The Cardio Trap!
by: Michael Harris 9/24/2007
Men and women definitely work out differently, most likely because of the essential anatomic differences and hormonal differences! For example, most men really lift weights more intensely than most women do. In the area of cardio, women seem to be much more dedicated and also more sold on the idea of doing lots of cardio and doing it daily.
What seems like a good idea, though, can really become a trap. What happens when you do lots of cardio is you create increasing physical efficiency in the body. When you exercise for a long time at a pulse rate elevated sufficiently to produce a cardio effect, this makes the heart, lungs and vascular system of the body more efficient. So, at rest your heart rate is slower; your respiration rate is slower, and your resting metabolic rate becomes much slower. The combination of all this is that you burn very little fat or calories at rest compared to most others. And, unless you continually raise the work rate at which you do cardio with your more efficient body, the actual amount of calories and fat burned during the workout will drop slightly as well.
Another thing that lengthy and/or daily cardio does is to discourage your body from gaining muscle and even promote the burning of muscle under some circumstances. So, for a person wishing to produce more body muscle, and to burn fat without burning muscle, lengthy cardio is NOT the way to go. Hight intensity interval training will NOT get you fit in a way that will allow you to run 10 k races or compete in long events such as soccer games or basketball games, but it IS ideal for burning fat and preserving muscle at the same time.
On the other hand, high intensity interval training done three times a week is ideal, especially if done early in the morning in a fasted stated, having had no food for at least 8 hours. The fasted state encourages the immediate burning of body fat since there is little sugar in the blood or in the muscle and liver stores. It is done intensely enough to create lots of body heat and thereby burn lots of fat, and not muscle. Further, it just doesn’t let you get into that efficiency trap in the same way that the long slower cardio does.
For creating a lean and sculpted body, there is nothing like HIIT cardio.