I used to think going for a run was the quickest way to jump-start my weight-loss goals. From the outside, cardio seems to be the quickest way to burn fat and shed a few pounds, especially if you push yourself to the point of heavy breathing and sweating. I've learned over the years, though, that cardio isn't all it's cracked up to be. In fact, it might be the very thing that's stopping you from dropping those extra pounds.
"While doing cardio is great for your heart, lungs, and even your stress level, its not the fastest way to lose fat," said Lauren Clare, personal trainer and certified holistic health coach. The real key to losing fat is by building more muscle. "Having more lean muscle on your body helps increases your metabolism, which means you will be burning more calories on a daily basis," Clare explained.
If you're only focusing on cardio, you're not giving your body the chance to strengthen and develop those lean muscles, which means you're not providing yourself with all the tools you need to shed excess weight. Clare also points out that doing too much cardio can wreck the condition of your muscles. "While cardio does burn calories, it also can break down your muscles if you're doing it for long durations," she said. So all those superlong runs you take might actually be doing more harm than good.
This doesn't mean you can forget about cardio altogether, though. You don't get off that easy! Cardio certainly serves a purpose. It improves your cardiovascular health, burns calories, and releases a hefty amount of endorphins in your body. Just don't rely on it as your only source of exercise.
"The key to weight loss is not only about pounding out miles on the treadmill or elliptical," Clare continued. "Weight-loss goals are most successfully achieved when you have a combination of both cardio, strength training, and a balanced approach to nutrition." Consider that the winning combo!