April 11th, 2011

Can Too Much Cardio Decrease Your Metabolism?

Adding more cardio to your exercise regimen will only help increase your fat loss right? If all else remains equal, the answer is usually yes: more calories burned = bigger calorie deficit = more fat loss. However, if you go overboard with your cardio, could the excessive training volume actually backfire on you and decrease your metabolism? If so, how do you avoid this? How much cardio is too much? What is the ideal way to balance between calories eaten and calories burned? Find out in today’s post!

cardio and metabolism Q: Dear Tom: I read your recent article on metabolic damage – it was extremely informative, but it did bring up a new question. I know that to lose fat we have to create a caloric deficit and we can do that by A) decreasing caloric intake from food, B) increasing our calories burned through training / misc activity or C) a combination of both.

I have read your book Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle (BFFM), and I know that you don’t like option A if that means just cutting calories from dieting alone, without training. In BFFM, a suggested strategy for accelerating fat loss is “B”, which is increasing cardio while maintaining a constant calorie intake.

In other words, most people just cut their food lower and lower, but you’re saying that we can increase our calorie deficit by adding cardio while continuing to eat the same amount of food. I LIKE more food, and this makes sense to me except for one thing:

As an endurance athlete, I already do a lot more cardio than the average person, up to several hours a day of biking. Of course, I do eat more on training days, otherwise I wouldn’t survive the long bike rides. Your article said that doing too much cardio can trigger the body’s starvation response and actually decrease your metabolism. Now I’m worried. What should I do?

A: This is important because in essence, you’re not just asking about metabolism, you’re asking much bigger questions such as: What is the best way to achieve a calorie deficit for fat loss? Diet or exercise? If a combination of diet and exercise is ideal, then how do we find the perfect balance between the two?

This is one of the biggest debates in the entire weight loss field. Everyone agrees that a caloric deficit has to be achieved to produce weight loss (except for a few fruitcakes who believe things like, “it’s the insulinz!” “it’s the toxins!” “it’s your clogged colon!” and so on), but the experts don’t agree on the best way to achieve the deficit – eat less or burn more.

Some experts argue that exercise is not an effective strategy for weight loss because they say it’s too hard to burn a lot of calories. They add that some people might compensate by increasing food intake after cardio, canceling out the benefit. They argue that it’s easier to just cut back your food intake.

Others, including myself, argue that cutting calories is part of the deal, but by itself, it’s not optimal. Adding a training program will not only help achieve the deficit, but also give you health benefits and improve your body composition. The dieting-only approach without the training = “skinny fat person.”

In BFFM, we lean toward the burn more side, but the ideal way to achieve a deficit is certainly with a combination of diet and exercise. There’s no doubt that combining nutrition and training is crucial for healthy fat loss because without weight training, a lot of bad things happen during caloric restriction. The million dollar question is, how much cardio should you do?

We know that if all else remains equal, you will lose more fat by adding cardio on top of your nutrition + weight training strategy. If there is no compensation, there will be a direct correlation between the amount of cardio you do and the amount of weight you lose. On the other hand, it’s certainly possible to do too much cardio and that brings us to the answer of your question…

Yes, metabolism can decrease from doing too much cardio. This is called “adpative thermogenesis.” Most people think this only happens from starvation dieting (thus the frequent term “starvation response”), but research suggests that if you go overboard on the cardio, that can also trigger a similar adaptive response.

There was one interesting research paper that confirmed this. Scientists from the University of Vermont published their findings in the Journal Sports Medicine:

“A plethora of studies have examined the combined effects of diet and exercise on body composition and resting metabolic rate. The hypothesis is that combining diet and exercise will accelerate fat loss, preserve fat-free weight and prevent or decelerate the decline in resting metabolic rate more effectively than with diet restriction alone. The optimal combination of diet and exercise, however, remains elusive….

It appears that the combination of a large quantity of aerobic exercise with a very low calorie diet resulting in substantial loss of body weight may actually accelerate the decline in resting metabolic rate. These findings may cause us to re-examine the quantity of exercise and diet needed to achieve optimal fat loss and preservation of resting metabolic rate.”

These findings seem counter-intuitive, but experience seems to confirm it. Occasionally we see case studies of people doing huge amount of cardio or endurance training, yet they’re not losing weight at the rate you would expect based on the calorie math, even if they’re tracking everything carefully.

It appears that this adaptation happens for a similar reason it does with starvation dieting: It’s a protective mechanism. With extremely high cardio, your body perceives a danger of depleting its energy stores very quickly, so metabolism decreases. This doesn’t “shut down” your metabolism or completely stall weight loss. You’ll still keep losing if you’re in a deficit. But your body is trying to conserve energy, so fat loss is slower than you’d predict considering the huge amount of cardio.

Here’s the catch: It doesn’t seem to be the large amount of cardio alone that’s causing the adaptation. The slowdown in metabolism happens the most when you’re doing extreme amounts of cardio AND you’re severely cutting calories at the same time.

It appears that you can cut calories fairly aggressively and not experience any serious metabolic consequences if you’re eating plenty of protein and your training volume is conservative, perhaps just 3-4 days a week of lifting weights with minimal cardio.

It also appears that you can do a LOT of cardio without consequences if you fuel yourself appropriately. Just look at endurance athletes – they’re doing a ton of training, but they’re also eating a lot more to support the training demand.

What you should avoid is doing hours and hours of cardio every day in an attempt to lose weight, while slashing calories to very low levels at the same time. That is worse than starvation dieting alone. Your goal is to find the right balance between burning calories and cutting calories and avoid extremes on either side.

Most endurance athletes are pretty lean. But if you’re a cyclist, etc, and you want to lose fat, you have the same energy balancing act to manage – to achieve a deficit. But because many sports require very high amounts of training, you have to create a deficit at a higher level of caloric intake.

For example, a typical fat loss diet for a female might be 1500 calories per day with a 2250 calorie per day expenditure for a 750 per day deficit. The athlete’s fat loss diet might be 2350 calories per day with a 3100 calorie per day expenditure for a 750 calorie per day deficit. Same deficit, which will result in similar weight loss, but different caloric intakes to accommodate the training.

The higher your caloric expenditure, the easier it is to achieve a large deficit. however, it would be wise to keep the deficit within the usual BFFM calorie deficit guidelines: that’s usually 15-30% below maintenance. A really high cardio volume and a really low calorie intake (aggressive deficit) is not a good idea.

If you’re a highly active athlete, you’ll do fine with body composition and metabolism as long as you’re eating appropriately for your sport and activity level. Extremely active athletes who eat at typical “weight loss diet” levels are killing themselves. Performance will suffer and fat loss may be frustratingly slow, given the amount of exercise being done. If you train like an athlete you have to eat like one.

I’m strongly in favor of a higher activity level, including weight training and cardio training, and fueling yourself to feed that activity. That’s the BFFM approach: burn more + eat more = better nutrient partitioning, better results from training and better body composition than the couch potato who simply eats less.

Just remember, there’s a point of diminishing returns. Adding more and more cardio eventually creates a situation where you’re: (1) wasting time, (2) risking metabolic slowdown, or (3) risking overuse injuries. Therefore, there’s no reason to do hours and hours of cardio a day, chasing after fat loss if you can achieve an equivalent deficit with a more reasonable balance between calories consumed and calories burned.

-Tom Venuto
www.BurnTheFatFeedTheMuscle.com

References
The impact of exercise and diet restriction on daily energy expenditure. Poehlman ET, Melby CL, Goran MI.Sports Med. 1991 Feb;11(2):78-101, College of Medicine, University of Vermont.

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64 Responses to “Can Too Much Cardio Decrease Your Metabolism?”

  • Your body is built to stay alive. It responds to changes in stimuli. That’s why you gain muscle when you lift progressively more weight. It finds itself in situations where it has to lift weight (to survive, it thinks) more frequently… so you add muscle mass.

    Same is true with cardio. Eventually, if you eat at a large enough caloric deficit… your metabolism will slow to a crawl (as a means of making the scarce calories you do have go further). Your body thinks you’re starving, it thinks you don’t have a readily available food source and as such it will take the steps needed to ensure survival.

  • [...] I was reading through Tom Venuto’s post on too much cardio, I notice that he makes mention of the different schools of thought on weight loss, and it comes [...]

  • I’ve struggled with this a lot when started getting more and more involved in endurance sports. Tom does a brilliant job in this post and it has worked for me to lose body fat. However, there is another side of the story… Many endurance athletes think that just because they are training for so long, it essentially gives them an all you can eat pass. And they do just that wondering why the fat loss isn’t happening. For example, most triathletes/marathoners have long training days on the weekends that can last 3-10 hours (combined, both sat & sun) and shorter days on weekdays ranging from 30-90 mins. While you have to eat more to support your body and replenish the fuel lost, you cannot pretend that you can eat whatever, whenever (if you want fat loss to be a good side effect of your already increased calorie expendature). In another words, the idea of, “I’m an endurance athlete and therefore I can eat anything I want and not gain weight” wont be true if you’re consuming too many calories.

    I’ve made this mistake myself thinking that I was consistently doing 100 mile bike rides every weekend, sometimes on both Saturday and Sunday but wasn’t losing fat. In fact, I began to gain weight. After keeping track of calories for a week, I realized that, while I was burning a lot, I was consuming more calories than necessary to fuel my body leading to weight gain. It had nothing to do with damaged metabolism.

    • Tom Venuto

      Thanks Arkady – always great to hear from you!

      • Eddie

        Could we say too much calorie deficit decrease Your metabolism? It doesn’t matter if the deficit come from too little calories in or too much calories out. Because if we fuel ourselves with enough calories and do a lot of cardio, we will not decrease our metabolism right?

        • Tom Venuto

          Yes, a metabolic decrease can occur with severe caloric deficit. This article was pointing out that when in a severe deficit and doing very high volume cardio/aerobics can aggravate that even further. The idea is to fuel yourself appropriately for your level of training and calorie expenditure.

  • Excellent well balance and thought out post Tom!

  • Megan

    This has always confused and frustrated me…and still kind of does. I do an intense bootcamp class 4 days a week (hour long class). I will sometimes run 2-3 miles aftwards. I will sometimes run 3-6 miles for my 5th day of cardio and usually give myself a day or 2 “off”. Now I know I have a lot of “sometimes” and “usuallys” which don’t describe my definitely schedule. Let’s just say I do the hour long bootcamp class 4 days a week and 1 day of running 6 miles.
    My question is: I have a desk job where I am at a desk 9.5 hours Mon-Thurs (4 hours on Friday). Is my workout considered “a lot” since I have an office/desk job where I’m not really moving during the day? People say I work out too much for what I eat (I try to keep around 1300-1400 calories a day)…but I don’t think it’s too much considering my time sitting at a desk? Whatever I am doing is wrong though because I feel like I can NOT lose weight for the work I put into my workouts! Help! haha

    • Tom Venuto

      As in the case of the endurance athlete, it’s not “bad” to do a high volume of exercise. The major point in this post was that when you are doing high volume training, you cannot starve yourself without adverse consequences. If you train like an athlete you have to eat like an athlete… and if yourre training like an athlete and you want to lose fat, you still need the caloric deficit too, as Arkady re-emphasized in his comments above.

    • nieves

      im in the same boat!! i have a sit-down job 8-9hrs a day but i when i workout (4 days wieghts,2 days cardio prob45-50mins each) i push as hard as i can. ppl say im working out too much but if im on my ass all day.. in the end im not really burning that much so i do get confused with what my intake is supposed to be. my hr monitor says im barely under 300cals during weight days.. so im never sure if i should eat less cuz i burn less or eat more cuz its weight days.. heheh so confuzzles :S im new to the site so i guess i need to research more.

      • Scott

        Nieve,

        In the end fat loss is a numbers’ game. You have to play around with the numbers to ascertain what the proper caloric intake is for you based on your activity level. All you can do is put yourself in a feedback loop by consuming X number of calories for a week and then track the results.

        At the end of the week step on the scale, take a measurement of the circumference of your waist, and possibly determine your body fat percentage. Me personally, at the end of each week I would step on the scale and take a soft tape measurement of the circumference of my waist. Some people take a body fat reading every week but I did not. I knew if my waist was shrinking I was trending in the right direction.

        If you find that you have made progress then continue doing the same thing for week #2. If you didn’t make progress then what you are doing is not working so you need to change your approach ie. eat less and/or exercise more. Let your results dictate your approach.

        The one hard-and-fast rule of fat loss is you have to burn more calories than you consume. How you go about achieving the deficit is up to you. Just try not to create too large of a deficit because that could adversely impact your metabolism.

        • John

          There is actually an equation you can use to convert weight and waist circumference measurements to a body fat percentage. It is as follows:

          for males:
          body fat percentage = ((-98.42 + (4.15 * waist circumference in inches) – (0.082 * weight in pounds)) / weight in pounds) * 100

          for females:
          body fat percentage = ((-76.76 + (4.15 * waist circumference in inches) – (0.082 * weight in pounds)) / weight in pounds) * 100

  • Eddie

    So too much cardio is not killing your metabolism. it’s not fueling your cardio killing your metabolism.

    • Tom Venuto

      Eddie, thats correct – lots of athletes train for hours and hours and hours every week – they are lean, fit and metabolically healthy because they fuel themselves properly for the demands of their sport. But in the case of body fat / weight control, doing hours of cardio each day may not be killing your metabolism, but it is killing your time. Reason: because you could achieve the same result (caloric deficit) with dietary control. For body composition purposes (not sports/ endurance training), there is a sweet spot somewhere in the middle with the combination of burn more and eat less.

      • Eddie

        Thanks Tom. Like Megan, I have struggled with this concept as well. But after reading it 3 or 4 time and getting feedback from you, I think I’ve got it. Finally :) Follow your 2lb per week rule. Cutting too much calories or doing too much cardio with calorie restriction will be counter productive in the long run.

        • Megan

          Sorry that’s what I meant…I mean I know I’m probably not doing TOO MUCH cardio, I just might not be fueling myself properly…because in all honesty, I do feel like I’m starving half the time! I’m gonna have to read into this while I’m not at work. I just need to figure out how much I should be eating based on my sit-down job with intense bootcamp classes and then sit-down nights haha! I feel like I put on alot of muscle thru my classes, which has been making me more hungry! My “belly” is my biggest problem area, but I’m trying to incorporate more “good fats” into my diet (because I think I’ve been too low with fats for quite a while now)
          Anyone have suggestions for snacks I can bring to the office other than nuts (almonds) and fruits (usually bring oranges or bananas)? Those are what I normally bring

  • Reka

    Is it possible to do intensive cardio and low calories for a few days then return back to normal and avoiding the damage? I guess the metabolic slowdown only appears after a few days, I’m not sure but would think that the body needs a little time to adapt and maybe we can get away with a few days. If someone tries that, do they need to increase the intake for the same amount of days (this would more or less cancel the deficit), or is one high calorie day enough to keep the metabolism going?

    • Reka

      This is only a theoretic question for me as the danger of doing too much cardio will probably never approach me, I love weight training, metabolic resistance training, like HIIT but long steady cardio never felt good to me, my body just loathes it.

  • I’ve read all with a big interest, but I guess it also means a lot which kind of calories you eat, or it doesn’t matter? I guess it is very important where the calories come from, candy or healthy food.

    I have two hormon diseases, it means that my body have great difficulties using carbs.

    Thank you for many very interesting articles.

  • Matt

    To further elaborate on this, I was just curious to know how long an ideal time for cardio would be. The reason I ask is because a few of my friends who lift were telling me that you should do no more than 15-30 minutes of it when you workout included into your typical regimen. And also that after 1 hour of working out that if you do cardio it could be counter productive as it might trigger the body to burn off too many calories and even muscle, so it would be better to add it to the workout as long as it fits into an hours worth of activity. I dont know who to believe as I am by no means a fitness expert (I try to go to the gym 6 days a week and eat healthy, however I dont pay much attention to calorie detail as I typically eat a bunch of smaller meals throughout the day mostly).

  • Elizabeth

    Thanks for this article. I think it explains why I just don’t seem to be able to lose weight. I’m a 58 year old female and go to the gym 5 to 6 times a week – mostly on the treadmill or the bicycle. I go to zumba one night and pilates another night. I walk 1 and a half km to and from work 4 times a week. I eat salad with about 120g of meat or fish a night and one or two pieces of fruit for lunch. A couple of pieces of toast and green tea for breakfast. I don’t understand why I don’t lose weight. I lost about 30kg 3 years ago and now seem to have plateaued. During my holidays my diet does change to less healthy but then I do 10km runs 5 mornings a week. I obviously need to cut down on the exercise?

    • Lori

      Elizabeth, I’m not a fitness professional, but nutrition and fitness are my serious hobbies :) I’m not sure I’d say that you need to cut down on the exercise. You just need to tweak things. When I read what you’re eating, I can’t help but wonder if thats where the problem really lies. Or should I say, it’s in what you’re NOT eating. I see carbs only for breakfast, and simple carbs for lunch. I’m not sure what 120g of meat translates into for actual protein, but I’d be willing to bet it’s not enough. Each meal should ideally consist of 1 serving of each of the following: protein, fibrous vegetables, and complex carbs. You might also try to eat small meals every +-3 hours rather than only 3 meals per day. Do you do any weight training? Skipping several of those cardio sessions and replacing them with weight training would also make a big difference. Finally, have you read Tom Venuto’s book “Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle”? If not, you should. It’s an excellent guidebook for anyone interested in fitness. Hope this helps. Lori

      • Elizabeth

        Thanks Lori
        I do some weights but find it really tedious. I keep resolving to do more but usually end up on the cardio as it seems easier rather than wait for others to finish to get onto a machine etc.

        • Lifting weights can indeed be tedious. But there are things that can be done to make it less so. For example, if you are bored by the “recovery” time between sets make sure you are doing something besides counting down the 30-45 seconds — either stretch or go right on to a different muscle group, complete the set, and *then* do your rest before going back to the first muscle group, second set.

          If you are just plain bored by lifting weights, try it for a few weeks and make sure to touch your muscles in the morning or at night and see how you are firming up – this is a good motivator if you can feel the difference.

          And if it is just TOO BORING no matter what when working on your own, get a video with music and a “trainer” to follow along with. Gilad offers a number of videos that you can go along with – they are tiring and all but still less boring than working out without anything but the dumbells in the room.

    • Eddie

      Elizabeth, you should not only rely on the scale. You should also take measurements, pictures and also use a bodyfat clipper. Losing bodyfat should be your goal. I’ve gained 10 lbs in the last year but have a much lower bodyfat. If you are lowering your bodyfat, it shouldn’t matter if your weight doesn’t change or even go up. It’s about burning the fat and feeding the muscle. Not losing weight.

      • Elizabeth

        I know you’re right Eddie but I can’t help myself. Also I don’t want to get one of those body callipers only to find that they just aren’t accurate. I have a body fat measuring scale which is really useless and does not work.

        • John

          You can use circumference measurements to get a good estimate of your body fat percentage.

  • I enjoy exercising, combining cardio and weight 6 times a week. Also, I had to cut my carbs because I gained too much weight. After 3 weeks of not-so-strict dieting, I´m finally losing between 1 or 2 lbs per week. I still feel OK. What are the warnings I should be aware of when I´m either overdoing my exercise, or eating too little?

    • Scott

      lowfat Charlie,

      If you are hungry all the time that would be a pretty good indicator that the disparity between your caloric intake and activity level is too great. You are either consuming too few calories and/or exercising too much.

      Also, if you are sore all the time and have difficulty recovering from bouts of exercise it probably means you are overdoing it.

      • Thanks Scott!
        Fortunately none are happening yet. And I never thought it was sso simple to notice when i’m overtraining or undereating.But something is true, I miss my deserts!!!!!
        Thanks again for your advise!

  • Spiritsplice

    What?! No one is going to argue with you Tom? No carbophobes? No insulmanoacs?

    AMAZING!

    Anyhow, great article. Lyle also wrote about this (for those who want the more complicated explanation as to how this works) as another confirmation.

    bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/too-much-cardio-followup.html

    • David

      In BFFM, you write “Reduce your calories by 15-20% below maintenance for optimal, safe fat loss,” and note that 30% is a high deficit tahat can be used when zig zagging with high calorie days. So, while the BFFM guidelines certainly range from 15-30%, I was wondering if there has been a change in thought about the optimal deficit for safe fat loss. I ask because the more recent Bodyfat Solution, I think, also uses a slightly higher deficit range then the BFFM quote above suggests. I’ve been sticking with 15-20 and am losing my pound a week with slight LBM loss over a four week period. I dont think I would do better by increasing the deficit under these circumstances (and know you don’t suggest that for my results).

      I was just curious whatvwas considered the optimum base from which to start.

      • John

        I have read elsewhere that you should not create a deficit of more than 20%. I have seen it said that your deficit should not be more than 500 calories, 1000 calories, 500-1000 calories, and 20%, but this is the first time I’ve seen 15-30%.

        However, I normally consider the safe minimum to be 80% of your total daily energy expenditure, which is a maximum of a 20% deficit.

  • Sharon

    I have found, through personal experience, that high levels of endurance exercise also trigger phenomenal hunger. In the years when I’ve biked 60-100 mile rides regularly, I find that I want to eat everything in sight for about 2 days afterward. Which is no surprise given what you say in your article. Starvation has a way of really up’ing the hunger. On a century ride, I am burning about 2x my daily calorie requirement (about 4000 cal) and it takes some serious eating to make up that difference. I do snack on rides, but I don’t even come close to making up that deficit. This year, since I’m not actually training for any big rides, I am limiting my rides to about 2 hours. That burns enough calories but it doesn’t trigger the huge hunger.

    Another tricky part is when you stop doing those big rides. You are used to eating to fuel that level of activity and then winter comes. It’s pretty hard (and probably counter-productive since you need a rest at some point) to reset to “normal” eating after fueling a high level of activity. You’ve gotten used to eating A LOT and then you have to seriously watch what you are eating. That’s a tough thing to do especially when the holidays hit!

    Now I do a mix of strength training, moderate to high intensity cardio in 1-2 hour doses and I watch my diet a whole lot more carefully. The middle ground takes a fair amount of attention which is probably the toughest part about the whole thing. It would be a lot easier to exercise like a fiend, eat like a horse and have it all work out. As I get older, I find that it just doesn’t work that easy anymore! (I’m a 50 year old female.)

    • bandita

      Sharon,
      I also experienced what you mentioned – extreme hunger for up to 2 days following a long endurance event (marathon, century ride, etc.). I found that if I fueled appropriately DURING the training or event, this solved the problem. After years of experimenting, I have settled on a balance of liquid fuel (usually Perpetuem) and solid fuel (gels, chews, or Larabars) for long bike rides. The Perpetuem gives me calories without filling up my stomach too much for riding, and the gels, chews or bars satisfy hunger and the remainder of my calorie needs. I try to consume at LEAST half of what I am burning on a ride and make up the rest of my calories with clean food the rest of the day.

      I will also add … as an endurance athlete, I’m often hungrier than I would imagine the average person is. I am training for an Ironman and might do workouts up to 4 hours a day. I feed my body when it’s hungry, but I try to eat GOOD food. Whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruit, lean protein and raw food whenever possible. People, if you are starving in the middle of the afternoon (for whatever reason) and you snack on fresh fruit, salad, etc. … it is NOT going to ruin your “diet” or make you fat. It’s when we fuel our hunger with the WRONG foods that we have a problem. I have stopped counting calories altogether except as a rough estimate. When I use my hunger as a gauge and I focus on clean, minimally or completely unprocessed foods, I maintain my weight with no problem. It’s when I get off track and start snacking on pita chips, eating desserts, etc. that causes me to gain weight.

  • Sam

    I typically run 8-10 miles on weekdays and longer on the weekends. If I’m not careful with how I refuel, it can work against the weightlifting I do on my off days from running. From my experience, low glycemic carbs help with my endurance for running and having a protein shake soon after my run helps with my recovery. As for fat loss, I have had modest success by avoiding high glycemic and processed foods. Thanks Tom for all the great info.

  • Erika Venning

    Thank you for this tip. I am trying to lose the last 5kg and have increased my cardio and weight training to 2hrs adding 1/2 hr cardio. I seem to have reached a plateau after losing 10kg.

  • Hazel

    I only do two cardio sessions per week, not more than 30 minutes each. I am not sure if thats enough or too little though. Great post as always Tom..although sometimes, trying to keep up with all that new research about the body gets really tough. :)

  • Sean

    Tom,
    Very well laid out article and I thouroughly enjoyed it. People need to remember it takes years of inactivity and a lapse lifestyle to get themselves in terrible shape, yet we all want a magic pill to remove the years of abuse overnight. We are all differnent and as individuals WE need to find out exactly what works best for ourselves with our metabolism and nutritional requirements.I currently do gym 6 days per week and a minimum of three intense cardio sessions (bike spin classes) I then one week per month cut back the gym to three days to recover and always get blood work done as I have a naturally low test level (9.4 last result). I always pre pack my foods for excersies and prepare everything prior as immediately after excersise is when our body will require proper nutrition to recover, if we go the extra mile we can expect the extra results.

    • Scott

      “People need to remember it takes years of inactivity and a lapse lifestyle to get themselves in terrible shape, yet we all want a magic pill to remove years of abuse overnight.”

      That is very true! I myself, am guilty of it. I sometimes have to remind myself that it will take every bit as long to lose the fat as it did to put it on, sometimes longer. We all want instant gratification. Unfortunately, fat loss doesn’t work that way.

  • Tracy

    Thx so much for the helpful info

  • PRADEEP MALEWAR

    Iam great admirer of your education programmes, but it seems that your programmes and contents are meant for people with ability to do lot of exercise. As per my own experience, effective weight loss for obese person and elderly persons should start with lowering caloric intake without compromising on nutrition with mild cardio, which then can be increased after the body condition improves.

  • roberto christo

    Hi Tom, i bought your program burn the fat feed the muscle. I have a question for you. How can i burn the fat localized in my belly? I don’t have to much, but i have been trying to get ripped by some cardio and weight trainig and i got some muscle but the fat in my belly still there. What would you recomend for me?

    • David

      You can’t spot reduce fat. Fat goes where your genes put it, and when it is burned, it is taken by wherever your body takes it. Want to seevthose abs, but can’t? It is because your body fat% is too high. Lose a pound or so of fat every week while maintaining your lean body mass by weightlifting and you will steadily approach your goal of being ripped because you will steadily be losing the .5% body fat every week or so to get lean enough.

  • Lori

    Elizabeth, I can certainly relate. I’d have to say that lifting isn’t my favorite either. I don’t mean to be flippant, but you could also say that not being able to lose weight and reach the goals we want is also tedious. Maybe it would be possible to use the free weights rather than the machines? I personally have always found free weights to be more effective, as well as more bang for your buck, than the machines anyway! :) Lori

    • Elizabeth

      Good idea Lori. I do prefer free weights. I tend to concentrate on the biceps and triceps because I’m assuming that all my walking keeps my legs okay. However, I thought you had to change weight routines so your muscles didn’t get used to the same old stuff which is why I’m now on the machines which I dislike.

  • George Grivas

    QUESTIONS – SOS:

    Dear Tom,

    I am suffering of a very low level of Insulin Resistance (IR).
    Consequetly, i face some difficulty of losing 5 kgs and i have to be very careful with hydro…
    I am an amateur soccer player.

    Can i follow your book instructions while suffering of this problem?

    Awaiting yours.

    Thanks,
    George

    • David

      George,

      You and your doctor are better suited to answering that kind of question. But Tom’s approach is not some crazy diet but “simply” a balanced nutrition and fitness program. It would be odd to think this would be bad for someone with any condition. What is the alternative you are currently engaged in?

      • George

        David,
        I am currently following a quite strict nutrition program with 6 meals (hydro around 50%) per day, but it cannot last forever…Such nutrition programs damaged my metabolism in the past.
        I was following a 2-hr daily program including weights and running, but it seems I have created a large CALORIE DEFICIT. Consequently, I lost 4kgs in 2,5 months, but now my weight has stuck. I need losing 5kg more in fat.
        I am going now to decrease my training to 1-hr per day following Tom’s nutrition instructions.
        Regarding IR (Insulin Resistance), I am following my doctor and nutritionist’s instructions, but it seems they cannot help me more in order to increase my metabolism and lose those 5 kgs fat.
        The treatment of IR is 100% based on nutrition and training. I hope Tom will help me to develop the former at a higher level…
        Thanks,
        George

  • [...] excessive cardio?  That’s what Tom Venuto discusses in his most recent article which you can read here.  It seems that many of today’s exercisers become a tad neurotic when it comes to volume and [...]

  • Yep. When my workout routine was focused on lots of long duration cardio, I stayed mushy. When I switched to a focus on heavy, high intensity weight training and short duration, high intensity interval cardio, I became fitter and my body changed entirely. AND my cardiovascular fitness has improved.

  • Hey Tom!!
    Firstly, I love the ‘truth’ that you bring to this industry! Great article Tom!
    I have a HUGE admission to make – I absolutely HATE cardio and will find any excuse possible to avoid cardio and head out the door after my weight training session. I’m addicted to weight training and yep, I probably spend way more time on my training session than I should, 1 ½ to 2 hours a day and I maintain my physique this way. I change my training routine every six weeks or so. When I’m really on a roll, I’ll do short sprints three times a week after my training, which takes me all of 15 to 20 minutes, including rest in-between. In my many years at the gym, I have been witness to the hours and hours of cardio done by people that I’ve never seen in the weight section. And honestly, I seldom see lean people on these cardio machines, except, of course for a few exceptions. Women tend to have this idea that you need to do abnormal amounts of cardio, which will burn fat, and they stay away from the weights at all costs as it ‘builds muscle and make you bulky’ (another topic for another discussion, i.e. muscle is calorie hungry and burns fat and raises your basal metabolic rate)!
    I reserve cardio training for the weeks leading to competition, which is when I find it most effective, as it shocks my body into burning extra fat that I normally wouldn’t.
    Again, great blog Tom!
    Bonnie

    • Tom Venuto

      Hi Bonnie! great to hear from you! How are things in South Africa! Dougal is always sending me the weather report – “warm and sunny” – usually when its snowing here.. just to rub it in. HOpe your training is going well. I think you can count a lot of us to admit the cardio is a love hate relationship. A “necessary evil” shall we say. Some folks just get carried away when they could easily do themselves better with tweaking of diet. I think the most i Ever did was 2 sessions per day of 45 min and that was unsustainable outside of very brief precontest peaking periods and is not very strength-friendly. I was later able to peak on 1 session per day especially when i started staying leaner off season. My approach on cardio: I do as much as is necessary but as little as needed. Train hard!

      • Bonnie

        Tom, it’s definitely not so “warm and sunny” at the moment, as we’re rapidly heading for winter, but fortunately, in good ‘ol South Africa, even our winter days are pretty warm – thank goodness!
        Great to hear back from you! Just wanted to add something interesting – being a busy mom really helps with the calorie burn – a couple of years ago, I wore the bodybugg for a number of months, which proved very, very interesting, as this exercise proved that most of my calorie burn and my steps were done outside of the gym running around with the kids. Most days I clocked up between 18 0000 to 20 0000 steps. As for shopping days, wandering around the mall – wow, major calorie burn! I think folks just don’t realise how moving more and being a generally active person, combined with a calorie deficit results in more calorie burn and really has nothing to do with cardio machines at the gym. I may have veered off the topic here, but just wanted to share! Bonnie

        • Tom Venuto

          WHOA! thats a LOT of steps! I LOVE hearing about bodybugg self-experiments. Would make a great feature for the inner circle too. Cheers!

  • This is a great post. There needs to be a middle ground when it comes to training and dieting. Eat to little and starve. Eat to much and put on fat. Exercise to much and over train. Exercise to little and don’t reap all of the benefits.

    Yesterday I found myself feeling great during a very intense workout. I give credit to my eating that day. I ate my meals and snacked.

    I believe that to much cardio could possibly hurt your metabolism. I think the key is to plan your workouts. If you are an athlete, more planning may be required and maybe a chat with an expert!

    Once again, great post.

  • Great article! I am not a fan of doing cardio for hours and hours. On days when I do cardio I prefer to do shorter HIIT type workouts, which are much more effective in my opinion.

  • I try to remember that its really more about diet than just exercise.

    You can bust your tail to burn an extra 500 calories a day.

    Or you can cut out some of the high calorie foods you eat every day (beans, meat, junk food, etc.)

    Or you could do both and create a 1000 calorie deficit instead of just 500.

    Either way, its MUCH easier to just take in less calories than to burn more!

  • [...] articles  by Tom Venuto and Rachel Cogrove have confirmed for me that I am on the right track in my approach to training.  [...]

  • Mellieha

    Dear Tom Venuto,
    I have been obsessed with my fat loss for the past 2 months and I am doing large amounts of cardio every day. I am doing HIIT running in the morning for 25 mins, swimming for 1 hour each day and lower body plyometrics once a week together with weight training five days a week. I am eating about 2000 cal a day. Moreover, I am diabetic. Can you please email me a good diet to help me with my fat loss and give me some suggestions about my training regime? thanks a lot. My current body weight is 75 kgs and I want to obtain a lean body without the use of supplements except whey protein shake..

  • [...] I thought I’d throw in an article by Tom Venuto to drive the point even further home. Click here to read more about why excessive cardio can actually do damage to your metabolism. Posted in Diet, [...]

  • Very interesting that adpative thermogenesis can be triggered by too much cardio. Your approach of incorporating cardio as part of a program that includes weight training and nutrition is certainly one that works for me and my clients.

    If I had to chose between weight training or cardio for fat loss, I would choose weight training every time. In the past I have been able to stay fairly lean on a program of weight training and proper nutrition alone.

    Now I have added cardio to the mix and it has helped me burn that last bit of fat. I also have much better aerobic fitness and endurance.

  • Jen

    I’m a cardio junkie. For a long time I maintained a healthy/happy weight. Suddenly, with no change to my intake or exercise (I monitor closely) I gained about 22 pounds. I can’t get it off despite my best efforts. I was never one to believe in fad diets because I’ve never had any trouble controlling my weight. But now I feel desperate. I tried a very low carb diet for a month and didn’t shed a pound. I’m not sure what else I can try!

    I have increased my intake to see if that would help, but I’ve only gained more weight (and feel bloated, uncomfortable too).

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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