Steady-state cardio as a fat loss strategy

Becky wants to change her body composition and starts to run….because running burns calories…which equals fat…which makes you look skinnier…no ??

Cardio is not the best way to lose weight nor fat, and it’s certainly not the only way.
There, I said it !


Research studies have proven that weight lifting is far more superior for fat loss and body compositional changes than traditional cardio. But, even though we have these new findings, people still don’t get it and people still want to sit on the bikes reading magazines about Kim Kardashian’s divorce for hours and hours. Do as you please, but I know I’m one of those types of people that want to get the most bang for their buck when it comes to training.

The physique transformation process is more complicated than the simple calories in vs. calories out theory. The real keys are to use your diet and exercise protocols to elevate your resting metabolic rate and manipulate your anabolic, lipolytic hormones and enzymes. Strength training has a much more powerful effect on these processes than aerobic/cardio training.



For this article, we are defining steady-state cardio as “traditional continuous cardio, completed at a moderate level of intensity for a moderate to long duration of time”. Thinking of jogging on a treadmill or outside, going on an elliptical for 30-40 minutes, etc.

Traditional cardio is easy to start, requires very little knowledge or skill, and gives you the illusion you are having an effective workout as you experience an elevated heart rate, sweat beading off your forehead, and according to the machine you are on, burning lots of calories.

There’s been a lot of discussion concerning HIIT (high-intensity interval training) versus LISS (low intensity steady state cardio). HIIT leads to more EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, informally called afterburn) than LISS, where you’re only burning calories at that precise moment. There’s no 24 hour energy expenditure (boost in metabolism). On the other hand, you will never burn more calories during a workout if you compare 20 minutes of HIIT ith 40 minutes of LISS. The moment you stop jogging or any other form of traditional crdio, your body almost completely stops burning calories, so there’s no long-term effect on fat loss.

Not only that, but the more cardio you do, the more efficient your body becomes at burning calories and storing fat. Sounds like a good thing at first glance, but if fat loss is your goal, this is the opposite of what you want. Since you’re now burning fat as your primary source of fuel, your body adapts and becomes very good at storing fat. Your body now requires less energy to complete your cardio, so you end up needing more to lose fat.

If you’re starving out in the wilderness with no food in sight, this is a very good thing, as it’ll increase your chances of survival. But that’s probably not you. That’s a whole lot of work for increasingly diminishing returns and a waste of time if your goal is long term fat loss.


A paper from the American Journal of Medicine stated, “Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise programs of 6-12 months induce a modest reduction in weight and waist circumference in overweight and obese populations. Our results show that isolated aerobic exercise is not an effective weight loss therapy in these patients.”

According to Lee Boyce, a strength coach and owner of Boyce Training Systems in Toronto, the most popular reason why people run is fat loss: Folks “do cardio” because they want to burn off their bellies. And running is a bad pick.

Steady-state cardio is not inherently a fat loss modality. By itself, it does have mild benefits for cardiovascular health, but it’s not going to get you the lean, ripped physique you’re striving for. If you’re an endurance athlete interested in, say, improving your half-marathon time, then go right ahead, but if your focus is on looking your best, then endurance work is not the answer.

The objective when trying to lose weight/fat, is to increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR), so that your body starts working for you. If you want to change your metabolism, you have to increase muscle mass and increase your muscle’s oxidative capacity. During a low calorie diet, LISS cardio is more catabolic (muscle wasting) towards muscle as opposed to HIIT cardio being much more muscle sparing. Muscle loss due to excessive aerobics drastically lowers the resting metabolic rate and inhibits natural hormone production.

Strength training

Strength training on the other hand raises the metabolic rate for longer periods of time than aerobic work and boosts the metabolic rate at rest due to lean muscle gain. So if you want to be in shape, skip the 10K training and sprint — but don’t jog — to the nearest weight room.

Think of it this way. The more cardio you do, the less room you leave for strength training. You not only have less time dedicated to lifting heavy weights, but you also don’t have as much energy to give each training session the intensity it deserves.

If you’re looking for long term effects on weight loss, fat loss and increased metabolic rate, you’ve got to implement strength training into your weekly routine !

“Spiermassa verhoogt je vetverbranding in rust. Til gewichten en laat je lichaam op termijn voor jou werken.” – Encore


More information: Strength training is fat loss training

Meer informatie over het nut van krachttraining (Nederlandstalig): Afgelijnd versus slank

Side note 1:

If you “have to” do tons of cardio to stay lean, your diet sucks.


Side note 2:

Running efficiently is every bit as much a learned skill as anything we do in the weight room. People learn different sports like how to swim, but everyone assumes that their running technique is perfect and adapt to your running pattern. It’s no coincidence the repetitive nature of running – in addition to the ground reaction forces involved, often approaching 6-8 times bodyweight – is what results in many chronic injuries. There’s a reason that up to 79 percent of runners get sidelined with an injury at least once per year.

As a personal trainer, it’s my task to keep clients healthy. When I have a 16-week training schedule planned out for one of my clients, I’m not going to take the risk of getting him/her injured by programming long-distance running. It’s an incredibly inefficient way to build strength. And as we all know, a strong body is the number one way to prevent injuries, increase metabolism, burn fat, and stay mobile and functional in old age.

As the saying goes: “You need to get fit to run, not run to get fit.”


Must-read: Does cardio make you fat?

Credits: Tony Gentilcore, Dean Smerset, Lee Boyce, Tom Kelso, Nick English, Mike Robertson, Chris Martinez, T-Nation and the Poliquin Group.



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