, powerful Lamborghini that burns through fuel faster than the cast of The Jersey Shore burns through hair gel!

If you do a lot of traditional cardio (going for a 40 minute jog 4-5 times per week), you’re actually teaching your body to burn FEWER calories to fuel your activity. That’s because your body adapts quickly to this kind of workout and gets very efficient at it. This means that despite your best efforts, your long runs are putting more thunder in your thighs and more love in your love handles!

2. You’re boosting fat-storing hormones

Traditional cardio not only makes you burn less fat for fuel over time, it increases the activity of hormones that make you STORE fat.

There are several culprits, but the main one I’m talking about is cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that your body relies on for energy during periods of fatigue. While cortisol does some important things in your body, chronically high levels cause increases in the size of that pouch of fat that hangs off the bottom of your belly.

I’m here to break the bad news to you that traditional cardio actually causes cortisol to run rampant in your body.

Going for an easy walk is fine and good for your health, but those hard distance runs, long elliptical sessions, and aerobic dance classes cause your cortisol to make deposits of fat around your belly button at a rate greater than Donald Trump makes deposits at the bank!

3. You’re taking fuel out of your metabolic furnace

Think of your metabolism like a wood-burning furnace. The more wood you have on the fire, the hotter it will burn.

The wood in your body’s metabolism is lean muscle tissue. Higher levels of lean muscle create a huge demand for calories, even when you’re not exercising at all!

Traditional cardio eats away at muscle mass, which then decreases the amount of calories you burn on a day-to-day basis.

So if jogging ain’t so great, what the heck should you be doing instead?

Forget about “cardio” and turn to “energy system training” instead.

Technically, you could still call energy system work “cardio,” because it does train the cardiovascular system, but in a VERY different way. Unlike cardio training, energy system training actually stimulates fat loss, while SIMULTANEOUSLY maintaining muscle mass so that you can keep the furnace hot!

So what can you do to shift towards energy system training and avoid the 3 problems with traditional cardio? The answer is really quite simple.

1.) You need to make sure you’ve got a good strength-training program.

Too many people make the mistake of ignoring their metabolically active muscle mass. This is the base of your fat burning metabolism. Don’t ignore it. Whether you are a woman or a man, a well designed resistance training program is a must.

2.) You should do your energy system training 2-4 times per week, but utilizing high intensity intervals instead of your standard 30-45 minute boring jog.

High intensity intervals burn more fat than steady-state cardio, they boost your metabolism, and they increase your fat-burning hormones.

Here’s a sample plan for you:

For each workout, choose whatever method you want whether it is sprinting, kayaking, cycling, rowing, etc. The principles remain the same no matter what you’re doing.

Workout 1: 6 rounds of 30 seconds as hard and as fast as you can go followed by 1 minute and 30 seconds of low intensity activity or complete rest.

Workout 2: 8 rounds of 1 minute as hard and as fast as you can go followed by 2 minutes of low-intensity activity or complete rest.

Workout 3: 20 rounds of 10 seconds as hard and as fast as you can go followed by 30 seconds of low-intensity activity or complete rest.

Make these quick and easy changes to your workout plan and kiss your body fat goodbye forever!