“I’m Not Losing Weight Doing Cardio”

Losing weight is such a common goal that it is worth continuing to explore.  In this case, doing cardio can certainly help with losing weight…

…up to a point.

Let’s get this out of the way up front:  this is not a cardio bashing thing but running, by itself, is not the complete picture.  As you will read, cardio is one piece of the puzzle for weight loss, fat loss, and improving your health.

Benefits of Cardio

Mental Health

This is not simply said in passing.  In fact, there is something very cathartic about getting outside, running for however long you feel like running, with no music playing, and living in the moment.  You are outside, in the world, and getting away from all the daily stressors that seem to relentlessly plague you.

And long slow distance cardio (be it running or something else) is a phenomenal way of getting into flow state.  Is it any wonder why you come up with your best ideas while taking a long walk or a long run?!

There’s also a chemical reason you feel good when you run:  endorphins and dopamine are two of them!

Improved Cardiovascular Endurance & Stamina

There are 10 different general attributes you can improve upon when you train and two of them (cardiovascular endurance and stamina) are trained and improved when performing LSD cardio.

Your muscles change to handle stressors over a longer period of time.  Your cardiovascular system also improves in its ability to handle work over time.  Both of these can have a positive correlation to daily stress management!

Goal Specific

If you’ve got some sort of a race coming up, there is absolutely no replacement for getting the quality miles/time in than doing your LSD cardio.  There should be other things you’re doing with your running, but you should be running.

The Dark Side of Cardio

Chronic Injury

There are any number of reasons why chronic injury can creep up while running:

  • Lack of warm up
    • It is not uncommon for people to get dressed, throw on their running shoes, turn on their music, and head right out there door for their run
    • Guess what?  Your body isn’t ready for that without warming up
  • ROM – Range of Motion
    • Not only can your range of motion get worse when you just do LSD cardio, lack of ROM can lead to chronic injury
  • Adding Volume
    • When things feel good, people like to do more of it.  In this case, it’s common for people to add distance quicker than they should
    • Just like your muscles take time to adapt, your ligaments and tendons do as well.  Not to mention your skeletal system!

Muscle Loss & Metabolism

LSD cardio typically lends itself to a chronic release of cortisol.  If your body has a good ‘relationship’ with cortisol release, it is a really great thing!  A chronic presence of cortisol can lead to muscle loss and [as a byproduct] decreases in metabolism.

Neither of which is what someone new to exercise sets out to do.  These are not selling points!

Body Fat Around The Belly

Partnered with this cortisol release is the addition of belly fat.  This is another counterintuitive one as exercise is supposed to help you lose weight and lose fat.

Here is my ‘gym bro’ knowledge of what’s going on:

  1. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone which, in this case, means it breaks down muscle tissue to create sugar to fuel your LSD run
  2. This elevated blood sugar causes a release of insulin to help control it
  3. The combination of these two things tells your body “let’s store it!”
  4. Your liver can store some but the remainder ends up in your fat cells, specifically in all the places you don’t want it (thighs, gut, arms, etc)

Not only is excess fat in these areas undesirable, it is very predictive of all the metabolic diseases we are looking to avoid (heart disease is a big one, here).

“But, I Stopped Losing Weight”

Stress & Stress Response

When you went from doing nothing at all to adding running (cardio) to the mix, you went from one stressor to another [higher requirement] type of stressor.  This change caused an increase in muscular stamina, cardiovascular endurance, and weight loss.

Guess what?  If your stressor didn’t change from here, you aren’t asking your body to do any more changing!

Carbs & Losing Weight

Carbohydrates are a good thing.  But carbohydrates in excess are not.  I have heard too many conversations supporting the notion that you need to eat a lot more carbs if you’re doing a lot of LSD (long slow distance) cardio because that’s what you need for fuel.  This is frustrating on many levels [for me] but just understand, this is not what you want to do.


EPOC stands for excess post oxygen consumption which is a fancy way of saying your metabolism is higher than resting after the completion of your workout.  Following an LSD cardio session, EPOC can last anywhere from 10-15 minutes.  This means for 10-15 minutes after the workout, your body is working on bringing your body down to “normal resting” and it is burning “extra” calories in the process.

Guess how long EPOC lasts after high intensity interval training (HIIT) or a heavy lifting session?  Hours and hours.  Sometimes up to 12 hours.  I realize calories in vs calories out is not the only factor at play, but imagine all those extra calories you’re burning as a byproduct!

Continue Losing Weight

Going through the reasons why you are probably not losing weight by continuing to run should clue you in on what you should be changing.  So, how do you continue to make your training beneficial and lose more weight?

  • Nutrition Focus
    • Eat to support your training [including eating carbs] but not in excess just because someone said “eat more carbs”
  • Recovery
    • This includes getting enough quality sleep
    • This also includes listening to your body if you need to have a recovery day or a lower mileage/intensity day
  • Warm Up
    • I fully acknowledge it is easier, and less time consuming, to just get out and run but if you don’t warm up, you’re asking for trouble
  • Strength Train
    • No matter what your goals are, strength training is most likely something that needs to be a part of your routine

If you need help in any one of these areas, or all of them, don’t be shy about sending me an email at [email protected] or head HERE to set up a conversation with one of our amazing trainers!  We would be excited to build you a program so you don’t need to stress about figuring out what to do.

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