Here’s How Cardio Could Be Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Goals

Have you reached a point where you’ve hit a wall with your weight loss goals? If you’re getting frustrated that you can’t seem to lose weight no matter how much exercise you do, one reason could be your cardio workout. You might not be aware that your approach to cardio can either positively or negatively impact how much weight you lose. Here’s how cardio could be sabotaging your weight loss goals.

1. You’re overdoing it

Four young women jog with a dog.

Getting your cardio fix is great, but you don’t have to overdo it. | LarsZahnerPhotography/iStock/Getty Images

You might have heard that too much of a good thing can be bad for you. This also applies to cardio workouts. Doing too much can actually cause weight gain. The reason for this is because engaging in cardio workouts that are too long or too frequent can cause your body to break down your lean muscle mass, which is necessary for boosting your metabolism.

Obi Obadike, fitness expert and columnist for BodyBuilding.com, said it’s best to limit cardio to no more than 70 minutes at a time. “There’s no exact answer for how much cardio is too much. But if you’re not a distance runner, anything over 60 to 70 minutes per day is likely counterproductive,” said Obadike.

2. You’re only doing cardio

People at gym on elliptical bikes.

Cardio isn’t the only thing you should be focusing on. | MaxRiesgo/iStock/Getty Images

If you’re in a hurry to drop weight, you might reason cardio is the best thing to focus on. However, neglecting weight training is not a productive way to shed pounds. It’s a good idea to incorporate both cardiovascular exercise with weight training each week.

In addition, excessive cardio could put your heart health at risk. Research has found that too much cardio, such as marathon running, increases your risk for cardiac issues by seven times. Consequently, you could put yourself in danger of developing heart muscle scarring and a spike in cardiac enzymes in your blood.

3. You’re doing too much cardio and not eating enough

A woman's pink sneakers on a treadmill.

Your body can’t handle all that cardio without the right nutrition. | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

It’s important to eat enough food when you start any type of exercise routine. A balanced diet is essential to maintaining your overall health and reducing your risk of complications. Obadike said too much cardio is even more dangerous when your calorie intake is low. He said it’s important to consume an adequate amount of protein and calories to support the amount of calories you’re burning. “In order to build or maintain muscle, you need to eat enough food,” said Obadike.

4. You’re doing too much cardio and your diet is terrible

A woman runs on a treadmill while wearing workout gear in a gym.

You might be hitting the gym often enough, but you’re not taking care of your body. | Halfpoint/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Consuming enough calories isn’t enough. They have to be nutritious. And if you’re doing way too much cardio while consuming an unhealthy diet, you’re on the wrong path. You could derail your weight loss goals if you combine too much cardio with a horrible diet. “Abs are indeed made in the kitchen, not in the gym. Cardiovascular and strength training are definitely important, but come a close second to a healthy diet,” said health and fitness expert Traci D. Mitchell in her column for Chicago Now.  

5. You think you can do longer workouts if they’re not strenuous

A gym full of people working out on cardio machines.

Spending two hours on the elliptical won’t necessarily get you results. | Abbas Momani/AFP/GettyImages

Even if your marathon cardio routine is at a low or moderate level of intensity, it can still hamper your ability to lose weight. A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found those who participated in an extended low- to moderate-intensity workout suppressed an important hormone called T3, which helps burn fat.

6. You’re tacking on cardio to the end of your weight training sessions

Two people doing squats at the gym.

You don’t have to feel guilty about hitting the locker room after that power workout. | Vadimguzhva/iStock/Getty Images

If you’re looking for ways to make the most of your time, you might add a cardio session to the end of weight training. This might save time but it could negatively impact your weight loss goals. This is because it will make your total workout time longer.

Here’s what Dr. Natasha Turner had to say on her website:

Adding cardio to the end of a particularly taxing weight training session can cause a spike in your cortisol because the entire workout ends up being too long and stressful. For these reasons, I recommend you do your weights and cardio sessions at separate times. If you do wish to do them together, keep your cardio short.

7. Signs you’re doing too much

A woman sits on a medicine ball while wiping her face.

After you break a sweat, take a short break. | Funduck/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Whatever type of exercise you engage in, it’s best to maintain a healthy balance. Try not to do too much too soon. One of the telltale signs you’re doing too much is that you’re gaining weight despite eating a healthy diet. Another sign is if you notice that you’re more exhausted than usual and you feel worse after exercise. In addition, frequent gym injuries mean it’s time to press pause and reevaluate your routine.

8. Resources

Young woman smiling while wiping away her sweat.

A personal trainer can help you figure out how much cardio you really need. | Vlad Teodor/iStock/Getty Images

Here are some helpful resources to assist you with getting back on track with your weight loss goals:

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