How can one not lose weight by doing cardio? I mean, if you’re not losing any weight by doing cardio, my question to you would be ‘what kind of cardio workout have you been doing?’
If your definition of cardio is hopping onto the treadmill or the elliptical machine for an hour at low intensity (and being able to hold a conversation with a friend), then you are right – you’re not going to get very far (or anywhere) with that. This type of cardio is known as Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) cardio.
Most people start out their weight loss/fitness journey by doing cardio. GREAT CHOICE! The effects are pretty immediate and over the first 3 weeks or so, you would have noticed that you’ve shed quite a bit of weight. So, you continue to do the same thing week after week. The good thing (or bad) about our bodies is that we adapt. By then, your metabolism would have completely adjusted to your cardio workout that it becomes a baseline to what you have to do to maintain.
People tend to want to remain within their comfortable zone. They continue to do LISS at the same rate over the same amount of time as when they first started out. This is the reason why some people even after spending hours at the gym each week, don’t seem to be losing any weight. As your aerobic capacity improves, what was once very hard wouldn’t seem hard at all. In order to progress to the next level (ie: lose more weight), you have to constantly increase the intensity of your workout.
Another factor is that people tend to overestimate the amount of calories burnt. After an hour of LISS on the treadmill or the elliptical and they feel that they can reward themselves with a big meal. What they have just done is put back everything they have lost through the workout and most times, even more. The thing about LISS is that it doesn’t dramatically change your body. Therefore, you are only burning calories during the workout, not 24-hour energy expenditure (more on that later). The more time you spend doing LISS, the more calories you burn. LISS is great if you have a lot of time on your hands or if you are training for a marathon (and covering great distances).
The other type of cardio is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT consists of short burst of high intensity work where your energy expenditure is at a maximum coupled with low-moderate intensity work. HIIT can be done with almost any sport (running, swimming, cycling, dancing, weight lifting) as long as your heart rate is through the roof for a set period of time.
When it comes to exercising, most people like to do it in their comfort zone (myself included). As long as you break a sweat, you’re happy. You don’t feel the need to push yourself that far because it requires too much work. Well, the sad reality about HIIT is that it is going to require A LOT of work. It is about maximum energy expenditure and putting your body in a very uncomfortable mode. It is going to hurt, you’re going to hate it, you’re going to hate working out, you’ll feel like quitting (please don’t), you’re probably going to puke and you can almost taste death. If you don’t feel any of that, then you’re probably doing it wrong.
HIIT would be the preferred type of cardio for fat loss. Why? Because by pushing your body to that level of exhaustion, you are effectively breaking down muscle and other tissues. This will send signals to your body to rebuild itself. Repairing, rebuilding and reconstructing damaged tissues require a great deal of energy which would lead to an increase in metabolism (24-hour energy expenditure). Your body would be busy repairing itself all day even after the workout. HIIT also increases your muscle mass which will further increase your metabolic rate (more on that in another post).
This applies to running, life and everything else. Always do a little bit more than what you can handle.
The great thing about HIIT is that you only have to do one thing – get your heart rate thumping at its maximum. It doesn’t matter if your body has adapted to the previous HIIT session, the next time you do it, it has to feel hard. That is how you gauge a HIIT session.
HIIT: More effective for fat loss over a shorter period of time, greater change in metabolic rate, improves your body
LISS: Takes a longer time to accomplish the same results as with HIIT, burns calories but does not alter metabolic rate after your body has adapted to it, great for improving aerobic capacity but does little to change or improve your body
I hope that by now you have a slight idea of both HIIT and LISS cardio. Cardio is not the culprit as to why you are not losing weight, it is the type of cardio that you choose to do.
Both LISS and HIIT cardio have different effects on the body. I feel that both should be incorporated into your workout routine so that you are able to reap each of its benefits.You can do HIIT sessions 3-4 times a week depending on your level of fitness and LISS for the rest of the week.
Trust me, I used to hate HIIT sessions (I still do, sometimes). I hate it mostly because I know what it requires from me. I know that I would have to push myself above and beyond my limits. The slightest thought of it gives me the chills *shudders*.
So, what are you waiting for! Do some HIIT and torch some FATS!