If you've ever tried to lose weight or "tone up", you've probably tried to do it through increasing cardio and restricting calories. At first it works great and you're feeling like all the hours of meal prepping and time spent running in place at the gym is totes worth it. And then? You hit a dreaded plateau. The problem with cutting calories and spending all your time on cardio equipment or running is that you only have so much time in a day, and you can only go so low with calories.
HOW DO I LOSE WEIGHT OR TONE UP IF I HAVE TO SPEND HOURS DOING CARDIO AND EATING NOTHING? Let's take a second to explain what's actually happening. First it's important to recognize our body's main objective is keeping us alive in the wild and running from predators. Yeah, I know we don't do that anymore but our body hasn't seem to have caught up with the times. If you come from this evolutionary perspective on why our bodies react the way they do, things make a LOT more sense. **I'm not going to sell you on paleo, because that's not my thing. I don't think we should necessarily eat the way we did when we were wild, but it's clear our bodies still run off that time frame for why they do what they do. Our body relies on queues we give it to understand how it needs to respond (slowing metabolism, increasing metabolism, dropping fat, storing fat, etc.). Your body interprets those signals and adapts to become good at what you do regularly. While this sounds counterintuitive, we don't want our body to get good at things because that means it burns less calories or slows our metabolism down. Here are some common signals and what they tell our body to do: ACTIVITY & SIGNAL SENT TO OUR BODY 1 hour cardio daily > burn less calories when doing cardio, slow metabolism down 1200 calories > slow down metabolism because food is scarce consistent strength training > build muscle increased muscle > speed up metabolism to maintain muscle mass As you can see from above, significant cardio and cutting calories so low consistently send specific signals that don't help with weight loss or physical goals. Instead, incorporating strength training consistently (through body weight movements, resistance bands, weights, etc.) sends the signal to increase metabolism to support new muscle mass, and allows you to burn more calories doing the same every day activities. HOW MUCH CARDIO IS THE RIGHT AMOUNT? This totally depends on your goals and preferences, if you enjoy running or doing significant cardio and it's something you feel you need to add into your routine consistently, then be extra sure to incorporate as much strength training as possible. For the rest of us, I have a fun chart. BECAUSE WHO DOESN'T LOVE CARDIO CHARTS:
Think of cardio according to this chart. A 0 would be about 15-30 minutes a few times a week (for most people, individual differences apply as always) where you're being active enough to support good health and improving cardiovascular function. The more you do, the more signals you are sending for your body to adapt and slow metabolism.
With this information, it's up to you to determine where you feel the right balance of cardio and weights is, but remember that more cardio isn't always the answer.
xo, Corin Groustra