How Important Is Cardio For Fat Loss?
Latest research has shown that any form of exercise will not help you burn fat as much as you may think. Of course exercise is great for overall health, but it isn't actually that important for fat loss.
In truth, exercise accounts for only a small amount of your total daily caloric burn. The greatest proportion of daily caloric expenditure actually comes from your body simply performing its daily functions to keep you alive on a day to day basis.
The obesity expert Alexxai Kravitz (Ph.D), once said;
“It’s generally accepted that for most people, the basal metabolic rate accounts for 60 to 80 percent of total energy expendature”
Considering that the basal metabolic rate is fairly fixed, and daily caloric burn from exercise only accounts for around 10-30 percent of total daily energy expenditure, it would appear that we need to focus on changing another variable when it comes to weight loss.
This variable is of course diet. The truth is that you can not out train a bad diet. Whilst 100% of your energy intake comes from food, only 10-30% of energy expenditure is through exercise.
Throughout the rest of this article I am going to talk more about how we gain weight over time, how obesity affects our body in a negative way, and how we can utilize specific dieting principles in order to produce dramatic weight loss results in a relatively short amount of time.
A worrying state of affairs…
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the prevalence of obesity in the United States in 2017 and 2018 was at just over 42%. The impacts of this are many and various.
The personal costs are also severe, as obesity is often related to many diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In 2019, the CDC stated that nearly half of all Americans had some form of cardiovascular disease, and one person every 37 seconds was dying because of it.
It is therefore in all of our best interests to learn how to maintain a healthy weight in the most effective way possible.
The Hidden Impacts of Obesity and Weight Gain
As if the personal costs of cardiovascular disease were not enough, there are massive economic impacts of obesity. If you’re obese, your health costs over the course of your lifetime are higher than those who are not obese. Nationally, the cost of obesity-related disease and health care was $147 billion in 2008 alone.
Thus, the impact of obesity-related diseases is huge. People with such illnesses are paying more for their clinical and hospital visits, and they are also having to pay for more medications and surgeries than those who are not obese.
The impacts are not all physical though. There are very real mental health consequences because of weight gain and obesity. Quite apart from the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, gall bladder disease, stroke, sleep apnea, obesity related cancers, and diabetes, many people who are obese suffer from a poor quality of life in general.
These people often feel anxious and have a higher prevalence of depression. There is a cultural stigma attached to obesity and weight gain. We see this in the many problems that young people have with their own body image. This hostile environment generates anxiety in those who do not fit into the idealized body image form and may even create depression. In the worst case scenarios, this can lead to eating disorders, such as bulimia, anorexia and body dysmorphia.
In a scholarly paper aimed at Psychiatric professionals, the American Journal of Psychiatry correlates obesity directly with mental health conditions. It is the hostile cultural reception we have encouraged as a society that creates mental health problems.
The Main Cause of Weight Gain…
The Sugar Demon!
We have long associated eating fat with gaining weight. It stands to reason: eating excess fats allows the body to store more of it, and this leads to excess weight. This seems reasonable, except that it’s not actually the entire story.
The food industry has been adding hidden sugars to many of our foods for decades. In the race to demonize high fat content, we have had access to fat-free products. In the place of fats, food companies have been steadily adding sugars to increase flavor profiles.
Excess sugar in the body will lead to insulin resistance at the cellular level. The cells become insulin resistant and the body produces and releases more insulin to help control the amount of blood sugar. The excess sugar damages cells and organs, and type 2 diabetes is often the end result. Additionally, all of that extra sugar gets stored as fat for another day.
The story doesn’t end there though. Sugar is also addictive. There is recent research that suggests sugar may even be as addictive as cocaine. The real problem is that sugars provoke our body to release dopamine because the opioid receptors in our brains are activated. The dopamine makes us feel good when we take that hit of sugar. In a very real way, we are doping ourselves up on sugar for the feel good factor.
The Role of Low Quality Carbohydrate Foods in Weight Gain
We also know that carbohydrate consumption promotes weight gain too. High carb foods such as breads and pasta don’t contain much fiber at all. They are digested quickly and we tend to feel hungry again quickly. This leads to a cycle of more eating and snacking. Thus, eating carbs can lead to food cravings. The other issue is that so many low-quality high-carb foods are also those that contain hidden sugars.
Eating low-quality carbs also generates blood sugar spikes and lows in the body. This can lead to long-term insulin resistance. In this context, there is a direct connection between the consumption of low-quality carbs and blood sugar. As the body struggles to control blood sugar and more and more insulin is pumped into the bloodstream, those extra carbs are converted to extra fats.
How to Burn Body Fat Effectively Through Diet
Monitoring Your Carbs and Sugars
Given the role that carbs and sugars play in weight gain, it’s crucially important to monitor and control intake. Here are some things you can do right away to control your intake:
Keto Diets and Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has been shown to be effective at controlling food cravings and
controlling weight. It involves restricting normal eating to a short window each day. For example, one might use a 16/8 fasting method – eat normally for 8 hours a day, and fast for 16. When combined with restriction of sugars and low-quality carbohydrates, the results can be dramatic. Intermittent fasting promotes reduced bodily inflammation, less food cravings, blood sugar control, and better brain function.
Our primitive ancestors were built to burn fat efficiently because they were only able to eat when there was opportunity. Today, we live in an age of abundance, where we can get any type of food we want at virtually any time. Consequently, obesity has become a major health issue for us.
The Ketogenic diet – or Keto diet – has exploded in popularity lately. In this diet, carbs are restricted to less than 50 grams each day. After a period of time, the body goes into a state called ketosis. This is where the body must convert stored fats to ketones and burn them off, instead of using sugars for an energy source.
The benefits to the Keto diet are that it helps to regulate blood sugars, reduces insulin resistance, controls food cravings, and burns fats quickly.
Cardio and Fat Burning
It is true that weight loss can be achieved by restricting your caloric intake and minimizing your sugar and carb intake. This will certainly lead to an initial weight loss and will promote better regulation of weight and food intake. Less sugars and less low-quality carbs will absolutely lead to less food cravings.
It is also true to say that diet alone cannot lead to your weight loss goals. Indeed, exercise promotes other benefits, including increased energy, increases stamina, increased muscle tone, and better mental health.
In terms of cardio exercise, there are two types: aerobic activity (LISS – Low Intensity Steady State) and anaerobic activity (HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training). Aerobic activity is a type of exercise that your body can sustain for long periods of time, such as cycling and endurance training. It is great at working type 1 muscle fibers and helps the heart pump blood more efficiently. Anaerobic activity is high-intensity training, such as resistance training with weights, where you train at a high intensity for short periods until you cannot do so any longer.
When it comes to burning fats, HIIT is the better choice. Training at high intensities for short periods helps to build lean muscle and it also allows the body to burn off more calories, and thus excess fats and sugars. Furthermore, when you have more lean muscle, you actually burn more calories per day even when you’re at rest.
Studies have consistently found that HIIT is simply more effective at burning fats quickly. While LISS is excellent for building endurance, it may even hinder the development of lean muscle and less fat burning. The high-intensity workout hits the body hard, targets fat stores, and provokes the body to continue burning fat for a period after the exercise has finished.
When you’re starting out on your weight loss journey, it’s important to change
your diet before anything else. This will set the correct foundation on which you can add other practices on top of such as cardio and streangth training. Again, you can not out train a bad diet. Weight training nor cardo exercise will not get you lean if your diet consists largly of junk processed foods. You must first monitor and restrict low-quality carbs and sugars. This will not only control food cravings, but it will also allow you to burn off the stored fats in your body without significantly adding more.
When you add HIIT cardio and resistance training to a healthy diet, you increase your capacity to burn body fat ten fold! You increase your fitness and build lean muscle. This combination of dietary change and exercise will inevitably lead to a physical and mental transformation. But you will not be able to out-exercise a poor diet. If you continue to eat low-quality carbs and sugars, you will also continue to damage your body, increase your chances of developing many diseases, and promote the storage of extra fats. So, how important is cardio for fat loss?
It’s very important, and will be even more effective when combined with a good diet, such as the Keto diet or intermittent fasting.
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