Your Cardio Routine Is Making You Fat

The Spotlight features guest writers from all corners of the health industry, each considered to be among the leading influencers in his or her field. This week's post is written by best-selling author Jim Karas.
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Are you interested in gaining weight? If you are, perform cardiovascular exercise, and a lot of it.

Are you interested in losing weight? Then you should cut back on classic cardiovascular exercise. Shun it, even. Abolish it. Throw out your treadmill or better yet, give it to someone you don’t like as cardio doesn’t work if your goal is long-term weight loss.

There truly is only one reason to exercise: To increase your metabolism in order to burn more calories 24 hours a day, seven days a week. What is the only style of exercise that accomplishes that goal? Strength training. Increasing your metabolism through strength training is the key to successful, permanent weight loss.

Why? Because a classic diet coupled with cardiovascular exercise will result in weight loss, but it will come at a cost as 60% of the weight loss will be fat (that's good!) while the remaining 40% will come from muscle (that's really, really bad!).

Natural Muscle Loss After Age 20

You never want to lose lean muscle tissue. It's simple mathematics.

  • One pound of muscle burns six calories per pound per day.
  • One pound of fat burns two calories per pound per day.

That four calorie difference may not sound like much, but for most people, that’s the difference between living lean and living obese and even morbidly obese (defined by those who are 100 or more pounds overweight).

To further complicate things, after the age of 20, the average person loses one-half to seven-tenths of a pound of muscle a year. That’s 5 to 7 pounds a decade.

As women approach menopause, the rate at which they lose muscle doubles, which is why so many women begin to gain weight right around that time of life.

4 Things Women Should Be Doing in Their Fitness Training—But Aren’t

After the age of 70, the average person loses 3 pounds of muscle—per year! And you wonder why some of our formerly lean celebrities blow up before our eyes. Did I hear William Shatner? Come on, did young Captain Kirk look like he had a weight problem?

Why is this weight gain happening? It's simple—muscle loss. When you lose muscle, your metabolism is destroyed.

You are also decimating your metabolism by dieting without exercise or dieting with cardio. Your successful weight loss formula is dieting plus strength training. Period.

How Cardio (Negatively) Effects Your Body

In 2007, my book The Cardio-Free Diet was published and went on to become a New York Times best-seller. The original title of the book was CARDIO KILLS, and to this day I believe that was a far more effective representations of my opinion. That book represented a revolutionary, highly controversial approach to exercise, which continues to gain a huge following. I firmly believe that classic cardiovascular exercise is a total waste of your time because it has adverse effects on your body in the following ways:

  • Your Joints: An article about "boomeritis" in The New York Times reveals that the number two reason baby boomers visit their doctor is because of an exercise-related injury, most of which are attributable to the punishing nature of classic cardio.
  • Your Posture: Do you really want the rounded shoulder, chin jutting alignment of a runner, stair stepper or spin fanatic?
  • Your Immunity: Want to get sick and tired? Blast the life out of your immunity, which is what happens after 20 to 30 minutes of classic cardio. Why do you think so many marathon runners get sick post event or during training?
  • Your Lungs: A brilliant article by Men's Health called “Dying Breaths” proved that while exercising in a heavily polluted area, such as Central Park or along Lake Shore Drive in Chicago (my hometown), you are gulping down gallons of toxic air. You might as well put your mouth over the exhaust of your car as that is the quality of what you are breathing. Just think of what those toxins are doing to your insides? How about the wrinkled, gray pallor of most runners’ faces. Ever wonder why?
  • Your Shape: If you are shaped like a pear and do manage to lose a few pounds with cardio, what do you end up looking like? A smaller pear. This won’t get me out of bed and into the gym with gusto as cardio does nothing to change your body’s composition and often results in a big old muffin top from all the stress.
  • Your Muscle: After 20 to 30 minutes, most classic, steady state cardiovascular exercise begins to chew up your precious, calorie-burning muscle. Shocking to realize that something you believed was the ultimate weight-loss tool ends up being the ultimate weight-gain tool because the moment you chew up that muscle, you are in a metabolic free fall.

But wait, there is one thing cardio doesn’t kill—your appetite. Go out for a run, burn a few calories, and then come back and eat up twice as many calories. Translation: Weight (and fat) gain. Doesn’t sound like a solution to me.

The 7-Minute Workout That Could Add Years to Your Life

Interval Training Works Best

Clearly exercise is a must to lose weight, so what should you be doing? Only interval-based strength training. Here are the benefits:

  • Better heart health than classic cardio because exercising in intervals enhances what is called heart rate variability, and by doing so, you reduce your risk of heart disease much more than classic cardio.
  • A maintenance and increase in your lean muscle tissue. A diet without strength training results in a diminished metabolism. I bet you always wondered why you couldn’t keep the weight off. It’s simple, without strength training, you are all but doomed to fail.
  • An enhanced after burn. You never want to worry about the calories you burn during exercise. More important are the calories burned after exercise, called EPOC (Excess, Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption). You get up to 38 hours of EPOC from interval-based strength training. That is the key to long-term weight loss success. (You get maybe two to three hours of EPOC from classic cardio training.)
  • Optimized posture. When you properly balance your interval-based strength training, you immediately see improvement in your posture.
  • Flat abs. Honestly, most abdominal exercises are a complete and utter waste of time. Want to burn abdominal fat? Strength train your upper and lower body, blast off that fat, and reveal defined abs.
  • Results. If you don’t believe me, take the “Jim Karas Challenge.” Go to your gym, and look at the people performing cardio. More than likely, they are not in shape, hanging over the machines, frowning, and burning nothing but their precious time, which all but guarantees that they will continue to “live life large,” and that’s not “large” in a good way. Then look at the people performing strength training. What do you see? People who are long and lean with flat abs, great posture, and sexy bodies. Which person would you rather be?

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Jim Karas is unique in the weight loss and fitness industry because he combines a degree from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania with more than 27 years of unparalleled success as a weight-loss professional. Jim is a four-time New York Times bestselling author, which includes his most recent NYT bestseller, The Petite Advantage Diet.

As the fitness contributor on ABC's Good Morning America, Jim helped former cohost Diane Sawyer lose more than 25 pounds. He has been a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show, The View, CNN, and Fox News, to name a few.

Jim has served as a contributing editor for Good Housekeeping magazine and has written feature articles for countless other national publications, including "O" The Oprah Magazine (and he helped editor-at large and Oprah’s bff, Gayle King, lose 25 pounds). Jim and his team of trainers also continue to personally work with one of People magazine's “Sexiest Man Alive" Hugh Jackman and with countless other celebrities, CEOs, and soccer moms in Chicago and New York.

In addition, Jim is a widely sought after as a keynote speaker for many of the country’s most prominent corporations, trade associations, small businesses, and special interest groups.

For more information, please visit www.jimkaras.com

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