The woman featured here is actually my wife Bec – like most women, she’s been heavily into cardio her whole life. Like most women she’s also had many spells of not eating as many calories as she needs too, skipping meals and avoiding certain foods (carbs) in an attempt to lose weight. Avoiding food and smashing cardio is path well trodden by many a female weight loss seeker – but is it doing you way more harm than good?
Women tend to like cardio more than strength training and sometimes do so much, they risk injury, overtraining, losing muscle and hitting weight loss plateaus.
More and more of my clients are coming to me as serious aerobic exercise junkies, and I can see a pattern of women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who are spinning, dancing, and running three, four, even five times per week. They all tell me that they feel like they should be in incredible shape — but they’re not.
So, what’s the deal with cardio overload?
The extra time Bec put in training for several triathlons the past few years did nothing to build muscle (which increases resting metabolism) or calm her nervous system and relieve stress. She’d been overdoing it — spiking cortisol and depleting her body’s energy, hydration, and mineral balance through so much sweat.
Research shows that cardio is not usually that helpful for weight loss, either. The body becomes “used to” the calorie deficit from long aerobic sessions and stores energy as fat to compensate. In addition, studies show most people eat more after exercise, and overestimate how many calories they burned while working out.
Weight training (and the correct nutrition) is THE best way to sculpt your body if you’re a female.
NOT cardio and starving yourself or some silly fad low carb diet.
Take Bec’s transformation as an example – the two sets of photos were only 6 months apart. During the that time she’d stopped the heavy cardio routine and followed the eating and lifting protocol I gave her. The results speak for themselves.
When you consider that previously Bec was a fairly serious triathlete (she won her age group at Laguna Triathlon in 2016) and she’s always been an avid runner and has even run marathons. You could say Bec was a cardio queen… You could also say that Bec was a girl who ate sporadically and avoided carbs.
Smashing heavy cardio and failing to follow a healthy nutrition plan will wreak havoc on your cortisol and metabolism. The result: skinny fat.
Whether you want to burn some fat or you’re a skinny girl trying to put on some healthy weight you need to make sure you’re eating enough calories and at least 60% of your energy should be coming via complex carbs if you’re following a whole food plant based diet.
You can take my free calorie calculator quiz to find out exactly the amount of calories you need to be consuming to reach your body goals – it will also break down your macro splits.
Most women worry that heavy lifting is going to turn them into some kind of Amy schwarzenegger freak show but that WILL NOT HAPPEN unless you dedicate years on years to that end goal, women just don’t have the same levels of testosterone.
WOMEN – don’t be frightened of hitting the gym and building muscle – Bec has transitioned from a VERY heavy cardio fitness regime to very low cardio and a weights routine similar to mine – the result has been fat loss and muscle tone – she’s loving – so am I
Drop the heavy cardio – pick up the weights!