Do you exercise on a regular basis and eat healthy foods, yet you still can’t seem to lose your stubborn belly fat? The answer may simply be that you’re exercising too much/ performing too much cardio.
Just to be clear, when I say exercising too much, I mean performing mainly cardio based activities for over an hour on a daily basis. Not many people fall into this category, but if you do it can be very frustrating to not see the results that you want after working so hard and eating so healthily.
Generally speaking, being active and doing exercise is great for your body, however it can be ineffective if you don’t allow your body enough time to recover. Exercise puts a natural stress on your body, causing it to produce the stress hormone cortisol as a result. This process is completely normal and is necessary to give the body enough power to be able to exercise. So cortisol can be useful when produced for short amounts of time, however if cortisol is produced for long periods it can actually have negative effects on your body.
If your body produces too much cortisol it can result in some serious health consequences, with stubborn belly fat being just one of them. Excess cortisol production can be triggered by mental stressors too. Feeling stressed constantly at work, or if your personal life is riddled with stress, will cause your body to produce cortisol, the same way as exercise does.
Whilst exercise can be a good way to help relieve mental stress, it’s not all positive news, as most physical exercise produces additional stress to your body. It can be easy for your body to slip into a vicious cycle of being overwhelmed by too many stressors.
When looking for a solution to this problem you should analyze your entire lifestyle, taking into consideration the amount of stress you experience at home, at work and in your personal life. It may surprise you how much stress you actually deal with on a daily basis. Once you’ve broken down how much stress you’re dealing with, have a look at your exercise routine. A lot of people include a lot of cardio in their routines as a way of escaping the stress they encounter, however you should analyze if you’re doing too much cardio.
If you fall into the category of encountering too much stress and do too much cardio exercise, without allowing your body to rest and recover here is what we recommend:
- Exercise is a great way to relieve stress, however it shouldn’t be your only method of dealing with life’s stressors. Look for other stress managing techniques, such as meditation, or a little time alone and replace some of your exercise sessions with these activities.
- If your weekly exercise routine is predominantly focused on long cardio sessions you’re only making your stress levels worse. Long cardio sessions put the body in a catabolic state, meaning your body will eat away at your lean muscle mass, which helps to keep your metabolism high, enabling you to burn more calories. They also cause you to snack and overeat as your appetite dramatically increases. Try including some quicker, more explosive bouts of cardio, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT). These types of workouts are designed to target stubborn body fat.
- Set a time limit of 30 minutes for your cardio workouts. Focus on the intensity of your workout rather than the time. This will help you to stop doing too much cardio.
- Always remember that recovery and rest are actually more important than exercising. With this in mind, if you feel particularly sluggish one day try some active recovery like a hike or an easy walk or if you’re very tired don’t feel guilty if you want to take the day off. It’s at times of rest when your body burns most fat, so proper rest and recovery is essential for this.
- Try and stick with a healthy eating plan as much as you can. A little indulgence is absolutely fine, once your cortisol levels return to normal.