For many women, when fitness results begin to plateau or they want to accelerate weight loss, adding a few more sessions of cardio a week is what they think will bring them the results they are looking for.
The truth is, adding in more cardio is rarely the best solution for this situation. More often than not, there are bigger, more important issues that need to be addressed before tacking on more cardio. The good news, however, is that once you can make progress on those more important things, you will very likely see better results than an additional session of cardio alone could have provided.
When talking about cardio in this case, we are referring to moderate-intensity cardio, or a steady state of cardio, in which your heart rate is between 120 to 140 beats per minute for the duration of the activity.
There is certainly a place for moderate-intensity cardio in most workout regimes; however, like in most cases in life, more isn’t always better when it comes to cardio and fat loss. When you are using cardio as a tool for fat loss, there comes a point of diminishing returns when you do more than what is necessary to simply elicit the desired result.
The biggest response that most experience with too much cardio is increased stress on the body and the body will respond to that added level of cortisol the same way it would to any other added stressor placed on an individual. A few signs that you may be experiencing too much stress from cardio include stalled progress, increased appetite, disrupted sleep, and digestive track troubles to name a few.
When it comes to fat loss, there are a several things that will impact your results far more than adding more cardio will.
Some of these include eating in a caloric deficit, getting ample sleep, incorporating more non-exercise movement, such as taking the stairs, walking, and scheduling in more movement breaks into your day, and prioritizing strength workouts into your weekly routine.
Remember, moderate-intensity cardio has its place, but keep in mind it has a point of diminishing return for fat loss. Be sure you have a solid handle on your sleep, eating habits, and daily movement before resorting to more moderate-intensity cardio. Tackling these foundational factors is what will allow your cardio (and strength workouts for that matter), to bring you the biggest fat-loss payoff.