Forum: Advice / Strengthening

Nail in the cardio coffin
By slice
On Sun Aug 07, 2011 06:26 AM
Edited by slice (109495) on 2011-08-07 06:27:21
Edited by slice (109495) on 2011-08-07 06:29:22

Why relying on cardio (especially endurance training and especially for women) can be futile: figureathlete.t-nation.com . . .

A pretty good article, which may encourage me to visit the site more often (it's not really my taste). I think Marathons and Ironmans (wooo, get's me tired just thinking about that) are excellent for people who enjoy them and really shows what the human body is capable of. And I don't think the article is trying to downplay that (the author did complete an Ironman), but it is trying to say that endurance training does something special to your body, and if someone is trying to look more like Jamie Eason (and not everyone is of course) or trying to see abs or be more defined/toned whatever, then that's not going to happen by spending hours in front of the dreadmill.

But They Call It The "Fat Burning Zone"

During a steady-state workout (when you move at the same pace for a certain amount of time), your body does burn a higher percentage of calories from fat. This is where that "fat burning zone" myth comes from. On the surface, it sounds like you're burning more fat calories.

There are two big problems with this.

1: As I explained earlier, you burn fewer total calories as your body adapts. So even if you're burning a higher percentage of fat, you aren't burning as many calories overall. It's like winning 80% of a Lotto jackpot. It sounds good until you realize that the jackpot is just fifty bucks.

2: Your body actually becomes efficient at storing fat. Since you're now burning fat as your primary source of fuel, your body adapts and becomes very good at storing fat. Blame it on a dumb self-preservation mechanism built into the body's operating system.


Undoing the Aerobic Damage

After completing my Ironman, I made fat loss my primary goal for eight weeks. I eliminated all steady-state endurance exercise. No running, biking, swimming, or anything else in the steady-state.

...

What happened? Like magic, my abs came back!

I dropped fifteen pounds of fat in an eight-week period and my body returned to being strong, defined, and lean. I no longer looked like a flabby endurance athlete, and I did it in a quarter of the time, compared to the aerobic training.


Image hotlink - 'http://figureathlete.t-nation.com/img/photos/2008/08-FIG076-training/image012.jpg'
Rachel Cosgrove is a fitness professional who specializes in getting women of all ages into the best shape of their lives. She owns and operates Results Fitness with her husband in Santa Clarita, Ca. She has a BS in Exercises Physiology and earned her CSCS from the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

She has competed in fitness competitions, triathlons, and powerlifting. She has also been featured in Women's Health Magazine, Muscle and Fitness Hers, Shape Magazine, Fitness Magazine, Men's Health, Men's Fitness, and Oxygen.

5 Replies to Nail in the cardio coffin

re: Nail in the cardio coffin
By toroandbruinmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sun Aug 07, 2011 11:25 PM
Edited by toroandbruin (202876) on 2011-08-07 23:26:40
Both interval training and longer cardio sessions are good. They condition your body in different ways. So for optimum overall health and strength, do both. If you are truly overweight, eat fewer calories than you burn. Period.

Now, I've read stories by a lot of formerly overweight people who said that they lost weight most efficiently by taking circuit classes where they alternated aerobic exercises with muscle toning and kept going for a longer period of time with ups and downs in aerobic level. So for a lot of people this does, indeed, work best for weight loss. Everyone's body is different, though; so I think a person needs to see what is right for them. And I'm not sure that a truly obese person's body would lose weight in the same way that a fit body would lose an additional 5 or 10 pounds.

This article bothered me because the young woman, who from the "before" photo was already quite fit and NOT overweight, was disturbed by her body's wonderful ability to adjust itself, during training, to the requirements for the Ironman, which included keeping some fat to burn during the extended race. There's nothing wrong with that!

She was, indeed, slimmer in the "after" pictures, all muscle and zero fat. She may have looked more like an ultra-thin supermodel but was she really healthier and did she really look better?
re: Nail in the cardio coffin
By slice
On Sun Aug 07, 2011 11:58 PM
Edited by slice (109495) on 2011-08-08 00:00:15
Edited by slice (109495) on 2011-08-08 00:02:36
Edited by slice (109495) on 2011-08-08 00:03:29
Edited by slice (109495) on 2011-08-08 00:10:52
toroandbruin wrote:

Now, I've read stories by a lot of formerly overweight people who said that they lost weight most efficiently by taking circuit classes where they alternated aerobic exercises with muscle toning and kept going for a longer period of time with ups and downs in aerobic level. So for a lot of people this does, indeed, work best for weight loss. Everyone's body is different, though; so I think a person needs to see what is right for them. And I'm not sure that a truly obese person's body would lose weight in the same way that a fit body would lose an additional 5 or 10 pounds.

This article bothered me because the young woman, who from the "before" photo was already quite fit and NOT overweight, was disturbed by her body's wonderful ability to adjust itself, during training, to the requirements for the Ironman, which included keeping some fat to burn during the extended race. There's nothing wrong with that!

She was, indeed, slimmer in the "after" pictures, all muscle and zero fat. She may have looked more like an ultra-thin supermodel but was she really healthier and did she really look better?


I'll admit the article is a bit biased. It's written on a site for people who lift weights regularly and probably intended for the "hard body" fitness crowd(and those who aspire to that look) specifically.

What I like was that she was not only pleased with her Ironman performance, she wasn't trying to diet down like crazy and do all this endurance training at the same time. Which so so many people try to do, and it's just not a great idea. As females, we're fat storing machines as it is, and endurance training really exacerbates this tendency (with good reason!).

I don't like how she calls herself "flabby" and kind of ridicules her former form, which as you said was performing a wonderful service by surviving all those grueling hours of training. I don't think she was healthier in either the "before" or "after" photo though. The only difference is a lowered bf%; but same amount of muscle and by no means unhealthily thin. Maybe around 18% bf?

Overall, the article means well. So many people waste hours in front of the treadmill or elliptical, not enjoying it, and not realizing that it's really not any more effective for fat loss than working with weights and doing HIIT, plyos, or intervals. Actual performance training (increasing speed/endurance, preparing for a race) is another matter altogether. And those who enjoy it should of course continue doing it. Plenty of people love distance running and biking.

All I know is I did some Tabata training today and whewww, I was wiiiped out! Those 4 minutes beat the hour runs I used to do any day :P
re: Nail in the cardio coffin
By kenwoodman
On Mon Aug 08, 2011 03:34 AM
I think there needs to be a difference between what works best empirically and what works best because we can keep people doing it. Scientifically lifting heavy with a calorie deficit is the best way to lose weight, period, there isn't any argument over this. Realistically when you're dealing with our chronically obese population, the best weight loss program is the one you can keep them coming to. So on the realistic side of things, yes some people prefer jogging hours at a time and some people (myself in this group) like lifting heavy (well, lifting heavy on top of dance).
re: Nail in the cardio coffin
By toroandbruinmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Mon Aug 08, 2011 09:35 AM
One more thought. Let's remember the most important muscle in the body, one for which there is no "before" and "after" picture to compare in this article -- the heart.
re: Nail in the cardio coffin
By slice
On Mon Aug 08, 2011 09:51 AM
Edited by slice (109495) on 2011-08-08 09:53:38
Edited by slice (109495) on 2011-08-08 09:56:34
toroandbruin wrote:

One more thought. Let's remember the most important muscle in the body, one for which there is no "before" and "after" picture to compare in this article -- the heart.


Good point. She didn't give up cardio, however. Instead she switched to shorter, higher intensity work (HIIT sprints for an example).

According to a study by King, HIIT increases the resting metabolic rate (RMR) for the following 24 hours due to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, and may improve maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max) more effectively than doing only traditional, long aerobic workouts.


Long aerobic workouts have been promoted as the best method to reduce fat, as fatty acid utilization usually occurs after at least 30 minutes of training. HIIT is somewhat counterintuitive in this regard, but has nonetheless been shown to burn fat more effectively. There may be a number of factors that contribute to this, including an increase in RMR, and possibly other physiological effects.


It's possible her heart got healthier in the process. Well-rounded fitness is great. Ideally a person should be exposed to a workout regimen consisting of weight training, high intensity cardiovascular exercise, and endurance exercise.

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