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Why Calories In, Calories Out is a Myth

Calories In calories out2Conventional wisdom tell us that eating less and exercising more will help us lose more fat. Except we all know from experience that it doesn’t always work that way.

Sure, initially you lose weight but then the losses quickly stall.

So naturally you decide to cut some more calories and add on some more cardio to get things moving again except…nothing happens.

So what gives?

Well, just as you probably already suspected, there is mounting evidence that suggests it’s not as simple as the calories in, calories out theory that we’ve all been told.

The equation might sound simple enough: more cardio + decreased calories eaten = fat loss. But when you over do it with your cardio sessions, it can actually backfire on you.

So how is it possible that more cardio can actually result in less calories burned?

It’s Called Adaptive Thermogenisis

Just about everyone has heard of the body going into what is commonly known as “starvation mode” where your metabolism slows from cutting too many calories, right?

Well, this phenomenon can also happen when the body undergoes a great deal of cardio.

This condition is scientifically labeled “adaptive thermogenesis”, and is a state that the body enters into both from not consuming enough calories as well as going crazy with the cardio.

Of course, you’ll probably see people doing ridiculous amounts of cardio or long distance running, who are quite thin and able to manage some weight loss.

But when you work out the math, you’ll see that they are not losing weight at the rate that they should be considering how much cardio they are doing and the low amount of calories they are consuming. It just doesn’t add up.

This “adaptive thermogenesis” state occurs with excessive cardio for the same reason that it does when the body isn’t getting enough calories – it’s your body’s way of protecting itself.

If your body is enduring way too much cardio, your body will see this as a danger of burning up all its energy stores, so it slows its metabolic rate down in response.

Sure you can still lose some weight but you better have the patience of a saint and the willpower of the gods because it will be MUCH harder to lose fat with a diminished metabolism.

As counter-productive as excessive cardio is, when you pair it with a severely low calorie diet, things can go from bad to worse.

The combination of both too much cardio and insufficient calories can absolutely kill your metabolism.

It’s essential that you find the right balance between your calorie deficit, exercise duration and intensity.

Forget The Extremes

You would be better off maintaining a lower calorie deficit and doing regular weight training with very little to no cardio.

The opposite is also true – you will also do better doing just more cardio as long as you are eating enough calories.

But you need to skip the high cardio, low calorie combo. You are doing more damage then good.

There was a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers studied the effects of a strict diet and extreme exercise combination on body composition and resting metabolic rate.

The study concluded that the combination of excessive aerobic exercise coupled with drastic reductions in caloric intake can result in a major shift in body composition, with fat loss rates slowed and muscle loss rates accelerated.

This is all due to the drastic decline the metabolic rate that comes with a lethal combination of strict calorie deficits and far too much cardio.

Basically, the research concluded that in order to preserve the metabolic rate, you need to find the ‘sweet spot’ between doing the right amount of cardio combined with the right calorie reduction which will allow you to reap all the rewards of fat loss, while avoiding a decline in your metabolism.

Cortisol And The Law Of Diminishing Returns

There is also the issue of high cortisol levels in the body that are associated with excessive training and dieting. Cortisol is the ‘fat storage’ hormone that is released in the body in response to stress.

Since both dieting and exercising are essentially putting a stress on the body, cortisol will be released. But with extremes in both activities, more stress will result in more cortisol.

Interestingly enough , it’s how cortisol is released that has the biggest effect on the body.

Acute releases of cortisol (as in short intense workouts) have a positive effect on fat mobilization, while the chronic release of cortisol (as in long, on-going workouts) has a negative effect on fat loss, and actually promotes the accumulation of visceral fat.

Then there’s the matter of the ‘Law of Diminishing Returns’ which also comes into play. The Diminishing Returns theory states, ‘any extra input will not produce an equal or worthwhile return.’

Research shows that the greatest increase in fat usage starts immediately upon exercise, hits a peak level within 5 minutes, sharply decreases, by the 15-minute mark starts to plateau, and within 30 minutes is back almost to a rate matching a control group.

In other words, more is not better. It’s just more.

Bottom line-you need to discard the ‘calories in, calories out’ mentality and stop killing yourself with extreme dieting and endless hours of cardio every week.

Focus on a moderate calorie reduction and more effective, shorter duration, higher intensity workouts that will not only save your body from muscle breakdown and metabolism decline, but will actually have the opposite effect.

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