Do you feel like your metabolism is slow and getting even slower? Does it feel like your body just holds on to whatever you eat regardless of what it is? Do you find it easy to use your "slow metabolism" as a crutch to justify weight gain?
As an online fitness coach, I've participated in these conversations again and again, so I'd like to discuss it here. At some point or another, you've said 'yes' to one or more of the questions above. In fact, odds are that your feeling isn't just a feeling. Your metabolism might actually be slow and getting even slower.
And here's why.
Reason #1 - Too Much Cardio
"Too much cardio? I thought all that cardio is supposed to speed up my metabolism."
Yes, and no.
Increasing your heart rate will most certainly burn more calories but the long-term effect isn't the same. When you do cardiovascular activity in excess, your body adapts and slows down its metabolism in order to be more efficient. The human body does not understand losing fat and building muscle, especially when it comes to appearance. The human body understands survival.
Think of your body like a car, and your metabolism is its gas mileage. If you're given 50 gallons of gas to travel a really long way, the engine of a Ferrari wouldn't be great, because the car wouldn't be able to make 50 gallons last a really long time. So, therefore, the car gets to a point where it doesn't work (the body would starve and die).
In order to travel the distance and survive, the car would need to adapt and turn its gas mileage into something like a Prius. A Prius can make 50 gallons go a really long way. A more efficient metabolism can make calories go a really long way, too. Which is fantastic if your goal is to be efficient, or run a marathon. If your goal is to be lean and fit without sacrificing an enjoyable lifestyle, then that may not be so great. Having a Ferrari-like metabolism would be great for that type of goal, because your body would burn through a ton of calories without much effort, allowing you to eat more and take your feet of the cardio equipment.
This is why it is extremely important important to incorporate resistance training into your routine. The more muscle tissue your body has, the more calories your body burns at rest. Resistance training is the key to building that Ferrari-like metabolism.
Reason #2 - Not Enough Resistance Training
As discussed, resistance training can do wonders to improve your metabolism. BUT, not all resistance training is the same. In the context of building more lean mass in order to boost your metabolism, prioritizing a protocol that will improve your strength and promote hypertrophy would benefit you greatly.
Although, strength training isn't where all the muscle growth happens, it's extremely important to build strength and improve the capabilities of your central nervous system in order to move more volume when you are in a muscle building program. An increase in volume over time has been shown to promote the growth of muscle cells. Volume is the amount of pounds used in an exercise multiplied by the reps and sets. So, the more strength you have, the more weight you could be able to move in your sets, allowing your overall volume to increase, causing your lean mass to go up, making your metabolism burn through more and more calories.
Is Cardio Bad?
No, cardio is not bad at all. Cardiovascular activity can be very beneficial for your health and fitness. From improving heart health to burning calories and improving your endurance, cardio is a wonderful thing. However, if you want to have a sustainably lean body and an enjoyable lifestyle, it may be a better fit to rely on your body automatically burning tons of calories, rather than having to rely on cardio every day.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam is a fitness professional, baseball fan, and cookie fanatic based in Fort Collins, Colorado. After hanging up the cleats, he found a strong interest in the human body and how it performs. Since then, Adam has been transforming lives through fitness in a fun and encouraging atmosphere. As an ACE CPT and Fitness Nutrition Specialist, he is constantly moved to help people improve in all walks of life. If you’re interested in hiring Adam as your coach, fill out an application here.