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Why Cardio is Never the Answer to Permanent Fat Loss


If you are trying to lose body fat permanently, you need to build more muscle, get stronger, and change your lean mass to fat mass ratio (also known as your body composition).

If you do that in tandem with dieting, you will “lose the fat”, and it will be far less likely to return.

I’ve made the above suggestion many many many times over my career to many many many people, and only a small percentage of them take it seriously.

Or actively listen at all.

More often than not, people will argue they don’t think that will work (which is interesting as to why they asked a question only to disagree with the answer).

Or they hear what Im saying (I always find this comical), but lifting weights/muscle isn’t for them, and they think cardio will work better (somehow).

I cannot help everyone, which is par for life.

It does sadden me to know that the majority of people, especially women, are going to be perpetually stuck in a “Body War” with themselves.

And they are going to lose every single time.

If you do what many people do, you’ll try to run/jog/elliptical the fat off, and defer to doing a metric fuck ton of cardio.

This is the reason why women (and men) can yo-yo diet so dramatically, they end up doing some version of the following and don’t understand why it doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work because aerobic cardio does not: 

  1. Build much muscle, if any
  2. The weight loss effects are dependent upon the high volume of activity
  3. The cortisol (stress hormone) release from high volume aerobic activity makes you more likely to GAIN weight
  4. The volume of exercise isn’t sustainable 
  5. Aerobic cardio can be come catabolic (muscle wasting) past a certain point
  6. The accumulation of wear and tear from the impact breaks down the body and makes it harder to sustain the volume and intensity as the years go by 
  7. Most people that run are led to believe that they need to eat high carbs, which combined with low lean body mass and the changes in metabolism, you end up as a skinny-fat person that can run a lot
  8. Gravity is going to break you down faster the more you pound the pavement, as your body already lacks lean mass 
  9. Aging is not going to go well for you 

That’s the long-term outcome. Which is somewhat dramatic, but I say this to make a point,

JUST doing cardio is never going to cut it for body composition changes, outliers aside.

Even the lifelong runners eventually acquiesce to gravity.

And do you have any real idea what the shearing force of running on hard surfaces does to your joints after 20 to 30 years?

Having said all of these things, I am NOT “anti running”.  Although my good friend Jay (and the owner of this blog) is.

Cardiovascular health and being able to run and walk are vital components of health, but they are also not the the ENTIRETY of it.

I harp on running because running can be deceptive. Practically anyone will lose weight very quickly if they do enough of it.

The problem is that it is exercise induced WEIGHT loss, but its not what you might call “physiological fat loss”

Meaning you are using activity to almost artificially keep your weight down. But your Lean body mass, which is the “secret” (so to speak) with changing how your metabolism functions, NEVER changes.

So the running creates an energy deficit, makes you sweat, and the pounds come off initially.

But you stop running, pounds come back, and metabolically you can be in a worse place than you were prior.  Not to mention the potential injuries and debilitation you face from the hard surface pounding on your joints and soft tissues.

The “answer” is the same thing I stress all the time,

Lift weights, build muscle, get stronger. 

More muscle means your body uses food more efficiently, meaning less fat storage and better “nutrient partitioning”.

Your metabolic rate goes UP during any kind of activity because muscles requires more calories to power, and its easier to shed fat as well because you can train at a higher and more intense level than people that are not muscular.

You also are stronger and more physically capable than before, more resilient to gravity, have all the benefits of a stronger immune system, more resistant to cancer, and are an all around better functioning human.

If anyone can make a better case than that at the importance of resistance training, let me know.


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