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The Cardio Fat Burning Myth

Whenever I talk to people about fitness I often hear the same things, one of the most common is " I don't have time to lift weights, but I do go running " and they always have the same look of expectation on their face. They are waiting for the " well done that's really good of you " instead they get " why ? " and suddenly you see the panic in their face as they try to remember the thing that read on the internet or a fitness trainer or friend told them. But whatever they say, normally they end up saying " well it's better than sitting on the sofa "

If you use running or cycling as your only fitness method you will probably want to stop reading this now as you are not going to like some of the things I say.

Lets start with running, when most people say they go running what they actually mean is they go slogging (slow jogging), we've all seen them and most of us have been there, the person barely moving above a slow walking pace, sweating, red in the face and checking their couch to 5K app.

They get home collapse on the sofa with sore knees and ankles, neck ache and the first sign of shin splints but happy in the knowledge that the bottle of wine and pizza they are going to have later has been earned.

Now cycling as represented by your average middle aged man in Lycra, he spends most of his life sitting at a computer so he then chooses an exercise were he can sit down as well. And after a few hours in the saddle he rewards himself with a sit down, a pint and a carb heavy meal. His weight never improves, his back hurts thanks to shortened hip flexors from all the sitting but he is happy in the knowledge that at least its better than sitting on the sofa.

Both these examples are very common and believe that they are doing everything right to lose weight but wonder why they improve at running or cycling but can't lose weight and often gain weight. The reason is simple, the body is a very efficient machine, it quickly adapts to what is thrown at it. Which is great for improving your running or cycling but terrible for fat burning.

Here are the Reasons Steady state Cardio training is Supposed to Burn Fat

1) It burns calories. Hard working muscles demand extra oxygen to help them work. However, many activities also burn calories by requiring work from the muscles.Such as weight training, intervals, sprinting, sleeping.

2) The fat burning zone.The fat burning zone is a concept that the body burns a greater amount of fat at lower-intensity aerobic exercise than it does at higher intensities. At lower intensities the body may burn 50 percent of the calories from fat, while at higher intensities it may only burn 35 percent. But at higher intensities you burn way more total calories—and more fat calories overall—than you do at lower intensities.

3) Aerobic training makes your body an efficient fat burning machine. This is true, but this isn't a desirable response. Yes, aerobic training does demand work from the muscles, but not as much as other activities. Because the only tissue that burns fat in the body is muscle, aerobics are ineffective at building and so a very poor at maintaining your body's fat-burning tools.

4) Aerobic training raises your metabolism. This is false. Your metabolism is largely a function of how much muscle you carry. Because aerobics do nothing to even maintain muscle, never mind build it, they do not contribute to raising your metabolism while at rest.


Your metabolism or your metabolic rate is what determines how many calories you burn each day. It is controlled by your thyroid and is largely a factor of muscle mass. Every pound of muscle you put on requires approximately 50 calories per day to maintain. This doesn't take into account the calories burned developing that muscle, or the calories burned while maintaining that muscle. These 50 calories are the amount needed by that muscle to just sit there.

This equates to 18,250 calories per year, or the equivalent of a little over five pounds of fat. Gaining and maintaining even five pounds of muscle in your training program will assist in burning off over 26 pounds of fat over the course of a year.

Consequently, an athletic physique is not just the result of how many calories burned during exercise, but how many calories the body is forced to burn all the time. Raising your metabolism is the real key to long-term fat loss and body change.

So in conclusion aerobic or cardio training is great for your cardiovascular system but not great for fat burning. If you want to burn fat make sure you include regular heavy lifting in your workout regime. Even if you are concentrating on improving your running or cycling, lifting heavy weights will help improve your overall performance levels.

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