Nothing to lose but your man boobs

Awhile I back I wrote a post, Most people in the gym are not even trying, about the relative merits of aerobic exercise (“cardio”) and weightlifting, and I expanded the theme into a book, Muscle Up.

But I have to admit that many people in the gym really are trying, they just don’t know how to go about achieving their objectives.

Most people are in the gym to lose fat

Face it, weightlifters (or other strength trainers) are in a different league. Usually except for some fine-tuning, most of us have gone beyond the need to lose weight and are trying to either build our bodies into the finest version we can achieve, or we understand the limits of aerobic exercise when it comes to health, muscle and bone strength and retention, and fighting the ravages of aging.

But with nearly 70% of the people in the U.S. either overweight (body mass index, BMI, ≥ 25) or obese (BMI ≥ 30), the prime objective of most of those in the gym or exercising elsewhere is to lose weight. Specifically, to lose fat.

Those people spend most of their gym time doing cardio, using treadmills, stair-steppers, cycles, and the like.

Aerobic exercise is the least effective thing you can do for fat loss, other than sitting at home on the couch. Looked at in terms of muscle, it could even be worse.

I genuinely feel sorry for fat people trying to lose weight by spending their time in the gym on the cardio machines. It’s a tragedy.

But they don’t know any better. Why? Because mainstream doctors and health advice constantly tell these people that they need to do steady-state aerobic exercise to lose fat.

This advice is tragically wrong.

In the years I’ve been lifting weights, most of the people I’ve seen never even touch a weight. They spend hours and hours in futile exercise and never have any results that I can see to show for it.

The story behind aerobics

The modern incarnation of aerobic exercise – activities such as running, jogging, walking, and those cardio machines – got going with the advocacy of Dr. Kenneth Cooper and his book Aerobics (1968). Cooper’s idea was that low-intensity, steady-state exercise done for relatively long periods of time is the key to good health, especially heart health.

Cooper was not wholly wrong. Exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health.

But Cooper was wrong about the type of exercise that’s optimal. Aerobics will do little to nothing for building or retaining muscle or strengthening bones, two points to which attention must be paid as we age.

More importantly, aerobics will do nothing or maybe worse for losing weight, unless the weight you want to lose is muscle. For fat loss, the only proven exercise program is resistance training.

Aerobics and low-fat eating

The promotion of aerobics bears similarities to the promotion of low-fat eating. Both began at about the same time, and both began just as the obesity epidemic was getting under way.

Both are ineffective at best for fat loss.

And both aerobics and low-fat eating are still the preferred forms of exercise and diet, respectively, that mainstream health sources promote today.

That they are still promoted heavily is the reason for all those people in the gym pursuing ineffective strategies like treadmill walking or other cardio.

In my opinion, the promotion of aerobics and low-fat dieting has gone on far too long, and they are harming people. Both may very well be connected to the initiation and prolongation of the obesity epidemic.

Losing fat is easy

I’ve written extensively about why aerobic exercise and low-fat eating are ineffective for fat loss (see links above). In brief, the idea that one should “burn calories” through exercise doesn’t make much sense, since you can always eat more than you’ve burned, and the retention and, better, the addition of muscle is crucial for fat loss and metabolic health. Low-fat eating doesn’t work because it leaves people hungry, and hunger always wins in the end. Low-carbohydrate eating has been shown to be much more effective for fat loss, in part because hunger is subdued.

How do you lose fat? It’s easy.

  • Cut out the sugar and refined carbohydrates. No sugar means no soda, juice, sweets, pastries; no refined carbohydrates means no bread, pasta, tortillas, bagels, breakfast cereal, etc.
  • Train for strength. Forget aerobics, lift weights with intensity. Add some high-intensity training.
  • Practice intermittent fasting, the world’s easiest weight-loss plan.
  • When you’re not fasting, eat a low-carbohydrate diet. Make sure to get enough protein and fat.

That’s about it. People get fat mainly through the constant eating of crap food, and they then compound this error by doing aerobic exercise.

Those poor people trying to lose weight

Those poor people doing cardio in the gym: what do they have to show for years of sweat on those machines? What do they have to show for assiduously following mainstream advice? For most of them, absolutely nothing. A sizable fraction have gained fat.

Imagine being a middle-aged man and having man boobs. Very embarrassing, humiliating even. You dedicate yourself to the best diet and exercise program you know of, and stick to it. Nothing happens.

You think there must be something wrong with you. You think maybe you’re not trying hard enough, that you’re weak and have little willpower. Maybe it’s your genes or hormones that are keeping you fat (you think).

If this man had just cut the junk out of his diet, started lifting weights, and threw in occasional bouts of intermittent fasting, he’d be golden. No more man boobs.

Aerobics and low-fat have passed their expiration date

At this point, aerobics and low-fat eating should be relegated to the ash heap of history.

Those who promote them are lying. They know, or should know, better.

We’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic, which they at least partly caused, and they double down.

Unfortunately for those people in the gym doing cardio to lose weight – it’s next to impossible to convince them that what they’re doing is all wrong. Such is the power of indoctrination.

If I pointed them to this article, almost none of them would read it, and fewer would change. So I guess there’s a limit to my sympathy. If you’re not willing to change, then there’s nothing I can do.

Forget cardio and low-fat eating, there’s a better way.
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Leave a Comment:

17 comments
JANovac says February 7, 2016

The only time I’ve witnessed cardio working to lose weight is in the nearly bulemic/anorexic with OCD. Then it works fine.

Now what I have seen that works well is lifestyle change, esp from car to bike commuting. That replaces a sloth activity with one that demands vigor. What is done daily, shapes lives far more efficiently than what is done an hour a day then off to a “normal” life.

That requires understanding society in the West is a death cult, filled with ease and comfort until they toss in the dirt at the end of a pain filled final 20 yrs

Reply
Dan says February 8, 2016

Dennis,

There is a place for cardio, but it’s for athletic performance rather than fat loss. Check out Joel Jamieson’s “Ultimate MMA Conditioning” or Steve House’s “Training for the New Alpinism” for a solid discussion of energy systems and the benefits of aerobic training for performance.

Reply
    P. D. Mangan says February 8, 2016

    OK, thanks Dan.

    PS: I quoted a study in my book regarding a group of recreational runners who did HIT. Their performance improved.

    Reply
Tuba says February 8, 2016

I have no issue with informed trade offs. If you do chronic cardio for “athletic performance” and know it will in time damage your health and you are willing to accept that trade off, then fine, do chronic cardio. I had a friend who became a vegetarian for philosophical reasons knowing it is a sub-optimal diet and would negatively affect his health, and has. It was an informed trade off. What is unacceptable is doctors (and the health rabble in their wake) promoting cardio and low fat as healthy when it is really sub-optimal. I think drinking a Big Gulp every day is a lousy way to live but if you 1) know it will ruin your health and 2) you don’t expect me to pay your medical hey bottoms up! Informed trade offs.

Reply
    P. D. Mangan says February 8, 2016

    Thanks, Tuba, I agree.

    Reply
Daniel F says February 8, 2016

Here’s an incident that sums up everything that’s wrong about American health and fitness: chronic cardio, carbs, trains fats, junk food and heart disease. All in one.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3436342/Man-58-dies-heart-attack-Krispy-Kreme-Challenge-makes-participants-run-two-half-miles-eating-dozen-doughnuts-running-back.html

Reply
    P. D. Mangan says February 8, 2016

    Sad.

    Reply
    Jokah Macpherson says February 8, 2016

    This race went right past my apartment and I watched the runners (pre-donuts) for 15 minutes or so. Surprisingly enough, the modal participant looked pretty fit – i.e. thin and reasonably strong – not skinny fat. Lots of cute girls.

    Nonetheless, I think probably it’s just that this sort of thing tends to attract younger people, especially college age, who like a little bit of crazy and can get away with occasional sub-optimal health habits.

    Reply
jrackell says February 8, 2016

O/T. Book titles for iron book:

1) Iron & Nutrition: Rusting away on the inside
2) Iron: Makes a Body Rust
3) Iron Law: Iron Kills

Reply
    simeon says February 9, 2016

    This is a great chance to do a pun on “Pumping Iron.”

    Reply
      Tuba says February 10, 2016

      Pumping Ions…

      Reply
      simeon says February 12, 2016

      Dumping Iron

      Reply
    Tuba says February 10, 2016

    Rustproofing…

    Reply
Tuba says February 24, 2016

Been going to the gym four years, three at Gold’s, one year at LAfit (changed ’cause to local Gold’s lost its lease…good, it had horribly loud muzak which the management was deaf to.) Gold’s had a lot of Steriod Sponges with bad tempers and flaring veins. LAfit is middle-class fat. Most of them are wasting their time: Plump Putz moves little constantly missing the hoop. Coed Chick does dozens of infinitesimal jumping jacks then moves to another part of the gym and does dozens more micro-jacks. Have not quite figure what that nonsense is all about… Blubber Businessman puts the stairs on crawl then reads the paper, Tread Mill Tessa does exercise but she runs so hard the machine pounds the floor painfully and you know by age 30 she won’t have any knee or hip joints worth salvaging… Every now and then you see a person in shape, and every now and then they are doing an exercise right, and usually that is in the weight section. It’s good that out-of-shape folks are going to the gym. It’s bad that they aren’t accomplishing much. And when you add contemporary fashion to out-of-shape bodies it’s visual pollution. Long shorts make tall men look short, long shorts make short men look like dwarfs, and fat anything in spandex makes one appreciate blindness.

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Tj.vice says March 10, 2016

If cardio dosnt make you lose weight, explain all the guys who come out of boot camp way down in fat…

If cardio dosnt work, then explain how I went from a 44 waist to a 34 waist when I started running everyday.

If cardio dosnt cause you to lose fat then why does pretty much every serious bodybuilder do steady state cardio when in a cutting cycle???

Blogs like this do nothing but spread mis-information.

Losing weight is nothing more than figuring out how many calories you burn each day and then going into a deficit.

If you took a bunch of fat people and had them only weight train and then eat only protine and fat they wouldn’t lose weight unless total calories were in a deficit.

If all you had to do was not eat carbs, why do pro body builders bother to meticulously count their calories?? Why wouldn’t they just not eat any carbs and then eat only fat and protein? Because that’s not how it works.

Reply
    P. D. Mangan says March 10, 2016

    Why do concentration camp inmates lose weight? It’s the calories!

    You’re a moron.

    Addendum: “Doesn’t” has an “e” in it.

    Reply
The Truth About Soy - Rogue Health and Fitness says May 23, 2017

[…] So cast off your chains, you have nothing to lose but your man boobs. […]

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