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WEIGHT LOSS AND EXERCISE: WHEN "MORE CARDIO" IS NOT THE RIGHT ANSWER.

Updated: Aug 5, 2022


CARDIO TRAINING AND WEIGHT MANAGING

This article is aimed at those who are interesting in cardio exercise with the goal to "lose weight" in the sense of decreasing the percentage of fat mass by changing their body composition, and not for those who have different goals, such as athletic performance especially in endurance disciplines or for those who are looking primarily for a physical activity that keeps the cardiovascular system strong and healthy: in these cases cardio aerobic is a fundamental training base.

Cardio aerobic training is definitely great for many reasons.


It is when we talk about "losing weight" that we must instead deepen the topic.


Does cardio make you lose weight?

If I have to lose weight do I have to go running or cycling?

The more I increase this type of physical activity, the more I lose weight?


... Let's start from here, really from the most common questions, because more clarity and knowledge on this topic can really change the mindset of many women and be a guide.


There are several points to deal with and I decided to start "from my experience", bringing you a small piece of my personal life.


CARDIO EXERCISE TO MAKE UP FOR EATING TOO MUCH

Personally I was for years a person who "used" exercise as a way to feel better after eating "badly".

My workouts have been for a very long time exclusively cardio, especially running.

Long aerobic runs of at least 45-60 min.

The connection is: I eat badly and to compensate I "burn calories"with cardio.

We could delve into this incredibly complex point, but this article is not the context.

Let's stay more on the surface: identifying or labeling physical exercise as a form of "punishment" or "compensation" ("I ate a lot so I have to consume myself with exercise") is never a good idea.


Physical exercise is among the most powerful forms of "self-care", of "taking care of oneself", and as such it should be considered.


It is not a "punishment", something that "we have to do" to have the body we want: starting like this brings to failure, for various reasons.

The first is that "we are our body", and we exercise because we want to feel good.

Only starting from here can we can find motivation, implementing actions in which we believe, feeling that they are good for us and that we will carry forward over time, with consistency: the only way to achieve the desired results, whatever they may be.


You hardly do 50 squats to when you feel guilty about what you ate: you do cardio, because cardio makes you sweat giving the illusion of losing weight, and from this type of training you come out exhausted, you lose energy.

Is this taking care of yourself? I would say no.


Althoug 10 years younger than I am now, I could not maintain the weight and body composition I wanted, continuing to do a "yo-yo" with kg. And with mood. And with self-esteem.


In short: cardio to lose weight did NOT WORK.

So I realized that something had to change.


CARDIO: FOR WHAT GOALS, WHAT TYPE, HOW MUCH?

The "cardio" I'm talking about is that of moderate intensity, which keeps the heartbeats stable for even long times between 120 and 140 beats per minute.

Examples are going for running at steady pace or brisk walking, aquafitness aerobic lessons or step lessons for example, where a stable and constant intensity is maintained for a prolonged time. The system used is called "aerobic".


What are the benefits of this type of training?

In a structured exercise program (let's see later) it has many:

• Helps to develop the aerobic base, very important for beginners

• This base is also essential to deal with other types of training such as muscle strength or anaerobic cardio

• Improves sleep, recovery, increases the body's ability to manage stress

• It certainly contributes to the total energy consumption and therefore helps when the goal is the loss of fat mass.


It is definitely recommended to include 2-3 aerobic sessions of medium or moderate intensity per week of 10-20 min as part of a program aimed at losing weight.


But this is NOT the central point of the program and it is NOT by increasing this type of training that you achieve that kind of result.


LET'S SEE WHY:

· This type of training tends to increase appetite without effectively impacting the metabolism

· It increases the production of cortisol, the "stress" hormone: the body perceives physical exercise as a stressful event, and that is why the length and frequency of workouts matter.

Aerobic exercise must be prolonged to have an effect on the use of fats as energy, so it implies a large production of cortisol.

This hormone produced in excess has among other effects that of "swelling" the tissues causing greater water retention, and of transforming glucose into fat to be "stored".


In short, effects opposite to what you would like to get from a nice jog!


· The active tissues of our body, those that make us "burn" calories, those that therefore impact on the basal metabolism, are... Muscles.

Don't think that amateur running or walking builds enough muscle to have any effects. On the contrary: increasing the amount of purely cardio exercise, in particular if accompanying this with strict low-calorie diets, means that the muscle is even "eaten" (I am using terms that are deliberately not technical and understandable), with a consequent further decrease in basal metabolism.


In short: I eat little, I kill myself running on treadmill and elliptical ... And I don't lose weight.

Especially if I'm over 40 years old or I already hit menopause!!


DO NOT USE CARDIO AS A "COVER UP"

Very often it happens that increasing the amount of cardio in order to lose weight is the easiest way to "cover" the negative effects of other behaviors that costs more effort to correct: eating habits in the first place, stress management, bad habits related to sleep.

But do you know how much these three areas impact on body weight management and weight loss?

A LOT! (Take a look at the videos "Thriving into menopause", I talk about these points)


This also happens because, initially, the increase in aerobic physical activity certainly produces results. Unfortunately, however, for the reasons we have talked about so far, in most cases they do not remain: weight loss is not necessarily synonymous of fat loss, especially when it happens in a short time.

In this case are body water and cell mass to change in volume and not the fat one.

Losing weight correctly means decreasing fat mass while maintaining or increasing lean mass.


THE FUNDAMENTALS TO LOSE FAT MASS AND/OR STABILIZE BODY WEIGHT

So, when the goal is to lose weight, there are several things that impact more than increasing cardio into your routine.

We need to think about the "big rocks", the really important points to achieve this goal, and prioritize them (I talked about them in the Video Blog "EXERCISE AND MENOPAUSE: WHAT IS EFFECTIVE AND WHAT ISN'T - Thriving during menopause Part 2").


NUTRITION

Nutrition impacts for about the 80%. Quite a lot, I know. That is how it is.

We do not talk only and exclusively about "how much" we eat, but about "what", about how foods are combined, and this is the ground where nutrition professionals must come into play.


There are also behavioral factors determining weight control:

• Learn to recognize when you are full: you feel satisfied and "full", but not weighed down and swollen


• Choose an extra portion of protein instead of carbohydrates: they increase the sense of satiety and are essential for the growth and reconstruction of muscle tissue.


• At each meal incorporate half a plate of raw or steamed vegetables, grilled or baked, to increase satiety and provide fiber and essential nutrients


• Use processed food as little as possible, whether they are frozen or dry foods: they are always full of seasoning such as saturated fats, simple sugars and salt in excessive quantities


• Consume sweets, fried and calorically very dense foods only sporadically.

Sporadically, or in small quantities, no food is really "wrong"... It's the amount and frequency with which we eat it that makes the difference.


Surely a fundamental point if you have losing weight as your goal is that the caloric intake must be less than what you consume.

But that doesn't mean you have to eat too little!


You have to eat in a balanced way with respect to the amount of physical activity you take. Priority must be given to the right nutrients, which the body uses for its vital functions.


Not all the calories are the same: a 250-calorie snack provided by 4-5 nuts and a banana for example, is not the same as a chocolate bar that gives as many: the physiological effects on the body are very different and impact differently on weight management.

And not only that: the chocolate bar gives energy and a sense of satiety in the short term, leading you to want to eat again in a very short time, while walnuts and banana (to give an example) make you feel good and satiated for longer.


THE RIGHT TRAINING FOR BODY WEIGHT CONTROL AND WEIGHT LOSS

As mentioned above, the key point is: losing weight correctly means decreasing fat mass by maintaining or increasing lean mass, that is, muscle mass.

Here a very important point: an increase in "weight on the scale" following a period of strength training is correlated with an increase in muscle mass, so it should not be frightening: this is when you are changing body composition and shape and definition of your body.


The key point of weight loss or weight control is metabolism, and the latter is essentially linked to the amount of muscle mass: muscles increase metabolism and metabolism impacts on the reduction of body fat: instead of obsessively focusing attention on fat mass, let's focus on increasing lean mass!


LET'S PUT IT INTO PRACTICE:

For many women, especially "over 40" or already in menopause, the risk is to lose kg of lean mass, which leads to a reduction in basal metabolism, with a consequent slowdown in the slimming process. Very often this happens because of misconceptions about training.


Let's see some general rules to follow:

Exercise at high intensity but not too often: you do not need to train every day, 2-3 weekly workouts are enough, as long as they are intense enough to stimulate the metabolism and cause adaptations.


Always select exercises that allow you to use several muscle groups at the same time: then go ahead with squats, push ups, planking... These "compound" movements force our body to a higher caloric expenditure and increase strength, coordination and balance more than isolated movements.

And these movements can also be our "cardio" sessions!

Increasing the speed of execution, making long repetitions, building sequences... This is the "cardio" that should be prioritize, not jogging!


Do not overdo it with cardio aerobics: aerobic activity (prolonged running, stationary bike, treadmill) must be moderate, even in this case it is not necessary to run for hours, just 10 to 20 minutes 2-3 times a week, ideally after strength training sessions, to maintain the areobic base that supports all the rest of the training.


Personally I do not agree much with the theory of "fat burning" after 30-40 min of low-intensity aerobic activity: if it is true that in this way the fat metabolism is activated, it is also true that there is a huge loss of fluids and sometimes lean mass, that there is no good metabolic impact and that cortisol production is increased.


Avoid overtraining: working out too much causes in many cases loss of muscle tone. Stubbornly ignoring the signs of hypertraining has only one consequence: to make the latter counterproductive, bringing the body into a state of "emergency" that leads to the slowing down of metabolism and the accumulation of fat as a "reserve", instead of its decrease.

In addition, fatigue, irritability, worsening of sleep quality, mood loss are other symptoms.


LESS, BUT MORE INTENSE

Speaking of physical activity and weight loss, the fundamental rule is: choose shorter but more intense training formats, where the anaerobic system is mainly used instead of the aerobic one, and where "compound" movements are used to increase muscle involvement.


The workouts of the Wonder40 programs are absolutely designed and created on this basis, in order to be effective in particular for the even more mature female body:






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