Why More Cardio Is Not The Answer to Burn Fat

The simple act of burning fat is a Frankenstein of pseudo scientific nonsense, with everything from detox tea on the far ranging nonsense end of the spectrum, to sound diet and consistent exercise on the incredibly reasonable and effective opposite side of the spectrum. Somewhere in the middle exists the modern day craze of heart rate monitoring your treadmill workout and chasing results through soul crushing effort.

When it comes to fat loss, over the years we have found that most people want that single answer, that isolated strategy where all they have to do is just that one thing and it will grant them results like a genie in a bottle. Everyone wants a magic pill when in reality, when it comes to fat loss there are just a bunch of simple and incredibly effective habits that ultimately add up to significant body re-composition.

Habit#1: Make Food at Home

Wah, wah, wahhhh. Right out of the gates we kill your buzz with something boring.

We really cannot over hype the importance of starting with the basic concept of food preparation and making your own meals, which is why it bats leadoff today. It’s the reason why it’s our singular focus the first few weeks of Coach Ashley’s nutrition programs. We have found that so many folks think they are eating well and in reality are not.

The only way to begin to correct this is to get in the habit of making your meals at home. You wouldn’t fix the roof of a house after a hurricane before you fixed the foundation and the same goes for diet. Own your home base. If you have the extra motivation then keep a food log of what you eat. You will be less inclined to eat garbage and overeat when you have to physically prepare it and take responsibility of logging it.

Habit #2: Get Stronger

Of the men and women who have achieved the most remarkable physical transformations at P360, talking anywhere from 15 to 65 pound fat loss or just recomposing their body to have more muscle and less fat, every last one of them did so using strength as their primary vehicle in the gym.

Every. Last. One.

Strength, not cardio, is exponentially more effective as a fat loss foundation for two primary reasons.

Work Capacity
Where strength training really sets itself apart is that it increases your ability to do things, called work capacity, and it’s really, really important. For example, let’s say that the majority of your workouts are 30 minute circuits performed with loads that average twenty five pounds. Let’s just say that in your workout you complete 500 reps. So, your total work performed would be 12,500 pounds (500 reps x 25 pounds).

But, let’s say you focus on getting stronger and you are now able to perform those 500 reps at an average of thirty five pounds. Now, your work performed is 17,500 pounds. More muscles worked, more calories expended, more exertion, more intensity, more favorable metabolic responses in your body…without increasing duration.

Let us say again…without increasing duration.

That’s work capacity.

Compared to chronic bouts of long cardio that can jack up our stress hormone cortisol, which in turn wreaks havoc on our ability to burn fat, strength training causes our body to produce more favorable hormones for burning fat and preserving lean, calorie burning muscle. These favorable hormones lead to more muscle and less fat over the long haul, two things every single human being alive should want if they wish to remain that way for as long as possible.

Too many hear “strength training” and they think that means constantly grinding out single rep PRs. That’s just the extreme side of it. This is like saying that you don’t want to do cardio because you aren’t interested in running a marathon.

Pick a DB set one set to the right, get uncomfortable on your pull-up bands, use that heavier med ball, toss ten pounds on your next squat day. All of these will yield strength increases in the doses that will help your body composition to burn more fat. Not to mention becoming a stronger and more capable human.

Habit #3: Build Muscle 

Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of calories your body burns at rest, daily. Metabolically, building muscle is very advantageous because the amount of muscle we have on our body is directly proportionate to how many calories we are able to burn. Muscle is a very metabolically active tissue, much more so than fat so the more we have of it the more calories we burn while we’re sitting around doing nothing.

A 155 pound woman comprised of 18% body fat will burn far more calories than a 155 pound woman with 25% body fat.

Consider this from a 2012 NCBI study:

“Because evidence suggests that resistance training may promote a negative energy balance and may change body fat distribution, it is possible that an increase in muscle mass after resistance training may be a key mediator leading to a better metabolic control.”

Heavy weights are your friend. All they want is to meet and spend a little time with you, not hang out every single day. You can do that, right?

Habit #4: Short Bouts of “Loaded Cardio”

Anyone can make you sweat. That shit isn’t impressive. Many, many franchise brands rely on this to sell you memberships with outrageous (and heavily inaccurate claims) of over 700 calories burned per workout!

Neat. Habitual, long term bouts of cardio as the foundation of your fitness are not beneficial on your fat loss goals. Not even in the slightest.

Why? Because traditional cardio doesn’t build muscle and without an emphasis on building you are doomed to shed muscle along with fat in any program that claims calorie burning is the backbone of their success. And as we just learned, muscle is the most important tissue we can have on our bodies for burning fat. That is science, not opinion. Running doesn’t build muscle. Dancing around the room for forty minutes with no real resistance doesn’t build muscle.

How you burn calories matters.

Habit #5: Clean Up Your Weekends

The easiest way to illustrate consistency from a more scientific standpoint rather than abstract is to look at diet. Let’s assume that someone needs to eat 2,000 calories in order to get the physique they want, and they end up with the following weekly outcome.

  • Monday: 2,000 calories
  • Tuesday: 2,000 calories
  • Wednesday: 2,000 calories
  • Thursday: 2,000 calories
  • Friday: 2,400 calories
  • Saturday: 3,200 calories
  • Sunday: 2,700 calories

GOAL = 2,000 per day
ACTUAL = 2,328 per day

We think we are doing well because Monday through Friday we crush it, but those Saturday and Sunday choices can unfortunately ruin your entire week of progress. We want you to enjoy your weekends and enjoy your life, but if you have physique goals the surest way to not reach them is to turn into Post Malone every weekend. Get some healthy activity on your Saturday morning, avoid eating garbage at all meals, limit your booze and you will see a huge boost in your fat burning ability.