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Cardio's Reign of Terror
In 1977 Jim Fixx published his first book, The Complete Book of Running. It sold more than a million copies, and at the time it was the bestselling nonfiction book ever published. With that one book, the whole cardio craze was unleashed. Since then, we have heard hundreds, if not thousands, of doctors, exercise physiologists, and fitness experts go on and on about all the benefits of cardiovascular exercise.
In 1981 I was living in London and was about to turn twenty-one. Determined to drop some weight (I just couldn't face that milestone birthday feeling so out of shape), I took up running. I was twenty pounds overweight and trying to quit smoking for the fifty-third time, so I used the running to offset the extra calories I feared I would be consuming when a cigarette wasn't in my mouth. I didn't gain any more weight, but I didn't lose any either. For months I was running every day for an hour to an hour and a half, for a total of about ten hours per week, and didn't lose an ounce. If you eat, eat, eat and run, run, run (or perform any form of cardio) as I did, at the end of the day, you won't lose any weight. Learn from my mistake, and don't blow ten hours a week exercising for nothing.
As running became more popular, high-impact aerobics was also hitting the scene. To relieve some stress and try to get rid of the extra pounds (since the running didn't work), I took up high-impact aerobics, still convinced that cardio was the key to weight loss. One Saturday the teacher did not show up for the eight a.m. high-impact aerobics class. About a hundred of us, mostly overweight regulars, stood around for fifteen minutes until I said, "If someone can find a tape, I'll teach." I had the routine memorized, which is never a good thing (as you will soon learn), so up I went to teach the class. Since the teacher didn't show up for the nine o'clock class either, I taught that one as well.
After that class, the manager of the club approached me and asked if I wanted a job as an instructor. I asked what the offer was and he said, "You get four dollars an hour plus a free membership." So began my career as an aerobics instructor.
From that day on, my doomed relationship with cardio was official. Okay, I want to be honest. I am a recovering cardioholic. I have been "clean" for many, many years, and continue to stay as far away from straight cardio as possible, and I'm in the best shape of my life! But for quite a long period of time, I, too, was adamant that cardio was the key to weight loss. Boy, was I ever wrong.
Here is the rest of my history with cardio, which I refer to as the Karas Cardio Rap Sheet:
I believed, like so many people, that working up a "good sweat" equates to a good, effective workout. Basically: More Sweat = Better Workout. This is a common misconception. As with everything else in life, we have to learn to work smarter, not harder, to get ahead.
In the past thirty years since the cardio craze has taken off, do you think Americans, on the whole, have lost weight? In 1987 there were 4.4 million treadmill users. By 2000 that number had exploded to forty million users -- more than a 900 percent increase. Consumers spend more on treadmills than any other home exercise equipment. Since 1980, the number of overweight Americans has doubled. According to Duke University, "Sixty-three percent of U.S. adults were overweight or obese in 2005, compared to 58 percent in 2001." Given that there are three hundred million Americans, that's an additional fifteen million Americans who became overweight or obese in just four years.
How can this keep happening?
It keeps happening because Americans continue to listen to the wrong advice. They want to believe that the answer to their problems is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other, but nothing worth accomplishing is that easy.
Copyright © 2007 by Jim Karas
The Body Weight Equation
Some people are shocked to learn that their present body weight is the function of every single calorie they have ever consumed minus every single calorie they have ever expended through metabolism and activity. Your body weight is simply the result of the following equation:
Calories In -- Calories Out = Body Weight
To be more specific:
Calories In (Food) -- Calories Out (Your Resting Metabolism and Activity) = Your Present Body Weight
We all know what food and activity are, but what is resting metabolism? Your resting metabolic rate is the number of calories that your body requires on a daily basis if you stay in bed all day, doing nothing. Approximately 60 to 70 percent of your daily caloric expenditure goes toward your resting metabolic rate. It includes the functioning of vital organs in your body (such as the heart, lungs, brain, liver, kidneys, and skin), temperature regulation, and -- most important to our discussion -- your muscles.
For years I have heard people say, "I can't lose weight because I have a bad metabolism." But according to Steve Smith, MD, an associate professor of endocrinology at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center of Louisiana State University, "The variation in resting metabolism is likely to be less than 3 percent. If two equally active thirty-eight-year-old women are both five foot five and weigh 130 pounds, one might have a resting metabolic rate of 1,800 calories and the other 1,854 calories." That's a difference of only 54 calories per day, about half of a medium-size apple. Guess what else? The more you weigh, the higher your basal metabolism. The heavier you are, the more your heart, lungs, liver, and so on have to work because of the additional size. So if you are overweight, realize you have a higher metabolism than you would have if you were lighter.
Gary R. Hunter, PhD, director of the exercise physiology lab and professor at the School of Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says, "Research shows that building and maintaining muscle can speed up metabolism." This research goes on to say that "muscle burns ten to twelve times the calories per pound each day that fat does -- you're boosting your metabolism not just during exercise but all day." If muscle burns ten to twelve times the calories per pound that fat does, and most research shows that fat burns 2 to 3 calories per pound per day, then muscle must burn between 20 and 36 calories per pound per day. Tufts University states that strength training has the potential to increase your metabolism by as much as 15 percent. If you go back to our example of a thirty-eight-year-old woman who is five foot five and 130 pounds and burns 1,800 calories a day resting, that 15 percent increase in her metabolism would translate to 270 extra calories burned (that's ten calories fewer than a full-size Snickers bar) each and every day.
Strength training is the key to weight loss because it is the only way to maintain and build lean muscle, which boosts your metabolism. Most women fear it because of the belief that it will make them big and bulky, but quite the contrary: Strength training will actually make you lean and incredibly sexy. Muscle is natural and aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and it is the key to weight loss. If you have this preconceived notion, then please flip to page 36, where I explain why "getting big" is simply not possible for women and should not be a concern.
In order to lose weight, you need to create a caloric deficit, which means you have to take in fewer calories than your body requires for metabolism and daily activity. Here is an example:
1,200 calories (food) -- 1,700 calories expended(metabolism and activity) = -500
That five-hundred-calorie deficit will force your body to use some of its own stored energy. Another word for stored energy is fat, of which 3,500 calories equals one pound. If you eat 3,500 more calories than your body requires, your body will store those calories as one pound of fat. If you create the caloric deficit of 3,500 calories, you will lose a pound. That's how you lose weight. A lot of other experts would lead you to believe it's more complicated than that, but it's just that simple.
There are four ways to achieve a caloric deficit:
1. Eat less.
2. Increase your activity.
3. Elevate your basal metabolic rate.
4. All of the above -- also known as The Cardio-Free Diet.
Looks pretty simple, doesn't it? But there is a long-term problem with how we have traditionally addressed the first two ways, and it is the reason Americans haven't been able to keep off the weight -- until now. The only effective solution is number four, The Cardio-Free Diet, because it incorporates all three ways to lose weight. Here is why any ...
The nutritional info is outdated but the rest of the book is OK. Caloric intake seems too low as well.Published 5 months ago by Mohammad Nezarati
It is an alright book, but it spends way too much time bashing people who take cardio seriously. It could spend more time focusing on encouraging workouts rather than bashing any... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Ellensburguy12
This is an interesting and worthwhile read. It talks about the importance of weight training in controlling weight and maintaining optimum health. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Sara Born
I love this book:) I have learned alot of useful information from it and will use it to change my LIFE!!!! Thank you to the author Jim Karas!!!!Published 10 months ago by MK
I like the idea that I don't have to kill myself with cardio. I've been lifting weights and comfortably walking or biking and seem to be able to maintain my weight. Read morePublished 11 months ago by sue montgomery
Went to weight loss clinic and they took me off cardio and put me on weights, with this book as a reference. Watching my diet and doing weights. Read morePublished 11 months ago by JoeM54
Nobody knows it all when it comes to physiology, but Jim Karas knows a lot and lets you know where he learned it. His method of weight loss will get resultsPublished 11 months ago by Robert A Parsons
I have been working with a personal trainer who trained me in a way that matches this book, but I didn't know why she would do things like keep adding repetitions until I hit... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Jane Saunders
Easy read - inspiring to not think about cardio.
Appealing, easy recipes.
Convenient weekly shopping list.
Workout diary. Read more