Cardio and Fat Loss: It's Complicated

I really just can’t bear this anymore. It is one of the most frequently brought up topics in conversations around fitness.

“If I run so much, why can’t I see my abs?”

“I’m gonna do cardio until I get to my goal weight, and then I’ll start lifting.”

“Is cardio best for burning fat?”

The over-glorification of cardio exercise is a symptom of our love affair with all things low fat and whole grain. Fat doesn’t make you fat. Unused carbohydrates do (that’s a simplified version.) Cardio doesn’t make you lean, just like weight lifting won’t make you bulky.

The reason cardio is believed to be the best fat burner is that it's named for the metabolic system that carries us through 30-60 minutes and more of exercise: Aerobic. The aerobic system uses primarily oxygen and fat for fuel. That’s perfect. Aerobic exercise burns fat!

Not so fast buddy.

First, it is important to note that we have no control over whether the fat source is nutritional (what you just ate) or body fat.

Second, the body learns what you teach it. If you teach your body to prepare for long bouts of cardio, it will prepare by holding onto fat stores. Not only that, it will start to break down muscle rather than use it’s fat first.

Third, the state in which we want to be burning the MOST fat is while we’re just moseying around, sitting at a desk, or watching TV. Yep

Optimum fat burning time is when you’re NOT working out!

This is our Basal Metabolic Rate. It makes up about half of your daily calorie burn. The awesome thing is that number is NOT STATIC.

With strategic exercise and meal planning, you can teach your body (it’s technically adapting, not learning) to PRIMARILY use glycogen stores during your workouts and burn fat the rest of the day.

Do you get hangry when you don’t eat?

Feel faint? Feel like low blood sugar?

Are you always Hungry?

Your metabolism is probably using too many carbs at rest than we would like. That means that you’re not burning fat throughout the day. That’s a bummer.

Take away:

The strategy I recommend to burn the most fat during exercise is heavy lifting and HIIT. Sounds a lot like CrossFit, you say? That’s because Xfit is based on exercise principles that existed long before it was conceived and trademarked.

The basic theory is that max efforts for short periods of time trains energy systems that specifically DON'T use fat. This way, your body adapts to these high-intensity workouts and burns the fat while you’re not at the gym, saving your sugar stores for your workouts.

Add some weight training to that to rev up your proverbial engine and you’ve got some great fat burning happening.

So get off the treadmill, bike or stair climber and try doing some burpees.

And oh yeah, a HIIT workout doesn’t take more than 30 minutes in order to see results.

Less time at the gym and more time fat burning. #winning

Elizabeth Romsloe