Exercise! - The Cardio-Free Diet

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04-16-2007, 10:00 AM
Good Morning America just had this guy (didn't catch his name) on who theorizes in his book that cardio is a waste of time for weight loss because it increases your appetite without burning as many calories as we think. His recommendation is to do strength training 3 times per week for 20 minutes and to calorie count. He says the weight lifting will change your body shape and will speed up your metabolism while the cardio is just a waste of time. He cited a study where fit ladies ran 45 minutes 3 times per week on a treadmill and they actually gained 1 pound rather than losing after a year.

He said that most Americans underestimate their daily caloric intake by 600 calories and that, while most diets are against calorie counting because its supposedly too difficult, he views calorie counting as very easy, do-able and necessary for weight loss.

He also said that you get a better cardio work out through strength training because he said the key to cardio health is not keeping the heart rate up but shocking it by going up then suddenly dropping then up again. This happens when you lift weights.

As far as whether I agree with this, plenty more study is needed on whether cardio health can be achieved with just strength training after so many studies showing the opposite. But personally, I used to maintain my weight by lifting fairly heavy weights 2 to 3 times per week for about 25 minutes. I would do 2 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions as heavy as possible and would do one exercise for each body part, except 2 for my back, chest and legs (1 for each of the four shoulder muscles, 1 tri and 1 bicep, and a few abdominal exercises). I would be in and out of that gym so quickly, yet I was able to lose a few excess pounds and maintain 128 lbs eating quite a lot and not calorie counting (though I didn't go overboard I did eat totally normally and often on the high side of normal) with just a few minutes of weight lifting and no cardio.

These days I've been doing more cardio for some reason; I get kind of sick of weight lifting sometimes and usually take several breaks throughout the year - to my detriment I'm sure. I'm thinking I really need to get back to the weights.

What do you all think of this theory? :dizzy:

04-16-2007, 11:17 AM
Fit ladies ran on a treadmill 3 times a week for 45 minutes and gained 1 pound over the course of a year...

Well what does that have to do with obese and overweight people who are unfit?

Three times a week is not enough for weight loss. My trainer said 4-5 times a week minimum.

Sounds like he wants to sell his book. I see no reason to change what I'm doing.


04-16-2007, 11:18 AM
Actually, it sounds somewhat plausible to me. I lost 50 lbs in 2 months doing strength training and watching what I ate. I try to concentrate on strength training and cardio now though. Also, Body for Life, which is a great diet/exercise program is only 20 minutes of cardio 3 times per week and people have amazing results on it.

My take though is that people do overestimate how many calories cardio burns. If I'm pumping my body hard for 25 minutes on my elliptical, I burn about ~220 calories. Is it worth it? To me it is because I am getting a cardiovascular workout (good for your heart) and I am burning extra calories that wouldn't be burnt if I was sitting on the couch.

04-16-2007, 12:00 PM
I see where he's coming from. Really, I do.

When I first heard the concept, my first thought was "well yeah, cardio makes you hungrier." At least with me it does. And strength training burns calories without making me ravenous. And yes, it's easier on your joints, too.

But what's drving me nuts about all of this is our tendancy to make everything so black and white, one side or the other. I saw this on 20/20 and I would be willing to bet that folks will look at this and say, "See, honey? I don't have to work out!"

Mami, you bring up some good points that weren't acknowledged at all in the 20/20 broadcast and I think I am taking issue with how this "diet" was presented to the masses and not the plan itself. Personally, I see the value in both and I don't think it's fair of him to discount cardio in obtaining overall health.

One of my core beliefs regarding weightloss is that you have to get healthy before you can think to maintain a weightloss and this concept goes against my personal beliefs on the matter.

04-16-2007, 01:12 PM
Form what I have read your body will adapt to cardio so you get benefits in the beginning but if you don't up the intensity the benefits will diminish as you go.

That said there are a few things keeping me running.

Its fun.

Running faster still gives you benefits.

Its fun.

Its good for your heart.

Its fun.

I think the heart people reccomend at least 3 cardio sessions a week where you get your heart rate up for 30 mnutes (for cardio vascular health). This is a good thing.

I think if more cardio is fun then why not? But if your not having fun then go lift some weights (that's fun too)

04-16-2007, 01:44 PM
yes cardio makes you hungrier...thats why I calorie count too.Because initially you are using sugar for fuel and when glycogen stores drop the body screams for more. But over time if you control it, you can also train your body to use more fat for fuel and then you have created a metabolic machine.

My own example was made glaringly obvious to me yesterday. The first time I did marathon training I needed to fuel constantly to make it through the runs. In order to not bonk on training runs I would gu (energy gel) at mile 4 and then every 2-3 miles after that and I would be ravenous. Plus I ran a 50% gatorade/water mix in my camelbak. Now I carry only water and gu about every 5-6 miles and I dont feel the driving need to gu, its more preventative. Cardio doesnt make me as hungry as it used to.

The problem with these studies is they look only in the short term.

Plus is weight loss the ONLY goal? Heart? Spirit? Energy?

04-16-2007, 01:47 PM
Personally I do mostly cardio, and I find it works fine for me. I haven't had any appetite increase issues (I guess I'm lucky) and I feel great! I have muscles starting to show in my legs from riding my bike and using my elliptical, I feel so much healthier and energetic, and my scale is moving down. I occasionally will lift weights because I do think its a good idea, but honestly I find sticking with cardio is a lot easier and more enjoyable for me. Maybe I'd see more results from strength training but I'm enjoying my current workouts, and I think the benefits to my heart are worth too much to stop.

04-16-2007, 01:47 PM
and...the study, these fit women gained fat or muscle or water? My skinny friend has gone from sporadic runner to 40 mpw girl and has gained 5-6 lbs. And she is smaller than before, its all muscle and water (from her best guess about 4 lbs of it is water).

04-16-2007, 01:54 PM
Hmmmm, yup, he must be onto something there. I mean, those 100+ pounds I lost through cardio and eating right must be my imagination. I'm going out on a limb with Jay. I think he's trying to sell his book. Atkins sold theirs, South Beach theirs, Weight Watchers theirs, and on and on. Everyone has a gimmick. Might work for some people. But I'm living proof that what he said wouldn't work most certainly did.

04-16-2007, 02:09 PM
Here's a summary of the study that I think the GMA trainer is referring to (courtesy of Alwyn Cosgrove's blog (http://alwyncosgrove.blogspot.com/2007_03_01_archive.html)):

Trapp EG and Boutcher SH
Fat loss following 15 weeks of high intensity, intermittent cycle training
Fat Loss Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine,
University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Two groups:

Group One: performed 40 mins of steady state aerobics at 60% VO2 max, three times per week for 15 weeks.

Group Two: performed 20 mins (i.e. half the duration) of interval training (8s on, 12s off - 60 rounds), three times per week for 15 weeks. Group two started at 5 mins total the first week.

Both groups had dietary intake monitored closely.

The steady state group GAINED 0.5kg of fat in 15 weeks.
The interval training group LOST on average 2.5kg of fat in the same time frame.

When two already very lean subjects were removed (BMI was less than 20) - the interval training groups results improved to an average of 3.9kg of fat (Steven Boutcher told me that two women in the interval group lost 8kg of fat).

Again, look at the numbers - the aerobic training group GAINED fat (a small amount). The Interval Training group lost 5-8 times as much fat as the steady state group gained despite training for half the time.

The study didn't compare cardio versus weightlifting. It compared slow, steady state cardio with cardio interval training - two ways to do cardio. The conclusion that interval training beats slow cardio in the 'fat burning zone' goes along with all the latest research on the subject.

I'm not sure you can make the jump from cardio interval training to weight lifting the way the GMA trainer apparently did, but hey, he's selling a book and probably wants as much scientific credibility as he can scare up.

There have been other plans in the past that espoused just diet and weights for fat loss with no cardio, notably BodyRX by Dr. Scott Connelly. Unfortunately, the theory didn't pan out in the real world and all the woman I know who did the plan failed to lose fat. Maybe men can lose fat that way but it just doesn't seem to work for women as well.

My personal opinion based on my experiences and those of my clients is that you need all three for fat loss: reduced calories, weight lifting to build muscle and keep metabolism up, and cardio to burn calories. :)

04-16-2007, 02:10 PM
More information on the GMA site (http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Books/story?id=3026698&page=1)-

Okay, I want to be honest. I am a recovering Cardioaholic. I have been "clean" for many, many years, and continue to stay as far away from straight cardio as possible, and I'm in the best shape of my life! But for quite a long period of time, I, too, was adamant that cardio was the key to weight loss. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Oh- I don't like him. :o
I think that he is trying to sell books by starting a tend.Since cardio is not working for everyone then they have to go opposite and lift weights.
He has mastered the mentality of many Americans- run like lemmings no matter how close the edge of the clift is coming.

I agree, someone will quit working out today because the guy on the TV said "Kiss Cardio Goodbye".

Cardio is mindless. You hop on the treadmill, jump on the bike, or step on the elliptical trainer, turn on the TV or pop in the earphones of your iPod, flip through your favorite magazines, and off you go…to nowhere fast. What are you accomplishing? Absolutely nothing, except a Zen-like trance, during which you should meditate on the following mantra:
Mindless Exercise Yields Forgettable Results

I think a zen like trance is a great thing. Sometimes it is nice to turn the lights off in the brain and not focus. I don't get that from the walking tape I do. I have an addiction to the way it makes me feel. I would love to run- but most of the time I run after a toddler and a teenager.
I don't begrudge the weight lifting people. I use a resistance band while I am doing low impact walking. It's not heavy iron- but it's more than what I did before I ever started.
I am with hickerchick- do what you think is fun - but just do it !~ Cardio is working for some many people, why stop doing something that is benefical ?

04-16-2007, 02:50 PM
Hmmm. Wouldn't the solution to the problem be to NOT compensate for calories burned during cardio with increased eating? That way you get the best of all possible worlds. The guy sounds like he's just pandering to people who want to lose weight without exercising... I abhor these diet trends.

I find that when I first re-start a cardio program (after an inevitable lapse...), at first I'm absolutely STARVING after working out. After a few weeks though, I lose the ravenousness and just become moderately hungry after the gym. I think it's quite crucial to plan (and prep) my post-gym meal before I go to the gym so that I don't convince myself that I can reward my exertions with more food than is necessary.

But, contra the GMA guy, cardio and calorie-counting always results in reliable and fast weight loss for me. I wouldn't give up either.

04-16-2007, 03:17 PM
YES Junebug, that was my thought exactly, too - why does diet and exercise always have to be an all or nothing thing? All weight training, no cardio/All protein, no carbs/all 5 small meals a day, no 3 big meals a day/all cabbage soup, nothing else!!!..... there are so many rules it seems and people (especially ones trying to sell a book) forget that at the end of the day it's all about calories consumed vs calories burned.

But no. Our society now wants a fast, quick, easy, as little effort as possible way to lose weight.

I am a big fan of cardio because of the heart benefits - being that heart disease runs in my family and that I also have a genetic protein that makes my blood sticker than normal people, AND being overweight, I have three strikes against me. What good is having toned legs if your heart is still in poor shape? But that's not to say that I forgo weight training either... I think both are vitally important, and that means not listening to "all or nothing" reasoning like this guy is touting.

And I don't know about you guys but when I do my weight training, my heart rate does get up there and I know I'm getting cardio benefits from it too.

I would also like to tell this author that the majority of my exercise is cardio (5x a week) and while I may have only lost 6 lbs, I've lost 4 1/2 inches and I think my consistent cardio is to thank for some of that!

04-16-2007, 04:03 PM
when i did cardio and toning mixed i lost more weight, than straight cardio. however everybody is different. what works for one might not work for the other. i think it's gone to be a trend that this guy is about to bank on.

04-16-2007, 04:16 PM
I really wouldn't want to give up my cardio. It makes me feel great mentally. I started doing it for the health benefits and of course to lose weight, but I LOVE how I feel emotionally afterward. I have to admit that I am starving afterwards, but I ususally eat some veggies and a little bit of smoked turkey or chicken and I'm good to go! :) I have the triple threat for heart desease as well, I'm overweight, Disbetic and heartdesease runs in my family.

04-16-2007, 04:46 PM
I'm not naysaying weight lifting either, I think both are important.
But gotta love how he compared "weights + calorie counting" with "cardio".

How about cardio + calorie counting


cardio + weights + calories.

04-16-2007, 06:26 PM
cardio + weights + calories.

That's what I'm doing! I've seen it work for many lovely women and a few men in this forum so that is enough for me! I don't need a book or to see them on GMA, but that would be cool too! hehe! I think there are NO quick fixes to long lasting weight loss. I think it's all about taking in less calories and good old fashioned exercise! Plain & Simple.

04-16-2007, 06:50 PM
There are so many diet and exercise plans out there that I've come to realize there is not one "best" way -- any way works so long as you are not hurting yourself (whether it be by too much exercise or an unhealthy diet).

With that said, I'm still trying to find my best plan, but I love cardio! I'll never give up running because it has transformed my lower body in the last nine weeks!

04-16-2007, 06:59 PM
I have lost weight many times before. However my body didn't start really changing shape until I started running (what little of it I can do at a time). My husband tells me almost every day how much smaller I am in my lower back / upper butt area. Even I can see a change!

Plus I feel better when I do cardio. I am not out of breath as much and can do more things with my family. It's all because of cardio.

So I don't believe that it's all for nothing. I'm getting many benefits out of it. Now I just need to start getting into a strength training routine to go with it. :)

04-16-2007, 09:36 PM
I currently detest cardio. If I could maintain (maintain...forget about losing!) either my weight or my health without it, I'd gladly lift 5 days a week, and I lift heavy and hard. I do cardio because I have to.

I do know a few people who lost using Dr. Scott Connelly's BodyRx program, but most of them were men. The only women I know who lost using it with no cardio either started at such a high weight that any nutritional changes and exercise would produce weightloss or they were what I refer to as "temporarily fat people"...the ones who put on a few pounds over the years and were never more than 15 pounds from their goal weight to start.

Using cardio only as a method of weight control makes little sense to me, tho. You just plain can't burn up as many calories doing cardio as you can by increasing your muscle mass, doing some cardio, and eating a clean, balanced, calorie restricted diet.


04-16-2007, 10:17 PM
I would agree with all of you. I've been feeling really good since I got my elliptical and really cranked up the cardio. You just feel so invigorated afterwards once you get more cardio fit and can go longer. The silly things some of these "authors" come out with! It seems that a number of different methods work for weight loss, and combining all of them is probably the best. Let's hope his book doesn't wind up on some bestseller list!

04-17-2007, 02:30 AM
It sort of makes sense, but I still wouldn't give up my cardio, if only for the benefit of feeling great afterward (ah, the joy of running in a sunny park, early on a Sunday morning! :)). Anyway, I think the three elements (calories + weights + cardio) are necessary, rather than cutting one out of them.

04-17-2007, 03:16 PM
People want an easy answer.

I'm going to bet that most folks who jump on the "wow, I can lose weight without doing cardio and working hard and getting sweaty" haven't been lifting, either, and are just assuming that weights are easier and lower-effort than cardio. Also it's going to be an excuse for inaction. If you believe that cardio is an important weight loss tool, you can tie up your sneakers and go walk around the block or the mall. But if all you need to do is lift, when you're sitting on your flabby *** in front of the tv you're doing everything you should be until you get around to joining a gym--because you don't have weights at home, you're excused from the need for activity.

04-19-2007, 02:05 PM
I don't know. I do a lot of cardio. One hour at about a 7 on the perceived extertion scale (I can still talk, but barely and I'm sweating like a pig) one to two days week. I also run one hour one day a week at a 6 mile an hour pace (actually, I 57 min and 35 sec pace this week). And sometimes I swim for an hour one day a week as well.

Then I work out with a trainer three days a week: that workout is a combination of cardio (mostly jumping) and weights. And I do a group session on the weekends that also includes both weights and cardio (sprinting and jumping).

And I have to say that I am hungry ALL THE TIME. I've upped my calories to 1500 per day and I'm still hungry all the time. I cannot get enough to eat. And not only am I hungry, the diet/exercise isn't working. For the past two weeks, I've been mostly on plan, maybe 1600 calories on a couple of days (did I mention that I'm fricking hungry all the time--it's really hard to stay on plan when you're hungry), and I've been gaining weight, not losing. I was within a few pounds of my goal weight; I'm now close to ten pounds over it.

So I'm thinking that maybe this guy has a point. I wouldn't eliminate cardio altogether because I do like the other health benefits (I come from a long line of heart attack victims and my Dad has already had a 5-way--5-ways, who even knew they could that--bypass). But maybe I should cut back on it a little and eat less.

04-20-2007, 08:00 PM
Barbara- About 4 years ago I trained for and ran a marathon. I GAINED weight and body fat during the time I was training. My boss at the time, a bodybuilder, kept warning me that this would happen and I told him he was crazy :crazy: How could I possibly gain weight running an average of 40-50 miles per week in addition to doing my regularly scheduled lifting? But that's what happened. He was very smug when he calipered me.

I would never advocate NO CARDIO for most people. But too much seems to be detrimental for weightloss and muscle retention for some people.