In the year 1999 (the beginning of my career), I remember going to the gym to train people. There was always that same lady running on the treadmill when I arrived. Covered in sweat, her running form would slowly deteriorate as time passed and I trained my client on the other side of the gym. I would finish a one-hour session with my client and glance over to see her still running.
As I prepared to train my next client, she would get off the treadmill and limp painfully over to the elliptical machine. I admired her dedication, but the fact is that she didn’t look that great. She was on the skinny-fat side, and every week she looked just a little more broken down, had a little flatter muscles, a little more loose skin and a more and more wrinkles in her face. And she had definitely added some body fat in the year I had been there.
Several new studies have shown that long cardio workouts actually sabotage your body’s natural ability to burn fat, more so,abdominal fat. For years we thought that in order to lose fat, we needed to do cardio. In fact, trainers encouraged their clients to do lots of cardio to burn fat… the more the better! We have all seen those charts on cardio machines that read, “Fat Burning Zone.” This is old science taken completely out of context. What it should really say is this: By doing this you are training your body to store fat. Have you ever noticed that the folks who are always on the cardio machines at the gym never change? In fact they often are like the lady in my story… they look worse every time you see them.
When you spend 30, or even 60 minutes on an elliptical machine or pounding away on a treadmill, you send your body a powerful signal to start storing fat instead of burning it. Your body reacts to the stress by suppressing a very important hormone produced by the thyroid called T3. T3 is a fat burning hormone. When T3, is suppressed, your body will immediately start storing fat.
According to a study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, people who performed long cardio sessions suffered from decreased T3 production. Performing steady state cardio sessions will make your body more efficient at burning calories at that pace. Your body adapts and becomes smarter in how it uses its fuel. If your goal is to burn fat, you definitely don’t want your body to become more efficient. Less efficient equals more fuel used/calories burned.
These kind of cardio sessions also put a huge amount of stress on your body. There is a continuous jolting stress on your joints. It causes scarring of the heart tissue which can lead to a heart attack. It causes your body to release high levels of cortisol, which have been linked to heart disease, cancer and increases in visceral abdominal fat. (the bad, organ-choking kind of fat). One study even suggested that if you wake up every morning at the same time to go for a run, your body knows what to expect and begins to stress out, releasing cortisol and hanging onto fat, before you even start your run.
Long cardio sessions also increase your appetite. This is a physical as well as an emotional response. Your body craves it, and you subconsciously believe you earned it, which isn’t true. In fact, most folks end up eating an average of 100 calories more than they just burned off.
A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that steady state cardio causes immense oxidative damage and a flood of free radicals to the body. Free radicals are molecules that will cause rapid aging in your body. During your cardio session, your body is filled with free radicals which cause damage to your organs, damage your skin and not only make you look older but actually do make you GET older… faster!
If you want to lose body fat and keep your muscle, you need to cut back on classic cardiovascular exercise. Don’t jog… Sprint! Train with weights! Do intervals… high intensity interval training or better yet, come do camp at Conditioned by Kelly Tekin™!!
Melissa Harris, Age 42 – Mom of 3