Should You Increase Cardio Or Decrease Calories While Dieting? If Fat Loss Has Slowed And You're Wondering What To Do Next, You Need To Read This Article
When you hit a plateau with your weight loss, the first port of call might be to either increase cardio or decrease calories. But is one option better than the other? In this article, you'll discover the answer to that exact question.
You're here because you've hit a roadblock with dieting.
In the early days, fat was melting away with effortless ease. But as time ticked by, progress slowed. And now, it feels like fat loss has ground to a halt.
What worked before, doesn't seem to be doing the trick, anymore.
Is your metabolism slowing down? Do you need to give it a boost? Or is there something else derailing your progress?
Thankfully, the solution might not be as complex as you think. And this slow down is a natural part of the process. Deciding to increase cardio or decrease calories could be the only tweak to your training and nutrition you need to kickstart fat loss again.
So read on to find out which option is best for you.
And if you want to listen to the audio version of the podcast, click the link below:
Increase Cardio Or Decrease Calories? Why You're At This Crossroad
Fat loss is driven by energy balance. A calorie deficit.
Consume fewer calories than your body burns and stored body fat will be used for fuel, resulting an overall reduction in the amount of fat you have.
It's really that simple.
But although the principle is simple, practical application can be challenging. And knowing what to do in certain situations can also be difficult.
Enter this article. Swooping to the rescue, like Superman rescuing Lois Lane from a near-death experience.
First, let's look at why you're no longer making progress.
You're Not In A Calorie Deficit
Quite simply, if you're not losing body fat, then you're not in a calorie deficit.
You might want to argue the point with me, but I guarantee I'm right.
Starvation Mode doesn't exist. And you've not damaged your metabolism. In fact, what you're experiencing is perfectly natural and normal. You just didn't know this was going to happen, so you didn't have a plan. But that's ok, because you can get everything back on track pretty easily.
You Weigh Less So Your Metabolic Rate Is Lower
People who weigh less, require less energy to exist on the Earth. That's a basic fact.
The Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) of someone who is 100kg is far greater than someone who is 50kg. So when you lose weight, your energy requirements from food reduced too.
This is perfectly normal and a necessary part of the process.
However, it does mean that adjustments to your calorie target and/or activity levels are required during dieting, if you want to maintain a particular rate of progress.
For example, a 30 year old female, 170cm tall, and weighing 100kg would see approximately a 100 calorie reduction in BMR with every 10kg lost.
But what does that mean in practical terms, in relation to a calorie deficit?
Let's assume that after factoring in activity level and exercise, the same female burns 2,080 calories each day. Then, she sets her calories to 1,750 per day, giving a daily deficit of 330 calories.
Great! She's losing body fat as planned.
However, if she chooses to maintain a calorie target of 1,750, but never makes an adjustment, the size of deficit will reduce in line with her BMR and weight reduction. And taken far enough, she could end up at maintenance, or even in a surplus.
So it's important to consider these changes it metabolism will occur as you lose weight. Therefore, it makes sense to plan ahead, which could be in the form of an increase in cardio or decrease in calories.
But there's one more point to consider, before we move on to the solution.
Metabolic Adaptation Is A Thing
Starvation Mode and Metabolic Damage are made up concepts, but Metabolic Adaptation is certainly REAL.
As you go through a dieting phase, your body becomes more efficient with the lower calorie intake. Subconscious movement may reduce and you find an increase in feelings of lethargy. In certain situations, this can be enough to reduce calories burned to the point at which weight loss slows, or even stops.
To combat this, maintaining (or even increasing) step count can help. As can adjustments to calories and activity levels. If you've been dieting for a long time, it might make sense to opt for a diet break, rather than increase cardio or decrease calories. So consider all the factors within your personal situation before making a decision.
If weight and fat loss has ground to a halt, you're no longer in a calorie deficit. This could be for a number of reasons, but it's important to focus on addressing energy balance first, before anything else.
Should You Increase Cardio Or Decrease Calories? How To Decide
Whether you choose to increase cardio or decrease calories to kickstart fat loss, comes down to your individual situation. And there's a few simple questions you can ask yourself to determine which option is right for you.
Less food. Sounds like a nightmare, right?
You're already eating fewer calories than you'd like, so the thought of reducing further, doesn't feel you with glee.
If that's your first thought, then maybe it's simply not the right option for you. Because enjoyment and adherence is a HUGE part of sustainable fat loss. If you choose to decrease calories further at this point, are you risking falling off the wagon and overeating due to an over-restrictive diet?
Hunger. Cravings. And energy levels are also an important consideration. If, on your current calorie intake, you'd happily eat a scabby horse to satisfy your hunger, then is having even less calories really going to help. Likewise, if you have zero energy and are drifting through each day like an extra from a George A. Romero film, then you would be better off looking into alternative solutions.
Another aspect to consider is calorie capacity. If you are dieting on low calories, even lower calories may be impractical and increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies and health issues. So think hard before making a decision that could have a negative impact on long-term health and well-being.
However, if you're currently able to diet on a relatively high amount of calories and have the room to reduce further, without impacting hunger, cravings, and health, then a 100-200 calorie reduction could be all you need to restart fat loss.
Cardio. The dreaded C Word!
You might love it. You might hate it. But, either way, you can't deny it's a useful tool in the right circumstances. And if decreasing calories isn't an option, increasing cardio (or step count) might be.
Adding extra cardio into your training, or making a conscious effort to do more steps will increase the number of calories burned. Therefore, helping to maintain your calorie deficit.
If you hate cardio, then aim for the minimum amount needed start seeing progress. This could be as little as 10-15 minutes of HIIT after each workout.
You'll need to experiment with the right amount for you. But be careful of not doing too much too soon. Cardio can increase appetite and feelings of hunger, so adding a significant amount to your training, could have you reaching for the cookie jar, more frequently than you'd like.
If cardio feels like the lesser of two evils, use it as a tool to maintain your calorie deficit. Either add cardio to your training programme, or find ways to increase step count and overall activity levels.
The Bottom Line On Whether Or Not You Should Increase Cardio Or Decrease Calories While Dieting
Whether you increase cardio or decrease calories while dieting is a very individual decision. There's no right or wrong answer. Doing what feels best for you is often the best approach.
When fat loss slows, it can be frustrating. And it's all too tempting to hit the panic button.
You change your training routine, ram calories through the floor, and do more cardio than your average marathon runner. But throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks, is not the right way to approach your nutrition in a sustainable way.
When it comes time to make adjustments to your calorie deficit, remind yourself of these questions;
- Do you have preference of either an increase in cardio or a decrease in calories?
- Have you got enough calorie capacity to decrease the amount you eat without risking nutrient deficiency and health complications?
- Are you struggling with hunger and cravings now? Will this get worse with fewer calories?
- Is adding in some cardio an easier option for you?
- Could you fit more steps and day-to-day activity into your lifestyle?
Logically work your way through these questions and the answer as to whether you should increase cardio or decrease calories while dieting will become clear.
Decided Whether To Increase Cardio Or Decrease Calories? Here's A Free Online Calculator To Help You Discover How Many Calories You Need To Lose Weight
If you want to get on the fast track to a leaner, healthier, stronger body, I've got something for you. Simply click the link below and you'll get access to my free online calorie and macro calculator. Designed to take the headache out of knowing how many calories you need to achieve your goals. Plus, you can grab my Lean Life Kickstarter Pack. In it you’ll find a free 4 week beginner’s training programme (complete with exercise videos and a workout tracker), free recipe packs, plus so much more.
So if you want all that, go here.
But for now, all I’ll say is… Keep living the Lean Life and I’ll see you soon.