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This 'fat loss pyramid' makes no sense to me

(28 Posts)
MorrisZapp Sun 16-Jun-19 08:47:11

I've seen this graphic many times on weight loss boards. Obviously it's saying that nutrition is more important than exercise, which I understand.

But I don't get the current obsession with demonising cardio. If cardio is the least important part of weight loss, then how can calorie deficit be the most important?

If it's really as simple as calories in versus calories out, and cardio burns hundreds of calories, then surely for those doing cardio, it's as important as what we're eating?

I've lost a stone and a half since January, and my twice weekly long runs have been a key part of this. How could a six hundred calorie spend be less important than my protein macros? It smacks of a fad to me.

When you strip away the modern obsessions with weights, macros etc most women know fine well that they lose weight best by cutting food intake and upping exercise.

OP’s posts: |
emmaluggs Sun 16-Jun-19 08:55:43

I think it depends on the aim and kind of physique you want.

Lifting weights does preserve muscle mass which burns more calories, therefore easier to maintain calorie deficit. For me lifting weights changed my figure a lot quicker than cardio alone, but the scales moved a lot slower, but the visual changes were a bigger motivator for me than the scales.

Lougle Sun 16-Jun-19 09:05:40

People mistakenly think that they can 'work off their food'. A 10st person, running for 30 minutes, will burn 318 calories. A Costa Coffee triple chocolate muffin contains 537 calories & a large latte contains 274 calories. That's 811 calories on a 'snack', so you'd have to run 1½ hours to burn that off, before you started on your daily food.

They are just saying that common adage that 80% of dieting is in the kitchen and only 20% in the gym.

SisterMaryLoquacious Sun 16-Jun-19 09:06:54

The theory, as I understand it, is that cardio only burns calories while you’re doing it, and if you do it in moderation then your body tends to preserve energy for the rest of the time so it may even be calorie neutral (though still very good for you).

Weights on the other hand lead to changes in your body that burn more calories 24 hours a day.

No personal expertise, but that’s the theory.

LaurieFairyCake Sun 16-Jun-19 09:35:07

Yeah. I went on a hard 10 mile hike and ate a cream tea at the end of it.

So calories in and out were the same and I'd spent 5 hours walking!

MorrisZapp Sun 16-Jun-19 09:39:10

Well obviously when dieting I don't eat back my running calories! Because I want a deficit.

Six hundred calories neutralises everything I eat after lunchtime.

I love weights too but I don't sweat in body pump class, and running builds lower body muscle anyway. In an ideal world I'd do both, but with DS at home I can't go to the gym more than twice a week.

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Loopytiles Sun 16-Jun-19 09:50:15

Whatever you’re doing sounds good for you, congrats on your weight loss!

If you don’t sweat in body pump, suggest upping your weights! If you can do this without pain.

I stopped doing body pump six months ago because I could no longer make the times, feel weaker in upper body, which was never great to start with grin Weights also good for bone density.

I have exercised lots for several years now and feel really well for it, physical and mental health, but haven’t lost weight as I have food issues to address.

Loopytiles Sun 16-Jun-19 09:51:47

For example, for me, a 50 min cardio class burns around 380 cals. Not that much.

DH runs well and burns 1000+ calories a run envy

WhoAteMyNuts Sun 16-Jun-19 11:54:35

I think far too many people go 'well I have done an exercise class or walked for an hour so I can now eat all these things and lose weight'.

I am starting to do some cardio and strength training to tone up rather than lose weight. The weight loss for me comes down to sensible eating rather than exercise.

PlinkPlink Sun 16-Jun-19 12:13:17

It's absolutely fantastic that you have lost your weight with cardio. But it's not about demonising cardio at all. It's just saying it's not as effective as weights.

A calorie deficit is the bog standard way to lose weight. If you take out exercise, you can still lose weight with a calorie deficit.

Protein is harder for the gut to digest. It makes you feel fuller for longer reducing cravings. It helps with the repair and regrowth process meaning you build muscle instead of burn it.

Muscle needs 3 to 4 times more calories to maintain it. Therefore just building muscle means you are burning calories not just during your workout but long after. If you're not careful and eating too little protein, you get atrophy (muscle wastage).

If you're not sweating whilst you're doing weights, you're doing it wrong. Up the weights and then sweat like mad. Weights should be heavy and hard, your limbs should be barely working by the time you're finished with them.

Cardio is at the top because out of all of those before it, it is the only one that just burns calories whilst you do it. You burn your calories for your 20 min treadmill run and that's it. It doesn't continue after therefore can be regarded as least effective out of those options.

Your body many be one of those that loves cardio (mine does not) and if it works for you, that's great. Cardio is still included in the pyramid. It is still important. It is still used for weight loss. So it's not demonised.

Runmoreorless Sun 16-Jun-19 12:19:46

I think it's because for most people cardio burns very few calories. Running is the exception, an average jog burns around 600 calories in an hour but an hours' easy cycling or swimming will only be around 200. A hard spin class is hardly worth the bother if the aim is weight loss, although it will bring other benefits

Loopytiles Sun 16-Jun-19 15:19:29

An issue with upping weights, especially in a group class such as body pump rather than with a PT, is that if you have poor form, eg squatting, clean and press, or weaknesses (eg from a desk job, or sedentary lifestyle) you could hurt yourself.

ChocOrCheese Sun 16-Jun-19 15:29:03

I take issue with the position of sleep - which to me should be right there above calorie deficit. As for cardio - I spent 12 years wasting my time on a treadmill most days. It was only when I started doing HIIT and weights and cardio via things like boxing that I made any noticeable difference through changing only my exercise habits. My PT used to love making me go on the rowing machine and row 10 calories. I thought he was joking at first - but 10 miserable calories is hard work.

SanusVivere Mon 17-Jun-19 00:36:06

Hi MorrisZapp. This kind of thing really makes my industry look bad. The only thing it got right, is calorie deficit is the most important part of weight loss. The rest doesn't matter as much, if that isn't right 1st. The order it's put in, doesn't make any sense at all, as it absolutely depends on the individuals secondary goals (some want to lose fat and look good, law fat and get stronger, lose fat and get fitter etc) I long for the day when diet experts stick to giving diet advice and leave the physical needs to us. Any questions, feel free to ask

Unburnished Mon 17-Jun-19 11:57:05

@SanusVivere can you answer a question that nobody else seemingly can? For a 50 year old 5'6" woman who weighs 10 stone, with a body fat level of 25, what hand weights and kettle bell weights would you recommend?

Everytime I look or ask for this information, I get "well, it really depends on you and what you want to do and how you work out and what your goals are ..." It's so frustrating.

I currently use 3KG weights and have done for a couple of years now, 3 times a week (3 sets of 10 reps, triceps and biceps) but my arms leave a lot to be desired still. I daren't invest in a kettle bell for the same reason.

dontdoubtyourself Mon 17-Jun-19 12:50:50

I could be wrong but with cardio doesn't your body become more efficient and burn less calories while you do it so you have to keep upping the amount of cardio which isn't really time efficient?

KirstyVal Mon 17-Jun-19 15:45:44

I understand all of this but maybe it also just comes down to what works for the individual person and build?

I don't ever lift weights and only do cardio and I've lost over 4 stone.

For me, the biggest factor is a healthy diet - so cutting calories there. If I've sat down all day, I will eat fewer calories and be very aware of what I'm eating.

On a more active day, I won't be as strict about the calorie deficit.

I try to do intensive cardio - 3 times a week at most. Usually, it's just twice a week so 2 hours in total!

And it works for me. However, everyone is different.

I tend to build muscle quite easily, especially on my legs (ex Irish dancer!) and now really like the leaner look I have.

So generally tend to stay away from too many lunges and leg work and concentrate on my upper body and cardio.

I have toned arms but I don't lift weights, I do a body combat class so lots of punching which seems to have toned them up just as well! So if you're not into weights, a body combat exercise class is always a good alternative and helps to build muscle!

MrsTerryPratchett Mon 17-Jun-19 15:55:05

I could be wrong but with cardio doesn't your body become more efficient and burn less calories while you do it so you have to keep upping the amount of cardio which isn't really time efficient?

Well with running you can up the speed rather than the time. And incline if you run indoors. I tend to note my heart rate and adjust accordingly.

The calorie deficit thing, I've been lo-carbing recently and I very much doubt the deficit is as much as when I eat carby low calorie. But I'm losing more and feeling better. But sleep is massively important as you crave carbs and sugar when you're tired.

MorrisZapp Mon 17-Jun-19 16:02:13

The deficit is the only thing that matters, the rest may or may not help you get there. How can 600 calories eaten by me be crucial, but burned in cardio be irrelevant?

It's either in v out or it isn't.

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SisterMaryLoquacious Mon 17-Jun-19 16:14:45

The problem is that if you burn 600 calories in 1 hour’s cardio there’s a fair amount of evidence that homeostatic systems may kick in to bring your energy consumption down in the other 23 hours. The mechanisms aren’t completely clear but they include the bleeding obvious - (being knackered), and much more subtle metabolic changes. Not everybody’s body will respond the same way of course, and cardio is undoubtedly worth doing for a whole host of health reasons, regardless of weight loss. But generally speaking, if you have a normal TDEE of 1,800 calories, and you eat 1,800 calories and do an additional 600 calorie run then you won’t achieve a 600 calorie deficit.

SanusVivere Mon 17-Jun-19 16:25:10

@Unburnished I am not sure what you're asking. From what you've written, I already know that 3kg dumbbells just aren't cutting it for you anymore (haven't for nearly 3 years tbh) unless you just use them to add a little resistance to your fitness workout. I need more information before I can give further advice

Unburnished Mon 17-Jun-19 18:37:57

Sorry SanusVivere. What I meant was, what is a good weight to lift to get definition and tone without bulk (I bulk easily).

dontdoubtyourself Tue 18-Jun-19 07:52:53

If 3kg isn't working try 4s for a few months then 5s etc

langkaw Tue 18-Jun-19 12:01:53

@Unburnished there needs to be progression with weightlifting. You should be increasing the weight or the rep range, or number of sets/length of rest period. The last rep has to feel nearly impossible to stimulate any muscle growth.

Weightlifting has been a total game changer with me. Most sensible decision I ever made was to start lifting heavy at 40.

langkaw Tue 18-Jun-19 12:03:43

@Unburnished the weight depends on the exercise, your strength and rep goals. You have to be able to execute the rep with perfect form too or there's no point.

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