Article last updated: January 2020 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer
(1) Intense cardio is not required to lose weight. In fact, it’s a bad way to start out your weight loss. First, cardio only burns about 300-500 calories for each 30 minutes you do depending on intensity. That’s the equivalent of half a bag of chips. What’s easiest… Cutting out half a bag of chips or killing yourself with cardio? My point is that you should clean up your diet before you even think about stepping on the elliptical. Second, you have a limited amount of energy to train as an unconditioned beginner, and that limited energy is better spent on resistance training. Why? Because resistance training increases strength, builds muscle mass, improves your posture and prepares you for a real bodybuilding routine once you lose the chub. Also, a resistance training is all the cardio you need in the beginning. Third, intense cardio can make you very hungry. If you have problems controlling your appetite, the cardio will only make it more difficult. I know from my own experience that I want to each twice as much after a long cardio session compared to not doing it, so it’s simply not worth it. (In the 2011 picture I had been doing intense cardio for a year, it didn’t seem to work).
(2) It’s crucial to have regular refeed meals during weight loss to “reset” your endocrine system and thereby avoid hormonal imbalances. To keep it simple, imagine that you start with a testosterone level (muscle building hormone) of 1000, and for each day you diet it reduces by 50. In other words, at the start of day 4 it will be 850. When you have a large refeed meal at day 4 you reset the testosterone level to 1000. Alternatively, if you kept going to day 14 without a refeed it would have dropped to 350. That’s a BIG difference. Now, this isn’t a “real and scientific explanation”, but it’s a simple one that explains my point: when you diet down, testosterone levels decrease and over time that will result in muscle loss, loss in sex drive and potential slow-downs in metabolism. By having regular refeed meals you ensure that this negative effect is minimized.
(3) Dieting should never feel like “starving yourself”. You want to feel energized for most of the day, and go a bit hungry for a small part of the day. If you’re starving yourself for the majority of your diet, it means that you are in an unhealthy caloric deficit. An unhealthy caloric deficit results in muscle loss, significant reduction in testosterone levels (thereby making it hard to regain lost muscle mass once you diet down) and slowed metabolism. Besides that you will have no sex drive, be unproductive and think about food all the time. And finally, 90% of people who lose weight regain it within 2 years. Why? Because they use unsustainable fat loss methods that involve excessive cardio and extreme diets. Nobody can keep that up in the long run. Every time you think about using a program, think about it this way: Would you be able to keep this program up for the next decade? If not, it’s not a sustainable program for you.
(4) When you lose weight as an intermediate or advanced trainee, you will in +90% of cases lose some muscle size and strength regardless of how good your diet is. A good diet can help you maintain muscle mass and strength, but it will never have the same effect as putting steroids in your body (bodybuilders take hormones when dieting down to maintain optimal hormones for muscle building and maintenance). This is normal and explains why you look worse at the start of your diet. Once you shred down to your desired body-fat level and you start eating at maintenance again, you will regain all the lost size and strength in a matter of weeks, and look your best.
(5) When you lose weight, you will often lose it in the places you don’t want to lose it. For example, I lose my fat in my arms, shoulders, chest, back and calves before places such as love handles, glutes and hips. The truth is that I have never gotten to the point where I lost all the fat on my glutes and hips, however I have been able to get rid of +90% of my love handle fat to the point where I could sit down and have no love handle to pinch and lost about 50% of the fat in my glutes and hips. There’s nothing you can do to change the way your body loses fat (at least in the short-run). Just wait it out and eventually the places you want to lean out, will do so.
(6) If you really want to do cardio as a beginner, I recommend low-impact cardio such as walking, elliptical machine on moderate intensity or biking around the city. These types of cardio are easy and can be done in unlimited amounts and the calories they burn add up without impacting your energy for resistance training, your appetite or your joints. The worst forms of cardio you can do are anything related to running (even if it’s on a treadmill), because running has an enormous impact on your joints. Most runners live in pain in their late years because of all the beatings their knees have taken over the years. This is especially the case if you’re tall and skinny-fat with small ankles and light knees. Think about longevity, no cardio is worth messing up your body for.