You Cant Outrun a Bad Diet!
Week in, week out I see the same people doing the same cardio workouts. Minute after minute, hour after hour they spend cycling, rowing, running or attending group exercise classes and yet very few of them seem to lose any weight. What gives? Regardless of whether you are a high intensity interval training advocate or prefer a more sedate cardio zone workout, we all know that prolonged cardiovascular burns fat so why then are these people not losing weight? The answer is, quite simply, they are trying to outrun a poor diet and failing miserably to win the race.
On average, an hour of cardio will burn around 600 calories—yes I know that depends on bodyweight, intensity, exercise modality etc but it’s a pretty fair average. So, you do that hour of cardio five times a week to total around 3,000 calories of expended energy. A single pound of excess body fat is worth around 3,500 stored calories so, with all things being equal, someone performing five hours of aerobic exercise should lose a little under a pound a week. Surely then, after a few months of consistent cardio exercise, there should be a significant and noticeable weight loss. Shame this generally isn’t the case.
In very simple terms, if your diet is excessively calorie dense i.e. you are eating more than you need, you are going to have to do more than plug in your i-pod and trot on the treadmill if you want to lose weight. It doesn’t matter that you are in your so-called fat burning zone—if you are eating more than you need, you won’t lose weight and are probably merely reducing your rate of weight gain.
Surely it would make more sense to combine a moderate amount of exercise with eating a little less? All that endless cardio without dietary interventions is like running on the proverbial hamster wheel…you just end up going nowhere. Of course there is nothing wrong with exercising for prolonged periods if you enjoy it or because your sport e.g. long distance running requires it but if you want to see weight loss, as apparently 4 out of 5 exercisers do, surely you want the best results possible for your investment of exercise time? Interestingly, recent studies indicate that prolonged cardiovascular exercise increases cravings for carbohydrates and appetite generally so, it would seem, no sooner have the calories been ”burnt off” than our bodies want to replace them quick-smart!
Amazingly, you need relatively little exercise to develop a good level of fitness, strength and enjoy the health benefits associated with working out. It’s the intensity of your exercise that triggers most of the positive responses associated with exercise and not the duration. Studies by Dr. Izumi Tabata have demonstrated that a 4 minute high intensity interval training session (yes – four minutes…that’s not a typo) produces improvements in anaerobic and aerobic fitness.
So— to summarize…you can’t outrun a bad diet. Weight management is, to quote fitness and nutrition author Mark Sissons, 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. If you are performing hours and hours of cardio for weight loss and not seeing the results you want (and deserve) your diet is the problem and not your exercise routine. Say no to hamster cardio and do the best weight management exercises known to man— the table push away and the fork put down!