- Relying on cardio to burn calories is the biggest mistake people make when trying to lose fat, trainer Ben Carpenter told Insider.
- It can ramp up your appetite, which can lead to more eating, he said.
- Cardio is important for health, but eating in a calorie deficit is most important for fat loss.
Cardio is the most overrated form of exercise for fat loss, personal trainer Ben Carpenter told Insider.
Although cardio can help keep your heart healthy, relying on cardio when trying to
is where many people go wrong, he said.
Aerobic exercise, like cardio, has a range of benefits, including boosting your immune system and improving cholesterol levels.
But doing too much of it to lose fat can backfire, Carpenter said, because it doesn’t burn as many calories as people think, and it can ramp up your appetite.
Cardio can increase appetite
“Lots of people start doing cardio because they want to lose body fat, but unless you’re doing a really high workload, cardio doesn’t burn a huge amount of calories,” he said. “And for at least a subset of people, it increases the appetite disproportionately to how many calories they’ve burned.”
For example, you may think you’ve burned 200 calories by running on the treadmill for 30 minutes. The activity can increase your appetite, which can lead to eating extra calories later in the day. If you continually eat more calories than you burn off, you won’t be able to maintain a calorie deficit, which is crucial for weight loss.
“Over-relying on cardio without dietary intervention” is a common mistake, Carpenter said.
Research shows that activity trackers overestimate calorie burn, and if you are tracking calories and eating back what you think you’ve burned (which most experts advise against), you may be moving further away from your goals.
If you want to lose fat and maintain muscle, strength training while eating in a calorie deficit is key. But that doesn’t mean cardio will hinder your progress, as long as time spent doing cardio is not taking away from your resistance workouts.
There’s no one-size-fits-all workout regime that’s best for fat loss, but a 2020 meta-analysis suggests that resistance training increases metabolism more than cardio, which can make weight loss maintenance easier because the body burns more calories at rest.
However, doing some exercise of any kind is better than none at all, so if a form of cardio is what you enjoy and will stick to, you should do that.