#MotivationMonday: Can Cardio Actually Make You Fat?

This question has been a hot topic in the fitness industry lately. Here’s what you need to know…

Simply put, the answer is yes. It’s far more complicated and intricate when you get into the details. Like with many fitness related activities, cardio, when done improperly can actually cause the body to withhold it’s fat cells, making it more difficult to lose weight. In some cases, as we’ll discuss below, you may even gain weight from cardio exercises. Here are the keys of what you need to know.

Experience Level

Are you brand new to fitness? Are you at least 15-20 lbs overweight? If so, cardio is just fine for you. It’s going to begin the process of speeding your metabolism and help you with burning off some of the excess weight you carry. As long as you’re good about watching your calorie intake, cardio should be just fine for the first few months on your road to getting into better shape.


If you’re someone who runs the same route every day after work and have been for quite awhile, you’re probably not seeing as much benefit from your workout as you could. As you continue to push your body in a similar way (a daily run), your energy and oxygen usage will start to regulate as the body understands what is happening and knows not to over-exert itself. This will peak your gains and may even cause a complete plateau in weight loss/management.

You think you Earned It

By performing a strenuous cardio workout, you’re often left with an increased level of hunger. Not only do people eat more than normal when performing cardio, they allow themselves to become caught up in “appropriate” workout meals before, during, or after a workout. These are often responsible for slowing your weight loss or halting it altogether. A common practice of people who have just performed a rigorous workout is to treat themselves to an unhealthy meal.

Muscular Interference

It’s scientifically proven that lifting weights and strength training will burn fat. By combining cardio with strength training, we’re increasing our cortisol levels which then in turn slows the fat burning process. If you’re looking to build muscle, cardio is a questionable activity to help with this.

What to Do

This is understandably frustrating information to learn, especially if you’ve been working hard on your mile time and seeing no physical results. The answer depends on your desired outcome. If you’re looking to…

Build Muscle

Stick to strength training and mix in one day of interval training to increase the speed of your results. Also focus heavily on your diet and recovery practices.

Build Endurance

Prioritize your interval training as it will help build muscle as well as cardiovascular strength. Also be sure to mix in some strength training whenever possible.

Lose Weight

If you’re not worried about your shirtless appearance and just want to shed some extra weight, diet should be your number one focus. By strength training with lighter weights and higher reps, you’ll be more apt to burn fat quicker. This will also tone your muscles and increase your health through balance and core strengthening.

Cardio is one of the most classic workouts there is, so it’s understandable if you’ve gotten used to it through your training. Understand however, that you can get results in half the amount of time using interval training as opposed to the treadmill. Be smart about your workout and you’ll be surprised by how much quicker and more effective your results become!

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