Optimize Your Fat Loss – Why Traditional Cardio Sucks

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This past weekend, Karen and I were privileged to have the opportunity to spend a day with the most accomplished personal training strength coach in the world, Charles Poliquin.

Charles has been in the industry 39 years, has coached 26 olympic medalists in 26 different sports, multiple world records, and is the type of guy who is paid $50,000 to fly on a private jet to Saudi to coach someone on combatting jet lag (so when I go over the information I’m about to share with you, its backed by years of knowledge, experience, practical application, and success). Almost to the point, where he seems to be 20 years ahead of the rest of the industry… So it’s time for everyone to catch up!

In addition….

Everything posted is personally tested and back 100%, and I will filter this information to you as I gain more exposure and experience with each subject.

We here at BEFIT are devoted to continually improving ourselves to improve your results.

Let’s go.

The biggest mistake in fat loss is traditional cardio.

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Yes, I have been an advocate of this for years due to preserving muscle, but had no idea to the extent of negatives that are associated with traditional cardio exercise.

See, the human race was designed to throw a rock at a rabbit and then sprint after it. We sprint and we walk. We don’t jog.

If you are currently an avid jogger and you are enjoying it, that’s great, but if you want to get leaner and fitter, you should drop the traditional cardio in favour of short bursts of high intensity cardio.

And honestly, I can count on 1 hand the amount of times I have run 3k or more in my entire life (and most of them were competitions).

That is called steady state cardio… Anything that is a constant pace for about 3 mins or more and it has limited benefit in your fat loss endeavours.

Need more convincing? Here’s the negative effects of traditional cardio:

  • It increases cortisol on average by 42%. Cortisol is not bad all the time (it’s actually great for training), but it’s like the guy at the party who doesn’t leave at 3am and eats away at your muscle…. Wait a minute, I just said 42% and you’re already most likely stressed out (elevated cortisol) already from work/emails/kids…
  • It lowers your testosterone, actually to the point where you have lower levels when compared to a sedentary individual (and exercising should be increasing test.)…. Lower testosterone equals less muscle. Have I convinced you yet?
  • You lose bone mass… that’s not good as you age.
  • Your brain function actually decreases.
  • High levels of cardio lead to decreased muscle and makes it harder to gain/retain muscle mass (think about all your physique competitors who get super lean then gain a ton of weight back immediately… it actually causes metabolic damage), then they have to work double as hard to get back to that point.
  • You suppress your immune system as you lose muscle mass (there is an extreme correlation with muscle mass and the immune system – a post for another time).
  • It lowers your basal metabolic rate (the amount of calories you would burn if you lied in bed all day). You need that to be as high as possible to burn more calories the other 23 hours of the day.
  • It changes fast twitch fibers into slow twitch (making you slower and weaker)… there’s multiple studies backing this and ya that sucks.
  • Running 20 mins is the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes in oxidative stress. 🙁
  • You actually max out your aerobic power in 8 weeks… So if you did traditional cardio for 8 weeks, your aerobic power (which is about 2-3 min of straight running at top speed) is maxed out and is good as it will get.
  • And the pièce de ré·sis·tance, Dr. Cooper, founder of the Cooper Institute and founder of the jogging revolution is now an advocate for not overdoing jogging and implementing a weight training regimen.

So… cardio makes you age prematurely, makes your brain rust, makes you pre-diabetic…


  1. This post is for our BEFIT members who are supplementing their workouts with additional aerobic cardio of 5 mins or more. (steady pace traditional longer runs). Please stop! We can’t optimize your training results if you are out doing this!
  2. This post is so we get less resistance from you when we make you exercise for 20 secs then rest for 2-3 minutes. If you give your best (100% or maybe even like 96%), you will need the rest! Unfortunately, the fitness industry has conditioned everyone to go all out, all the time, forget the rest we’ve got no time, and it seemingly has become about half training and half entertaining…

So on the bright side, the frequency of 50 cal rows in your programming will be seen very little (cue the clapping), as our focus will be on the following 2 high intensity anaerobic training systems:

  • ATP-CP (maximum effort under 20 secs)
  • Glycolytic (think lactic acid burn in your muscles between 21 and 70 secs of exercise)

There are 2 subsections of each of these systems:

  1. Power (think of power as the 0-60 of your car).
  2. Capacity (think of capacity as the amount of miles you get in the tank).

#1 – ATP-CP System

This is 3-20 secs of max effort – Not 85%. Not 75%. 100%. The fitter you are, the longer you can go all out. Most likely, if you consider yourself unfit, it will be around 3 secs. Don’t worry, we will choose the appropriate exercises for the 3 levels at BEFIT to keep you injury free, so that you can build your ATP-CP system’s power and capacity.

And if you are exercising at 100% between 3 -10 secs, your muscular and nervous system requires a work rest ratio of 1:20-30 to recover. Meaning for every 1 second you exercise, you rest 20-30 secs.

This is like sprinting 50m or 100m at max effort in 10 seconds then resting 3-5 minutes between sets or doing 3 goblet squats as heavy as you can…. Better make sure you go 100%…

For other exercises that fall under this category, think vertical or broad jumps, med ball throws, sled push and max 1-5 reps lifts.

The closer you get to 20 secs, the more this becomes about your ATP-CP capacity. That is a work rest ratio of 1:12-18, meaning if you exercise for 20 secs, you get 4 mins of rest. Not everyone is capable of giving 20 secs of max effort. That’s ok, it’s great to be aware of this so that you can exercise your hardest and then we can develop your capacity.

If you can finely tune #1 and #2 above, your fat loss workouts will feel easier as you will be stronger and more explosive.

#2 – Glycolytic system (think lactic acid burning in your muscles)

Power component – 21-40 secs (21 secs for a less fit person)
Work rest ratio 1:12
Example 30 secs on 6 min off

Capacity component – 41-70 secs (41 secs for a less fit person)
Work rest ratio 1:5-6
Example 60 secs on 5 min off

So if you do the heaviest wall ball you can do for 30 secs, you get 6 mins rest.
Disclaimer… if you can go 1 second after 30 secs. You did not push yourself hard enough, or you did not choose the appropriate weight to challenge you. And if you did not feel the lactic acid build up, it was not challenging enough and you were working aerobically (which is what we are trying to avoid). (Another reason why we have 3 levels for you to progress or regress each exercise accordingly). If 30 secs of wall balls at max effort isn’t hard enough for you, I know some thrusters will be…

This system is about creating maximum lactic acid! With that long of a work rest ratio, we have ways of tweaking your workouts so that you are not actually standing around for 6 mins such as supersets or circuits of non competing exercises, emoms, the type of stuff you are already familiar with at BEFIT.

But the fact of the matter remains, be prepared to focus more, work harder in your sets, rest longer, and subsequently get stronger, build more muscle and lose body fat.

Intensity is #1. If you start talking or get distracted in your set, you are not committing yourself to the exercise. I am talking about 30 secs of maximum f—— focus and effort where if you had a gun to your head you couldn’t do another rep.

Then you get to chill and talk, refocus and do it again.

If you are not feeling that burn (lactic acid), you are not creating change. Lactic acid increases growth hormone and testosterone production. Growth hormone stimulates muscle function while testosterone helps to break down fat. Lactic acid training forces your body to produce high amounts of lactic acid, increasing both muscle growth and loss of fat. The amount of growth hormone released in lactic acid training can be up to nine times the amount produced under normal circumstances.

Or you could go for a jog and have it lower than someone who doesn’t workout.

So how many days per week should you be working out?

At least 4x/week.

There are studies that show 3x/week gets 50% less results than 4x/week. And yes, we have that data backed up over numerous biggest winner challenges.

4-5x/week is enough. Don’t feel like you need 6x/week. Listen to your body. When I’m going all out, I’m too sore to do 6 workouts/week.

1st priority would be Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday for everyone. If you can’t make it because of your schedule, make it up on Wednesday or Saturday. If your core is weak or your conditioning is low, get in on either Wednesday or Saturday. If you are a fundamental or just starting out, it is better for you to come Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday as strength training should be your #1 priority.

If you feel the need to do more, walk or do a hike. This will keep your cortisol low, it will help you burn more calories via NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis), and we should all be taking a MINIMUM of 10,000 steps per day…..

Because if you are not taking at least 10,000 steps, you are considered an inactive person, even if you workout 5 days/week…. so….. Don’t be happy with 10,000…. Start moving around more.

If you are just starting your journey, by all means, be happy with 10,000 steps, but if you have been in this health and fitness thing for awhile, and are not satisfied with your results,…. perhaps it’s because you are not moving enough during the day?

There are so many variables to consider, and yes, while, some work for almost everyone, we are all different and unique…. Please discuss with us in the gym if you are not feeling great, and just getting in the door was a success today. We’re people, we understand that!

But please stop listening to instagram experts, some relative who thinks they know what they are talking about or whatever Dr. Oz says.
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Moving forward, we will not be enter-training you.

If you want to be entertained while you train, you are admitting to me (and yourself), that you don’t really want results, and you are just checking off your fitness-to-do for the day. If that’s what you are doing, we appreciate that you are being honest with yourself and your coaches and we will do our best.

But, you know what makes everyone feel better? Getting stronger and achieving goals. Let’s get after yours!

100% Committed,
Josh Saunders
Lifestyle. Strength. Performance.
Langley Times Readers Choice Favourite Personal Trainer 2017