Why Cardio Doesn’t Work for Fat Loss

by Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS on March 11, 2009 · 7 comments

By Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
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Cardio exercise is such a strange thing. In theory, it should work so perfectly well for all men and women, but as anyone who has tried it knows, the practicality of it just doesn’t add up.

After all, some men and women do cardio 6 hours, 9 hours, or more per week, and still have belly fat to burn. On the other hand, it works just fine for others.

British researchers wanted to get more insight into this paradox, and studied 35 overweight men and women, who weren’t previously exercising.

(Reference: International Journal of Obesity 32: 177-184, 2008).

Subjects exercised 5 times per week for 12 weeks. That’s a lot of exercise, but it helped the subjects lose an average of 8.2 pounds, which is great – I was positively surprised by the results.

So cardio will work for some people, however, in my experience, it works best in young men, who need the help the least!

Back to the study, the variance in fat loss between individuals was huge. Check this out…

The best subject lost a staggering 32.3 pounds in 12 weeks, while the worst subject actually GAINED 3.74 pounds.

The scientists think they know where things went sour. They classified the subjects into 2 groups, called the “Compensators” and the “Non-compensators”.

The Compensators were hungrier, and as a result consumed an extra 268 calories per day, all but wiping out their cardio efforts.

Therefore, the Compensators lost the least amount of weight, and scientists believe that was due to the huge “compensatory” increase in appetite experienced by this group.

Does your appetite increase when you do slow cardio? If it does, research shows it will ruin your cardio efforts.

So if your cardio program is not working for you, check your appetite and calorie intake to see if you are “compensating” for your efforts. If you are, you might be better off using a program of high-intensity resistance and interval training (i.e. Turbulence Training) for your weight loss efforts.

As Australian Professor Steve Boucher has shown in research, interval training increases hormones called catecholamines. And increased catecholamines can reduce appetite, among other fat-burning benefits.

In the real world, few people lose 33 pounds after 12 weeks of cardio. Heck, few even achieve an average weight loss of 8 pounds with aerobic exercise.

So again, check your appetite, and consider giving high-intensity exercise a go for your next workout program.

Beat the curse of cardio with high-intensity Turbulence Training.

About the Author: Learn about the “Dark Side of Cardio” in the free report from Craig Ballantyne at www.TurbulenceTraining.com. Craig is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit www.TurbulenceTraining.com

[Editor’s Comments: Before a serious motorcycle accident in November 2008 severely limited my upper-body strength training, I used many of the bodyweight exercise programs developed by Craig Ballantyne. I modified them for my own 3 – Minute Fitness Routine, but the core ideas were all Craig’s. These are the same routines I used to lose over 40 lbs.

I continue to use his lower-body routines to strengthen and tone my legs and midsection, although I now am limited to using lightweight resistance bands provided by my Physical Therapist to rehabilitate my upper-body. As soon as I am physically able, Craig’s program will be my first choice for a no-nonsense full-body workout. Craig is one of the premier personal trainers in the industry, and is truly a world-class fitness professional. If you are looking to radically improve your strength and fitness, and reduce fat at the same time, I highly recommend his Turbulence Training Programs.]

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Weight Loss Success March 12, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Cool blog, I just came across it and I’m already a fan
I recently shed 30 pounds in 30 days, and I want to discuss my weight loss success
with your readers. I described my experience
on my blog, and I would appreciate your comments!

If I can lose that much weight then anyone else can too. Whatever you do, don’t give up and you WILL
meet all your weight loss goals!
with kind regards,
Most recent blog post: gain muscle loss fat

2 Frank March 13, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Thanks for the awesome article! Cardio sucks! Strength training has always worked better for me when it comes to burning fat. Looking forward to your future articles.

3 Gayle Brantuk March 22, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Craig, I’ve been reading your articles on ETR for quite a while and they are always spot-on and very helpful. But… I’ve never seen a photo of you. Wow–you should use that more often. Very impressive… did I say wow?

Oh, nice dog–I have a Chocolate Lab, Buckshot who is my big (100#) baby!

4 Pete March 24, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Hi Gayle. Craig read your kind Comments and says “Thanks!”

Wishing you good health,


5 Pete March 24, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Thanks for your kind words. Congrats on your recent weight-loss success…that’s awesome!

Wishing you good health,


6 Pete March 28, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Thanks for reading Carrie!


7 Carrie March 28, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Very helpful info ! I will give it a try ! Love your website !

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