I’m going to save you.

And you’re going to thank me.

I’m going to save you a lot of time…

And a lot of hard work.

If you are one of those people who started up a couch to 5k program to lose weight. If you’ve been training for a half or full marathon with the sole purpose of losing weight. I’m going to save you all that time and energy and tell you that if losing weight is your motive, you are actually doing yourself a disservice in the long run (pun not originally intended, but now I’m making it intended by not rewording.)

I’m really emphasizing the motive here, because I want you to hear me: running a marathon is a huge accomplishment and an admirable goal. If you love running, if you have a certain mileage on your bucket list, then more power to you.

But if you hate running and you’re just doing it lose weight, I want to save you the hours and hours of torturous running. I want to deliver you from your elliptical. I want to shift your workout paradigm if you are a cardio bunny and give you your Dream Body Savior. Hallelujah!

The Science

Excessive cardio causes your body to employ what’s called metabolic compensation. Dr. Jade Teta is a wonderful resource for learning more about this concept. If you are like many of us and thought “Hmm, I need to lose a few pounds. I’m going to start a diet and exercise program on Monday.” Then on Monday, you start to restrict your calories and begin jogging for 30 minutes a day. Your desire to work out is a great thing, however using this model causes your metabolism to fight back. This is when you start to get hungry. You start to crave chocolate and tacos. Your energy dips and you’re moody and irritable. What’s happening is that your metabolic rate is declining. Your body is doing what it’s biologically meant to do and it’s trying to save you from starvation. It’s conserving energy, burning calories at a much slower rate, and storing more fat.

And then we tell ourselves or other people who are failing at this diet that they just don’t have enough will power. But you cannot use will power to battle your physiology and come out a winner. Phew. This is a relief. Why? Because it means you’re not a failure, rather you just need to employ a better strategy. You’re playing basketball on a football field and you need to learn how the game is played.

What Should We Do Instead?

Muscle is the Dream Body Savior of the cardio bunny. Muscle releases hormones that tell our body to burn more fat, to curb hunger cravings, and burn sugar better. When we do excessive cardio, you may be losing fat, but up to 70% of the weight you lose is loss of precious muscle, which is contributing to the phenomenon above where cardio makes the weight loss process (and you) unbearable. Your body burns muscle first in a state of crisis, like the one we create for ourselves by dieting and endless hours of cardio. So we need to switch to exercising more intelligently.

Cardio bunnies really like to ignore the lifting weight advice (I know this because I ignored it for a long time) but I’ve given you the science and I’m going to emphasize this to you again. If you really want to lose weight, change your body composition and give yourself a great shape, YOU NEED TO LIFT WEIGHTS. Sling some iron around in the gym 3x a week for a few months and let me know how your body changes. For those that are self conscious or think they are too late in life to start a weight lifting regimen, I urge you to reconsider. There’s evidence now that lifting weights will help curb bone loss (osteoporosis) as you age.

For those that still need to blast fat, I recommend adding in 2-4 sessions of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Supramaximal Interval Training (SMIT), which are proven to be the most effective at targeting fat loss and not muscle loss.

There is one other part to this equation. Remember how I said earlier that putting yourself on a diet is contributing to metabolic compensation? Here’s a bonus: you get to do more of your favorite hobby, which is eat (don’t lie to me, I know it is.) In fact, if you don’t eat more you are still putting your body into metabolic compensation by eating less and amping up your exercise. Eat more, but eat more high quality, unprocessed foods.

If your fear of lifting weights stems from looking bulky, this is how to avoid it: The bulky look comes from having too much fat on top of muscle. Fat comes from crap food. Don’t eat crap food. Read my blog post on what to eat here.

And finally, learn to cycle your food intake with your exercise. To keep your metabolism humming and happy, you need to eat more on days you work out and eat less on days you do not. On rest days you will still aim to get a good amount of movement, stay on your feet and get 10k steps. Take care of your body with some restorative yoga or foam rolling.

About Jenn Haralson

Jenn is a design nerd and food enthusiast who is obsessed with ultimate health. She hates diet food and putting on pants. She lives just outside of Austin with her husband and two dogs, Cosmo and Dot.