Extra Cardio Does NOT Equal Extra Calories - Part I

Answer me truthfully. Have you ever said you'll eat (fill in the blank) and you'll just run it off later? Everyone has said that at some point but unfortunately, that isn't really a valid option for several reasons. 

A Calorie burned from cardio isn't an extra Calorie burned. 

The best way to explain this is to walk you through a specific example. Let's assume you do 1 hour of cardio and burn 400 Calories. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean you burned 400 extra Calories. The thing we tend to forget is that we would have burned some amount of Calories without doing the cardio. Even if you were sitting at your desk at work, you'd be burning somewhere in the ballpark of 1.5 Calories/minute (90 Calories/hour). Or maybe you have a job that involves some light walking. In that case you'd be burning around 3 Cal/minute  (180 Cal/hr) depending on your body weight. So in the case of the second example, you really only burned 220 extra Calories, not 400. 

How many calories do you burn AFTER your workout?

Remember those mean examples above? Unfortunately, it's time for more bad news. You're actually burning even less than that. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) is basically activity we do outside the gym. This can be any number of things such as fidgeting with something, chewing on a pen cap, tapping your toe, getting up and walking a lap around the office because you're restless, etc. When we tire ourselves out doing cardio (or any other type exercise), we subconsciously are less active in these ways afterward, thus burning less Calories. Taking from our above example, let's assume we burn 50 Calories less due do our decreased NEAT. This means we really only burned 170 extra Calories.  To show this as an equation:

Calories burned during cardio - Calories we would have burned anyway - decreased Calories burned from NEAT = extra Calories burned from Cardio

There's just not enough time in the day.

Another thing people don't consider when claiming that they will do cardio do burn off that thing they ate is when will they actually find the time to do the cardio. Most of us are very busy and time spent doing cardio will be time taken away from something else. 

Let's look at a couple of examples of how long it would take to burn 400 Calories. For a 200 pound individual walking at 3 mph on a 3% incline, it would take ~35 minutes. For a 150 pound individual it would take ~45 minutes! (Calculations are estimates that are subject to individual variability.)


As you can see, cardio probably isn't your go-to way to lose weight. It isn't incredibly effective and has other drawbacks that weren't covered in this article. However, this doesn't mean we shouldn't do cardio. In fact, in some situations we will have to do cardio for weight loss. We will discuss all of this in Part II. 

Thanks for reading! In case you haven't heard, I still have a few more spots available for new clients. If you're interested in having a coach that cares about your results head on over to the Coaching page or contact me on facebook to apply for a free 30 minute phone consultation.

As always, God bless you AND your family and I will see you next time!