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Ted Talk 208: Do You Really Need To Do Cardio To Lose Weight?

One of the most talked about subjects in the fitness industry is this: Cardio and fat loss.

So you might be wondering what is the best workout for fat loss? What should you do if you’d like to lose weight in a healthy and effective way?

I bet the first thing that comes to your mind is cardio — heart-pumping, sweat-inducing cardio like running, cycling, or swimming. And it’s not your fault. The fitness industry has been spreading this fitness myth for a long time.

The good news is that recent research can answer these questions.

In this Ted Talk episode, Ted will be revealing the most effective exercise to burn fat fast and the best guidelines for cardio. Plus, he will share the best way to exercise for overall health while keeping your brain sharp. The best part of all this info is backed by science and his 20 years of coaching thousands of people, so no fluff or BS. Listen Now!


You’ll learn:

  • Can I just do cardio to lose weight?
  • Ted’s client’s experience with cardio
  • Is it possible to exercise frequently and don’t lose any weight?
  • What is the basal metabolic rate?
  • What type of exercise can stimulate your appetite
  • Guidelines for cardio training
  • How to use cardiovascular training as an effective tool for your overall health
  • How to lower your stress levels with cardiovascular exercise
  • This is how to exercise to sharpen your brain
  • And much more…


Links Mentioned:  

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Related Episodes:  

Ted Talk 205: Zone 2 Cardio For Fat Loss: Beneficial Strategy Or Bad Idea? 

Ted Talk 173: Why Are Weights Better For Fat Loss Than Cardio? – Ask Ted 

500: Zone 2 Heart Rate Training: Cardio Exercise for Longevity and Performance with Ted Ryce 


Links Mentioned:

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Podcast Transcription: Do You Really Need To Do Cardio To Lose Weight? 

Ted Ryce: Have you ever wondered if cardio is necessary for burning fat? Maybe you saw someone say that on social media, some influencer. Perhaps you've read it in the past that to really burn fat, you've got to do cardio or maybe even HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training.

So today we're going to answer the question: Do you need to do cardio to burn fat? Is it a necessity? Where does it fit into a fat-burning program? Because I run a body transformation, which is really body fat, a loss, right? I don't even like to call it weight loss, although that's what most people resonate with. So where does it fit in? How do I use it? And what does the research say?

If you're interested in the answers to those questions and more, you’re in the right place. What is up, my friend? I’m Ted Ryce, your host. I am the coach to busy professionals and business owners who want to lose fat and to do it in an accelerated, but healthy and sustainable way.

So I'm a bit of an expert on this. And I get this question a lot. And not only are we going to talk a little bit about the research, but I'm going to tell you about the experience that my clients have when we play around with cardio. So, let's start off like this. Let's say you want to lose fat and you see yourself in the mirror, you're not happy with what you see, you’ve got a little roll around the midsection or whatever it is.

And you're like, “Okay, here's what I'm going to do, I'm going to go to the gym and start doing cardio, and I'm going to do, let's say an hour a few times a week, or I'm going to do 30 minutes every single day.” What happens to that person? Well, it depends on how active they were before.

Now, if you're just a couch potato, or an office potato. We’ve stopped talking about couch potatoes. But really, we're all sitting down, even me, I'm recording this right now and sitting down. We're all like really office potatoes, office chair potatoes.

And if you go from doing really, really low activity—because none of us are completely, completely sedentary. But if you go from like a very sedentary life, to doing cardio, you might see a change, but it's not going to be much. Unless you're really out of shape and really a few years behind on your workouts, you might see a change.

Why? Because here's what we know, it's much easier to cut 500 calories out of your nutrition plan than it is to burn 500 calories through exercise, whether that's cardio or weightlifting. So if you're not addressing your nutrition, that can be a huge problem. If you're just going into the gym, and trying to burn it off. A lot of people don't see any results at all.

And if you're really crazy, like some of my clients, and I mean that in a loving way, because I used to be there... I've had clients that were going to Orange Theory, which is a High Intensity Interval Training class, I'm not really familiar with the exact protocol that they do. But I have clients going five days a week, or had clients who were going five days a week before they started working with me, they didn't even lose one pound.

So it's possible that you do five days a week of exercise and not lose any weight at all. It's totally possible. In fact, it's common. And I want to ask you, does that resonate with you? Have you ever experienced that? How the hell does that even happen? And a lot of it is— it's summed up like this: if you eat back the calories that you burn, you don't lose weight. It’s as simple as that.

I'll say that again, if you back the calories you burn through exercise, you don't lose weight, you don't lose fat. So let's say that you're a little bit smarter than that person. Okay, you're a little bit—not smarter, but I'm not trying to insult anybody here.

But let's say you’ve got a better strategy, you're like, “Hey, I know I’ve got to lower my calories.” So, maybe you start tracking because you know the other ways are not that sustainable, and you lower your calories that way. But even if you were to go on a low carb diet and lower your calories through reducing your carbs or lower, go on a low-fat diet and lower your calories through reducing fatty foods, or do like a paleo diet where you reduce processed food and lower your calories outweigh. Let's say you do that.

And let's say you do cardio, and you're not lifting weights, you're doing cardio, but you know you're dialing in your calories, you know you're in a bit of a calorie deficit, because you're been listening to this podcast and you know that you’ve got to be in a calorie deficit, if you want to lose the weight, and specifically, the body fat.

So, what happens? Well, we have research on this. And the research is quite clear that about 25% of the weight that you lose, if you're on a calorie-restricted diet doesn't matter what type and you're doing cardio, about 25% of the weight that you lose, will be muscle.

So, let's say you lost 10 pounds in three months, and all you did was reduce the calories in your diet in some way and do cardio, 2.5 of those pounds would be muscle, but you're 10 pounds down and you're feeling good. The problem is, it's going to be harder to stay there because it's not that muscle burns more calories than fat, it does. But having a higher weight, keeps your metabolism higher, keeps your basal metabolic rate higher.

I'll say that again. The bigger your body, regardless of if it's fat or muscle, by the way, the higher your resting metabolic rate. Doesn't that make sense? What burns more energy at a stoplight, a big truck or a Sedan? A truck, why? Bigger engine, more moving parts, it's a V8 or V10, or whatever, compared to a V4 or V6, more moving parts, more energy is needed, it's heavier, to get it down the block a mile is going to take more gas than to get the Sedan the same length.

So your body's not a car, but the analogy is still relevant here. It takes more fuel to keep a bigger body running and to move it around. So if we can just replace or do a body composition where we're replacing—it's not really that you're replacing the fat but lowering the fat mass but while raising muscle, you can eat more food, and you'll also look better.

So this is the issue with cardio in a fat loss program. And if you're saying, “man, you're just telling me not to do cardio, it seems like you’re really anti-cardio.” I'm not. Cardio is a tool. And we're going to talk about what it's good for, okay? we're going to talk about what it's good for.

But what I'm trying to tell you is that the evidence is really strong, both in research and in actual experience as a coach for 23 years working with people in this stuff, that cardio is not an effective way to lose body fat, even if you put it with a calorie-restricted diet.

So, nutrition is number one, if you can't sit on your butt for a week and lose fat... This is what I do with my clients; I test my clients, especially the ones that are really crazy with exercise. I don't do this with every client. But some of my clients, I'll tell them to take a week off because they've been crushing it in the gym. They're over… It's not overtrained, but they’re what you would call overreaching, is the exercise physiology term for it. And they could use a rest their joints are kind of achy. I tell them to take a week off.

And you know what, they lose weight, they lose pounds in one week, without exercise at all. And I'm not talking about super lean people, I'm not talking about you can see a six pack and you want to see an eight pack. I'm not talking about that. Although you could probably still do that.

But I'm talking about people who are really struggling to lose fat you're in the obese category, you're in the overweight category, you’ve got 20 pounds to lose before you're what would even be considered normal, and another 10 or 15, before you could really see like some serious definition on your abdominals for example. That's who I'm talking to here.

So cardio just isn't good for body fat loss, because we know that we could achieve much better results just by changing your diet and combining it with strength training, a proper strength training program. Not just any strength training program but using failure point training, which is where you work the muscle close to that point where you can't do another rep.

And also progressive loading, so in other words, every week you're trying to do a little bit more, whether that's adding another rep with the same weight on an exercise or maybe adding a little weight to an exercise. You're using failure point training and progressive loading. If you're doing that, that's the magic combination for body transformation; dialing in the nutrition and dialing in your workouts using principles.

Okay, so it sounds like I'm not a cardio fan. Let me tell you how I use cardio, because that's not true, I'm a huge cardio fan. Let's say that someone doesn't have much time, and they want to lose body fat, you better believe that we focus on nutrition, number one, because nutrition, for most people, it's the number one thing. Not for everyone, by the way.

That whole “abs are 90% in the kitchen and 10% in the gym”. That's not true. As you get leaner, you really have to dial in your workout more. but let's stay on track here, we're talking about you, you’e got some weight to lose, we're not talking about optimization, you've got a four pack or a six pack and you want to see an eight pack, okay?

We're talking about people can't see it's like, “I can kind of see the outline of my abs, I'm sure they're there, I just don't see them.” Okay, so that that level or up? And so where do we use cardio. So again, if someone's limited on time, nutrition is number one, strength trainings, number two. And strength training two to four times per week, depending on what the person is willing to do, at least two. And really, come on, if you're not doing three, yeah, three or four, let's say.

But let's say a person has more time, do you want to put them in the gym and have them lift more? It is an option for some people, but what I find is that I will squeeze in either walks are cardio. Some people hate cardio, they find it boring, I use it as a time to learn things. So I'm on the treadmill or on the bike—and I'm learning something, I'm listening to something.

And I'm always learning and listening to something, whether that's an audio book, or I joined a coaching program recently to grow my business. And I have a lot of trainings in that coaching program with a coach that hired to go through, I've got to watch these trainings. So I use cardio as the time to listen to the training. And if I’ve got to take notes, I'll go back and I'll take notes, but I like to listen to things because exercise cardio turns on your brain. In fact, it's a bit better for your brain, it seems than lifting. And this is again, where cardio comes in.

So if someone has extra time, and they feel good doing cardio, have them do cardio. Cardio is great for lowering the stress. Cardio is great for enhancing recovery in between strength training, cardio is great for sharpening your mind, it raises a hormone—or it's not a hormone, sorry, I'm not sure what it is actually, to be honest. But it's called brain-derived neurotrophic factor.

It might be considered more of a… I'm not sure if it's considered a hormone or not. But it's a protein, chemical, I believe that's secreted in your brain by your glial cells in your brain, not your neurons, but your glial cells, and it increases the number of neurons or brain cells that you have in an area of your brain called your hippocampus.

And what that means in English is that you've got a better memory, you've got better emotional regulation. Cardio also helps with stress, it helps improve circulation, it's great for a lot of things, it just isn't great for fat loss. You’ve got to use the right tool for the right job.

And cardio is the wrong tool, or let's say a sub-optimal to or a kind of a crappy tool for fat loss, if you're not putting it in along with strength training. Now, it can help if you do it in between strength training, but to be honest, sometimes it can stimulate people's appetite, they can end up eating more. We know that if you're super sedentary, that's not good for your appetite.

People who are not active, eat more, because their appetite is higher, let's say. So, one of the ways you can control your appetite is just by working out. We don't know why that is, maybe it's boredom, maybe it's some something else, I don't know. But sedentary lifestyles trigger appetite, from what the best research says.

And also, if you exercise heavily, it also stimulates appetite. Now, these are research studies done on groups of people, you have to test it for yourself. If you feel like, “Wow, you know, I've been doing a lot of cardio lately, I'm more hungry,” it may then be working against you to lose fat.

So these are all the things that you need to consider. These are all the things that I consider when I'm working with clients. If we start adding cardio in and their body stops changing, we might take it out. Or if they feel better by doing cardio, and they're feeling better psychologically, their stress levels are better and they're getting results, we’ll keep it in.

So, what am I saying here? What's the takeaway? Well, first you have to understand again, cardio isn't the right tool for the fat loss job. It's not a great tool for fat loss. It's an okay tool, and it can even be a tool that backfires. So those are the ranges; it can help, but it can also hurt by stimulating appetite.

Especially if you have a belief that, “Oh, I did cardio and can eat more food now,” very easy to eat back the calories because exercise just doesn't burn that many calories, it just doesn't, compare it to how easy it is to eat. You can eat back your calories really quick by having a slice of pizza, an ice cream bar, and you've eaten back your calories.

Cardio can help people who are stressed out psychologically. I want to give one example here, when I was going through the stressful situation... I know I've talked about it a lot, I hope you're not tired of hearing, but when my dad died last year—kind of still recent, and I feel like it's a good example.

I did cardio, I focused more on cardio. Why? Because it brought my stress levels down. That whole process was super stressful. I used it to bring my stress levels down. But guess what, I got fat, I put on some weight, I was eating emotionally put on some fat.

And it would have been better for my body had I been able to push myself with strength training. But strength training raises stress hormones, it can actually make you more stressed. Or high intensity interval training or doing Brazilian Jiu-jitsu or Muay Thai, it can make you feel worse, even though it's exercise, it can kind of make you feel burnt out, because the intensity raises stress hormones, whereas if you do like steady state cardio, it does not raise stress hormones, unless you do it for a really long time.

So if you're in a situation where you're super stressed, using cardio to bring down your stress levels to help get you through it, that might be a great use of cardio. Or I feel it's a great use of cardio, it can make you feel really good, and then back off on the strength training.

However, just don't expect your body to change much. Because the goal has shifted, hasn't it? It's gone from losing fat and looking good in your boxer shorts or bikini to managing the stress in your life, because your life is too stressful for whatever reason.

Those are different situations completely. So, it's important for you to understand the nuance here. And as a coach, I need to understand the nuance here, because if a client is really struggling with fat loss, because they're going through a tough time in their life…Let's say they're struggling, because they're stress eating and it's hard for them to push themselves in the gym with weights, we'll back off for a bit.

I've had clients where work with me for six months or nine months, and because we've gone through these periods of time where they needed to back off, the stress in their life was too much. So we started to focus on cardio because cardio helped them get through it, it makes them better able to regulate their emotions. It reduces feelings of stress, it gives you the runner's high, even if you're on a bike in the gym going nowhere.

So those are the nuances, and I want to ask you, what are you taking away from this talk today about cardio, about fat loss, about what cardio is good for, about what you're going through in your life right now? What's the big takeaway?

For a lot of people, I tell people, why do you think I asked you to hop on a call with me? Body transformation isn't right for everyone, you’ve got to make room for it in your life. And if you're too stressed out and feeling like you’ve got to do cardio all the time, then there's no room to shift over to weight training and trying to eat a caloric-deficit, you've got to make room for it.

So, there's no point in me working with that person unless they want only the psychological side of coaching and not the fat loss results at all. And it depends if I could even help them. What if the stress is coming from—they're in a job that they hate? Well, I'm not a career counselor.

What if the stress is coming from a divorce? What if the stress is coming from a relationship like a divorce? You’ve got to have enough space in your life to focus on body transformation or fat loss. So again, what do you take away from this? What's the big takeaway for you from today from this talk? How does it relate to your life? What does it bring up for you?

It can be based on something I said, can be something I said, or it can be something that you thought of while listening to this today, but what was it? And more importantly, how can you take that takeaway and turn it into action, so it isn't just learning because…

And here's a bonus tip: too many of us, we’re focused on learning. We think learning is learning, learning, learning, learning, listening to podcasts, reading articles, watching YouTube videos, reading books, when learning is actually watching a YouTube video, taking action on what you learned, listening to a podcast, applying what you learned in the podcast.

That is what actual learning is. So what can you take away from today's talk and make it actionable in your life? And that's what I want to let you go with, that's what I want you to take away from this call today, what matters to you and what you can act on.

And if you do feel like you have the space in your life, you have the emotional stability, you have the financial stability, you have the relationship stability in your life, and you're really trying to change your body and it's just not working and you like and resonate with my approach here, and you feel like your strategies and systems are just off, because getting in shape doesn't need to be that hard, you just need the right strategies and put them into systems into your life, book a call with me at legendaryifeprogram/apply. And that is it for today, folks, I hope you enjoyed this. Have an amazing weekend, and speak to on Monday.

Ted Ryce is a high-performance coach, celebrity trainer, and a longevity evangelist. A leading fitness professional for over 24 years in the Miami Beach area, who has worked with celebrities like Sir Richard Branson, Rick Martin, Robert Downey, Jr., and hundreads of CEOs of multimillion-dollar companies. In addition to his fitness career, Ryce is the host of the top-rated podcast called Legendary Life, which helps men and women reclaim their health, and create the body and life they deserve.

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