Hey all! Happy Monday!
Now that the pandemic is over (eye roll) I’m sure you all cannot weight (haha I’m funny) to get back to the gym or the great outdoors to start your marathon journey to losing the “Covid-19” (or in many cases the “Covid-50”). BUT, before you go and purchase that Peloton or that treadmill, or your new exciting Equinox memberships so you can jump on the stair master, please read over this blog post!
Why am I writing this? Well, frustration? Maybe. But really, I just like to help people achieve their goals and unfortunately we’re all led to believe that running on the treadmill for hours a day is going to help us lose weight. The bad news is that this is not the case, you may find that initially you’ll lose some pounds, but that will diminish. Not only that, but if you’ve been following along so far, you’ll have learned that just dieting alone, without any form of resistance training will result in muscle atrophy (your muscles disappearing on you) and the outcome? What the fitness industry terms “skinny fat.”
How to avoid becoming “skinny fat.”
Let us first understand why this occurs and why this shouldn’t be anyones goal.
When we think about muscles, we automatically imagine the ones that are most visible to us, typically what we see when we look in the mirror, abs, biceps etc. However, muscles are far more important than just being aesthetically pleasing. Muscles help to keep all of your body parts going. Without muscles, you wouldn't be able to move or speak. Muscles are there to convert energy (calories) in to movement, lifting weight, walking, talking, etc. As we age, our muscle mass starts to decline, this is due to a decline in testosterone and GH (growth hormone) production. Since muscle is vital for all of these daily tasks and movements, it is also vital that we hold on to, maintain and build as much muscle as we can in order to support our bodies as we age.
When we reduce our calories, and put ourselves in a calorie deficit, we are effectively “starving” our muscles of much needed nutrients. Without adequate protein, our body looks for it elsewhere in order to preserve more important body functions and tissues. This results in muscle wasting over time.
Therefore, it is safe to assume, the more muscle mass (lean mass) we have, the better the outcome of the diet (assuming we are consuming adequate quantities of protein to support the lean mass).
Unfortunately, cardiovascular training just doesn’t stimulate the muscle enough to result in any form of “muscle growth.”
The combination of these two events places our body in to what is known as a “catabolic state.”
Catabolic is a term that refers to a state when the body, starved of nutrients, begins to feed on itself in order to acquire the energy it needs. Unfortunately, this means muscle tissue. Hard running can deplete muscle mass while having little effect on fat loss.
We’ve all heard that 1 lb of fat equates to approximately 3500 cals. Let’s do some math… 1 mile of running at a relatively slow pace will burn around 100 calories, dependent on your body weight of course. So, in order to burn 3500 calories (1 lb of fat) you would need to run approximately 35 miles per week, or 7 miles per day at a 12-minute mile pace. That’s a little over 1 hour of running per day everyday. (No thank you!)
Now, since we’ve just establish what happens if all we do is run and diet (muscle wasting over time), all this running will wind up lowering your ability to burn fat. Why? Well, if you’ve been following along with my previous articles you will have learned that muscle requires energy to work (muscle contraction), but fat does not. So as we are continuing on our weight-loss journey, through just cardiovascular training, we are slowing our ability to utilize our stored body fat for energy.
If weight loss is your primary focus, making resistance training the priority in your training program will give you far superior results to that of cardio. That doesn’t mean cardio doesn’t have a place in weight-loss, we can absolutely pair resistance training and cardio in order to maximize our weight-loss capabilities. Just be sure to fuel your body with enough protein and carbohydrates to avoid muscle breakdown!
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!