How is it possible that some people do tons of cardio and don’t lose weight?
Weight loss is a function of caloric deficit, not how much cardio you do.
Cardio is only one of the tools you use to create and increase a caloric deficit.
Endurance athletes are a perfect example for illustrating the error in thinking that an hour a day or whatever amount of cardio will guarantee weight loss.
They might train for 2, 3 or more hours or days.
But they are often not trying to lose weight.
They have to eat huge amounts of food to fuel their training and keep their weight stable.
It is not unusual at all for a cyclist to burn 4000 or 5000 calories per day and not lose any weight.
Same reason you are doing a lot of cardio but not losing weight.
There is no calorie deficit.
Calories in are equaling the calories out.
What you need to do is shift your focus off of some kind of prerequisite time spent doing cardio and on to the real pre-requisite for weight loss.
A Caloric Deficit.
If your caloric intake remains the same and you add cardio or other training or activity, you will create a deficit and you will lose weight, guaranteed.
With all this talk about cardio and training, one important area that people often forget about is all the other activity in your life outside of your cardio and weight training.
There is a name for that:
Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis
Or NEAT in short.
NEAT is all your physical activity throughout the day, excluding your formal workouts.
NEAT includes all the calories you burn from casual walking, shopping, yard work, housework, standing, pacing and even little things like talking, chewing, changing posture, maintaining posture and fidgeting.
Walking contributes to the majority of NEAT.
It seems like a bunch of little stuff – and it is – which is why most people completely ignore it.
At the end of the day, week, month and year, all the little stuff adds up to a little significant amount of energy.
For most people, NEAT accounts for about 30% of physical activity calories spent daily.
But it can run as low 15% in sedentary individuals and as high as 50% in highly active individuals.
I am always telling people to exercise more.
By doing so, they burn more, not just eat less.
This is not only for health, fitness and well-being but also to help increase fat loss.
But some people say that increasing exercise does not always work and they quote from research to make their case.
It is true that some studies paradoxically do not show better weight loss by adding exercise on top of diet.
But there are explanations for this.
If you add training into your fat loss regime but do not maintain your nutritional discipline and keep your food intake the same, you remain in energy balance.
If a study does not monitor such compensation, or if the researchers trust the subjects to accurately self-report their own food intake, it will look like the exercise was for nothing.
In studies where the food intake was controlled when exercise was added… surprise, surprise, weight loss increased.
Stated differently, all these experts who keep saying that exercise does not work for weight loss are either ignoring or not understanding basic concepts of calorie deficit and energy compensation.
Why Exercise Does Not Work – The NEAT Explanation
So a handful of people exercise and then eat more than they were eating before.
And then scratch their heads and wonder why they are not losing.
Or, they go on some idiotic crusade against exercise.
See, exercise is a waste of time.
All you have to do is follow the magic diet!
Dieting alone is the worst way to lose weight because without training, the composition of the weight you lose is not good .
Want to avoid skinny fat syndrome? I
It is nutrition, then weight training, then add in and manipulate the cardio as your results dictate.
There is another type of compensation that researchers have recently started studying.
When people increase their training, especially high intensity training, sometimes they also compensate by moving less later in the day and in the days that that follow!
For example, you work out like an animal in the morning.
But then instead of your usual walking around and doing housework the rest of the day, you crash and plop your tired body in your lazy boy for a nice nap and a marathon session of TV.
The next day, the delayed onset muscle soreness sets in and then you do not feel like moving!
Research on NEAT is extensive and it tells us that it plays a major role in obesity and fat loss.
Finding ways to increase it along with formal exercise can be a promising strategy to increase your total daily calorie burn and thus fat loss.
The flip side of that equation is finding ways to avoid decreases in NEAT that we might not have been aware of.
Because NEAT is so completely off most people’s radars, most people miss this.
Having said that, here are important points to note.
1. Role Of Exercise For Weight Loss
This study supports the role of exercise for weight loss and debunks the idea that exercise does not work for weight loss.
Provided all else remains equal when exercise is added on top of diet.
2. Exercise Intensity
Exercise intensity can affect NEAT for days after a workout is over.
Too much high intensity work might zap your energy and activity outside the gym, resulting in a lower level of NEAT.
You have to keep up your habitual activity level outside the gym after pushing yourself hard in the gym.
3. Low Moderate Exercise
This information supports the role of low moderate intensity exercise like 60 minutes of treadmill walking.
This is based on the effect this has on your activity outside the gym.
It is not true that only high intensity training is worthwhile.
There are pros and cons of training at various intensities.
4. Keep Up NEAT
If you can keep up your NEAT, you can increase your weekly calorie expenditure and increase your fat loss.
5. Look Beyond Short-Term Results
It is important in research to look beyond short term and also consider longer term effects.
We should watch out for more studies on NEAT that go beyond 24 hours to learn more.
NEAT is a great way to improve your total fat loss results, but it can also undermine your efforts if you do not consider the toll it takes on your daily energy expenditure.
Article by Tom Venuto, Author of Burn The Fat
About The Author
Tom Venuto is a fat loss expert, lifetime natural bodybuilder and author of the Burn The Fat.
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