Fitness Falsehood #2: Cardio Makes You Fat
Simply put: fat gain results from eating more calories than your body can use; the “left-over” calories are stored as fat ( =energy) for future use. If you consistently consume more calories than you can use, your body never uses its energy stores and you carry that extra fat. You know, for later.
If you recall yesterday’s falsehood about cardio being the key to fat loss, you’ll note that there are basically two types of cardio – steady-state and HIIT. Most folks who make the “cardio makes you fat” claim are referring to steady-state cardio: there is some belief that lower-intensity cardio encourages the body to hold onto its fat stores because you are telling your body to “gear up” for extended, endurance exercise. Whether this is the actual physiological effect is hard to prove for certain. Steady-state cardio almost always leads to increased hunger … and so unless you are carefully watching your nutrition, you can easily consume far more calories than you just burned in any given exercise session.
“Fat-loss” guru types really like HIIT cardio for fat loss. And for good reason: it burns a lot of calories in a short(er) amount of time; it appears to elevate metabolism for a time after the session ends (further calorie burn); and it is often an appetite suppressant. But it’s not THE ANSWER any more than steady-state cardio is THE DEVIL.
You lose fat by being in a calorie deficit, ie: consuming fewer calories than your body needs so that your body is forced to tap into its fat stores for energy. But it’s important to be mindful of what types of calories you are consuming and how they relate to your fitness plan so that you keep the loss to fat and don’t lose muscle. You need your muscle tissue. (Foreshadowing: muscle helps with fat loss.) (Foreshadowing: nutrition matters.)
There are many reasons to choose either/both forms of cardio; and as noted yesterday, both have a role in an over-all fitness program. How you put them together, along with strength training and nutrition, depends on your goals for your body. But neither form of cardio makes you fat.