$25 off your first order!

Is Regular Cardio Making You Fat?

Is Regular Cardio Making You Fat?

So I realize this will be a somewhat controversial topic, but if you read to the end, you might be shocked to learn how steady-state cardio can and just maybe causing you to put on weight!

Cardio directly will not cause you to gain fat, but there are situations where performing cardio in conjunction with other behaviors, will lead to unwanted weight gain and increased body fat.

It’s no secret that popular culture suggests that in order to lose weight cardio is the way to go!

But truth be told, it’s never what you do, but how you do it that determines the inevitable result or lack thereof as it relates to your fitness goals.

If cardio is performed at a leisurely pace where you can comfortably text, read social media or have a conversation with the person on the machine next to you, probability suggests your heart rate will not be elevated high enough to burn the number of calories needed to help create a calorie deficit.

* 220 – your age divided by .70 *

This formula gives you your unique fat-burning zone.

That’s where your heart rate should be during every cardio session. Clearly, the longer you’re in that range, the more advantageous and conducive to your fat loss goals.

…the easiest way to monitor your heart rate is via those little metal grips on your favorite cardio machine that you’re probably not using. 🙂

Check-in every few minutes by gripping those handles to ensure your heart rate is where it needs to be in order to keep moving toward your weight loss goals.

Remember, our bodies will burn calories whether doing cardio or while at rest – obviously the more intense our cardio session, the more calories we burn. But if you’re not physically challenging yourself while doing cardio and aren’t getting the results you want, this may be part of the issue.

So how exactly does cardio make you fat?

Here are some key bullet points referenced from the late exercise and nutrition expert, Charles Poliquin and the Poliquin Group’s editorial staff:

  • In a 2011 review by Boutcher, we learned that “the effect of regular low-intensity cardio exercise on body fat is negligible.” High-intensity interval training has been proven to be far more effective for weight loss.
  • Over the long-term, if proper macronutrient intake isn’t consumed or monitored, cardio could lead to a loss of lean muscle tissue – which leads to a slower metabolism and lowers resting metabolic rate. As a result of having less muscle, your body will now burn fewer calories naturally over the course of a 24-hour period. So if one were to NOT reduce caloric intake at the same rate, fat gain may IMMEDIATELY occur. Staying consistent with a healthy meal plan along with a sound exercise routine will have positive effects on the body’s metabolism and help stimulate fat loss, should a calorie deficit be present.
  • In another compelling study, a meta-analysis of 493 subjects concluded that changing one’s diet plan was “far superior” in efficiency, duration, and sustainability in reducing body fat in overweight people than traditional cardio without a dietary change.
  • The body adapts quickly to repetitive, low-intensity cardio where the body uses the least amount of oxygen and energy to perform the greatest amount of work. Clearly, this does not promote fat loss.


When beginning a cardio routine, start with the minimum amount necessary.

3 days a week for 20 minutes, or set a calorie-burning goal, post resistance training both are great places to start.

When consistently paired with the proper nutrition, specifically a healthy, high protein meal plan, you can expect to see significant results.

Making incremental changes to your diet and workout/cardio routine is the best way to make continued progress, avoid plateaus, and actually enjoy the process!

Keep things fresh…

Alternate between the treadmill, elliptical, Stairmaster, bike, or take it outdoors for a walk/jog.

…and if fat loss is your ultimate goal, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not incorporating High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) into your routine. You can learn more about HIIT here.

But most importantly, to burn fat, be healthy and feel amazing, the absolute most important thing you need to do is to follow a structured, healthy, high protein, low carb meal plan.

As glorious as it would be to be able to just exercise and eat whatever we want, sadly, that’s just not how this works. Nutrition matters and impacts every area of our being…

This is the mistake so many people make as they either have terrible eating habits and think the gym will offset that fact…

Or they know they should be eating well, but are terribly inconsistent with the execution, or don’t have the time/energy/knowledge to stick with healthy eating.

If you’re getting your cardio and workouts in, but have a tough time with meal prepping and staying consistent with the diet, we can help…

Our healthy meal delivery service takes all the stress and guesswork out of meal prep! Our macro-friendly meal plans are made using ingredients that tell a story of health wellness and optimal human performance.

We use Grass Fed beef, organic produce humanely raised, antibiotic/hormone-free poultry, organic fruit, and more!

Whether your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or just be healthier, our delicious, healthy meals delivered to your door will make the process of crushing your nutrition goals seamless!

We have helped 75,000+ people change their lives through our proven system…

If you want to be next, click here and let us help you make it happen!

Client Transformations

Enter your email to access the promo code

New Client Special!

$25 Off

Enter your email to receive your code

We’ve helped 75,000+ people get in the best shape of their life. Ready to join them?!