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Why Too Much Cardio is Making You Fat and What to Do About It

Posted by Carmen Chu on

Being a cardio bunny myself for years, I know what it’s like to be addicted to exercise. Nothing feels better than after a sweaty gym session and feeling all those endorphins surge through your body after you step off the machine. Trust me, I get it.

I also felt that the only way to lose weight is by doing excessive hours on the treadmill and trying to burn as much calories as I can. Sure, I lost weight a lot of weight, and pretty quickly too. But, I also gained a lot of weight back + MORE after my body and hormones went out of whack. I put my body under so much stress - my joints were aching, I couldn't sleep, I felt exhausted all the time, and even though I spent all this time at the gym, I still felt so unfit!

So, what’s the deal? Isn’t it a very simple calories in vs calories out equation? I thought if I exercised and ate in a calorie deficit, I should be losing weight... right? Well, what a lot of us don't realize is that there are negative side effects from doing too much cardio!

SIDE EFFECTS INCLUDE:

  • Muscle Wasting and Catabolic State

Studies have shown that long periods of aerobic exercise without adequate nutrition from calories can lead to a catabolic state, which is a condition that leads to extreme fatigue, joint and muscle pain, muscle loss and ultimately, a slower metabolism.

  • Weight Gain and Hormone Disruption

Too much cardio can hinder weight loss and can make your body gain weight! When your body becomes to used to being in a calorie deficit from long cardio sessions, your body stores energy as fat to compensate.

In addition, research has shown that chronic cardio can dramatically increase your cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. If too much cortisol is produced, your body’s “fight or flight” system takes over and the brain signals to your body that it needs to store fat for protection (particularly seen around the belly area). Elevated levels of cortisol also inhibits your body’s ability to process sugar and this can lead to weight gain as well.

  • Potential Heart Problems

Wait, isn’t cardio good for our heart? Yes, when done appropriately, it can have many health benefits!  However, people who run extreme long distances or participate in other intense endurance sports are at risk of heart dysfunction, plaque buildup and stiff arteries.

8 Signs Your Body is Telling You, “You are Doing Too Much Cardio!”

  • Increased body fat or hard to lose body fat (especially the belly area)
  • Joint/Muscle Pain
  • Repetitive Injuries
  • Getting Sick More than Normal
  • Mood Changes / Low Energy
  • Brain Fog
  • Appetite Changes 
  • Disrupted Sleep Schedule / Insomnia

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If you are now suspecting that you have fallen prey to the cardio monster, here are 5 suggestions of how you can switch up your exercise routine and finally see the results you’ve been hoping for!

1. Mix it Up and Keep it to Less than 1 Hour

Keep your workouts interesting and remember, it’s about quality, not quantity (well, in this case duration). Try switching up your cardio exercises in terms of the type of sport, levels of intensity, and intervals. This will keep your body guessing and getting the positive effect you want from your workout. If your body goes on autopilot from doing the same exercise all the time and for the same duration, you are likely to plateau and it will be very difficult to see any changes.

 2. Give Your Body a Little TLC

Life is stressful enough already without having to think about food and exercise all the time. Give yourself a bit of much deserved “me” time every week! It’s different for everyone so depending on what you enjoy, you should make some time to do something that helps you relax and makes you feel happy! Taking time to reset your mind, body, and soul to can help lower your cortisol levels which is a big factor for weight gain and hormone imbalances! 

3. Nourish Your Body with Foods that Fuel You

That surge of endorphins feels great after a good workout but it’s important that you eat a well balanced diet full of nutrient dense foods too! I do believe in the 70/30 rule whereby the success of your weight loss goals depends on 70% of what you eat and 30% of how you exercise. Even if your goals are mainly around fitness, it’s still important that you have a healthy nutritious diet to fuel your workouts and help your body recover faster.  

Not sure what foods to buy? You can find a whole array of healthy foods here at Foodcraft.  A great way to start is by checking out our new product selection here!

4. Include Strength Training in Your Workouts

Lifting weights and building muscle will not only help tone your body, but it will help increase your basal metabolic rate so you can burn more calories. Research has shown that resistance training prolongs your fat burning phase for 24+ hours post workout, while steady state cardio calorie-burning drastically decreases after you finish your session.   

5. Take At Least 1-2 Rest Days a Week

Resting is equally as essential and effective to achieve the results you want from your training. Your muscles need time to rebuild and recover so that you can have the endurance and strength for your next session!

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Final Thoughts…

I know how difficult it is to change a routine when you are so used to doing cardio all the time. It will take time to re-train your body if you believe you are in a catabolic state. But don't worry, it is certainly possible to reset how your body responds to exercise.

Start small – maybe decrease your cardio gradually (10 minutes.. next week 15 minutes and etc.) You may be tempted to fall back to your chronic cardio habits but you may be surprised with what the scale shows when you start changing things up with more strength-training and self-care!

Have a great rest of the week everybody :) 


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