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Cardio… PART II

~ From Dr. Chris Cherubino, Chiropractic Physician, Cherubino Health Center, ~

Build strength first!

Last week, I raged about cardio and this week I would like to give you an example of why cardio is not only useless and time-consuming as a way to lose weight and get fit, but why it is potentially harmful to your metabolism…

A little background info first, when I say “metabolically active tissue” I’m talking about muscle. Muscle, as opposed to fat, does work, so it requires calories to use it. The amount of muscle a person has drives his/her metabolism.

I would like to be clear, though, I am not grouching at people who want to run marathons, climb mountains, or complete triathlons. Those activities are incredibly difficult and completing one is a great accomplishment. But to those of you who are trying to use massive amounts of cardio as a means of weight-loss… it’s not particularly efficient.  Here’s why…

  • The traditional idea of losing weight is that you need to be eating fewer calories than you spend to be alive. Doing cardio uses up some of those calories, putting you into a “calorie debt”. For the sake of explaining this, let’s use some nice round numbers. Let’s say you need 2000 calories to do your life in this example (that number is called TDEE–total daily energy expenditure). The cardio you do is giving you a 300 calorie per day debt.


  • Over the course of your cardio plan, you will begin to lose weight. You think, “yay! all this cardio is paying off!” Unfortunately, this is not totally true. While you were doing all that cardio, you WERE losing weight… but a lot of that weight was muscle. Let’s pretend you’ve been doing this for a month. At the end of that month, you might have lost 6 pounds. What you’re not seeing is that probably 4 of those pounds were muscle, since muscle is a better source of fuel than fat is from your body’s perspective. That means that you have four pounds less metabolically active tissue to keep eating calories for you and your metabolic rate has gone DOWN! Let’s say that your TDEE is now 1700 calories. Most people cannot keep up with a cardio plan like this for very long, so let’s say you stop doing that cardio for a week or so and keep eating normally. You’re eating 2000 calories per day, which would have been your TDEE before, but because of the muscle you lost, you’re eating 300 calories over your TDEE now!


  • Most people choose one of two options here, neither of which makes much sense. 1. Go back to the gym and do EVEN MORE cardio. or 2. reduce the number of calories you take in to below your new TDEE. Either way, you’re pushing the cycle of your metabolism getting slower and slower while you’re doing more and more work, either in the form of restricting and planning food or in the form of hours and hours of time-wasting cardio.

Now let’s look at a better scenario. Your TDEE is 2000 calories per day. Instead of doing anything on or near an elliptical or treadmill, you hit the weights. Over the course of the month, your weight stays exactly the same, but your body fat percentage goes down a couple points. Now, your TDEE is 2300 calories and you are in a calorie debt just by being alive, without changing anything about your food. Additionally, because you’re building muscle, your body looks shapelier and your heart has been getting conditioning from pumping extra blood into your exhausted muscles. As you continue with this strengthening plan, you can eat more food and still lose fat and have better cardiovascular strength as you go. Win-win-win!


If you’re struggling to figure out how to start a plan or want advice about training, contact the center and we can get you started on the right path.


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