The first thing that millions of women do when they decide to lose weight and get fit is to join a gym membership and hit the cardio machines daily. Hours are spent on treadmills and stationary bikes. Cardio is deemed to be the ultimate weapon in the battle against fat however overdoing cardio can actually make women gain weight.
It’s not the quantity of workouts but the quality (intensity) that matters. You could do two 30-minute cardio sessions and two 30-minute strength training sessions a week and look fantastic. Or you could do just 3 strength training workouts that are cardio in nature and still reap the rewards.
As long as you’ve dialed in your diet, the short cardio workouts will boost your metabolism and get you in fat burning mode. The strength training exercises will work and tone your muscles. It’s a win-win situation. Spending hours on mind-numbing cardio is not only unnecessary but is unhealthy too.
Why Overdoing Cardio Makes Women Gain Weight
Excess cardio causes carb cravings
When you do excessive cardio, your body develops a dependency on carbohydrates. Women who often run long distances or spend 45 minutes to an hour on the exercise bike usually feel hungry later in the day. They always end up craving for carbs.
The reason for this is that cardio requires fuel and the majority of people get their fuel from carbohydrates. Endurance athletes usually train their bodies to depend on fat for fuel. They are on ketogenic diets and their bodies are fat burning machines.
Most women are not trained on a ketogenic diet. Their fuel primarily comes from carbs. However, when you consume carbs, your blood sugar levels spike and insulin is released. Through a series of chemical processes in your body, the body ends up storing more fat.
So, you’ve just negated your workout by consuming carbs. You end up eating more carbs and gaining weight instead of losing it. Now you know why women often complain that no matter what they do, the weight on the scales just don’t seem to drop. Every single time I trained for a marathon, I gained weight because there were never enough carbs for me to eat!
If you deny your body the carbs, it will go into ‘shock’ and you will hit a weight loss plateau. After losing the initial few pounds of fat, you’ll find that you just can’t make further progress.
Keep your cardio workouts short, high intensity and a maximum of 3 sessions a week. Less is more here and even if it seems counter-intuitive, it works.
Excess cardio will cause burnout
You’ll be exhausted after a while. If you’re running for an hour on the treadmill daily like a hamster on a wheel, it can get boring after a while. You’ll not look forward to your workout and it’ll just be something you do for the sake of being fit.
Your body will end up adapting to the stress placed upon it and your progress will stagnate. So, not only are you fed up of training but it becomes less effective too. In the long run, you’ll burn less fat with the same workouts and you’ll see your weight creeping up.
Excess cardio leads to injury
Cardio done for long periods will inevitably lead to wear and tear of the joints. Many runners often have knee problems and other chronic injuries because of the constant friction and impact on their joints. Too much cardio does this especially if you’re doing the same workout all the time. (trust me, my knees are pretty bad now thanks to the 60+ mile weeks in my 20s/30s. Hindsight is always 20/20!)
If you’re unable to exercise due to injury, you’re going to gain back the weight you’ve lost and you’ll be back at square one.
Excess cardio increases risk of disease
Too much cardio also places oxidative and hormonal stresses on your body. This will cause inflammation within the body and speed up the aging process. In the worst case scenario, this obsession with cardio will cause scarring in your right ventricle. This is due to overuse and insufficient recovery. Dangerous health problems like atrial fibrillation can occur and can be life threatening.
Excess cardio makes you dread working out
If your cardio sessions are long and hard, you’ll develop a fear of working out. Your mind will constantly cook up excuses for you to skip your workouts. This is a self-preservation mechanism and you’ll be exhausted trying to use willpower to stay on track. You’ll quit and end up gaining the weight you’ve lost and more.
Short cardio sessions are easier to overcome mentally. You’ll just tell yourself, “It’s only 15 or 20 minutes!” and you’ll get started. In the long run, you’ll stay on track and lose more weight and get fit because you didn’t give up.
By now you should realize that too much cardio will sabotage your progress. Even nectar in excess becomes poison. Aim for two or three short but intense cardio sessions a week and you’ll be just fine. It’s quality more than quantity that matters.