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Cardio - mixed opinions while on SCD

I've only been on SCD for two weeks but already down 6 pounds and almost an inch around my waist. Very happy with that result. I have slowed down my gym routine fairly dramatically too - doing only the A/B workouts the book suggests which consist of 1 set of 2-3 exercises. I have only been doing this workouts as Tim suggests... every 2-3 days.

What I am missing, and what seems to be polarizing here and elsewhere on the web is the effectiveness of cardio while on the slow carb diet (early on). I quite enjoy getting a good sweat on and a long burn on the elliptical or bike at the gym. While I appreciate the argument that weight training may be more effective at burning fat, would the combination not be even better? Said another way, can someone explain how doing 30-60 minutes of cardio 2 or 3 times a week could actually slow down fat loss?


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Tim explains some of the reasons why Cardio can hamper fat loss, and if you look into some of the more recent studies on Pubmed concerning it they tend to back up what he says. In fact the research for cardio is starting to trickle into the mainstream and be seen on shows like Dr Oz and The Doctors (which is rare. They tend to have information 2-5 years old most of the time).

First and foremost is people who tend to use Cardio exercise as a means of fat loss tend to overeat. It basically works like this. I have burned 350 calories on the treadmill and feel good about myself, but the energy depletion has left me hungry. I go home and eat a bran muffin at 450 calories, negating the effect of the exercise and then eat regularly the rest of the day. Okay that argument is fine for non-displined or non-slow carb followers. The question is what about adding in Cardio if you are strict or following the Slow Carb eating plan.

Well energy depletion can and will lead to your body holding onto whatever foods you eat as fat. The body recognizes the lack of energy and decides it better start storing up energy reserves to make up for the next time, especially if it is a consistent pattern of Cardio exercise.

Secondly, Cardio can have a Catabolic effect on the body. With the higher state of energy depletion the body starts to break down muscle for energy, minimizing your lean muscle mass.

With all of that being said, Cardio is an amazing conditioning tool for the body, strengthening the heart and lungs, the flow of blood, etc if done in moderation. Cardio is something that can definitely be over-done and actually be extremely taxing on the body.

Strength training is definitely the more important of the two for fat loss (although I would argue that 99% of fat loss is about what you eat and has nothing to do with exercise). The more lean muscle mass your body has the more fat it will burn.

  • FirstTimeDieter commented Feb 24th 2012:

    How to evaluate at what point catabolic breakdown occurs? I'm don't have issues with "reward" eating, seems a flimsy argument to discourage cardio.

    My biggest concern relating to the book in general is the differentiation between minimum effective dose vs. actually slowing fat burn or muscle gain by over doing exercise. I get the sense that many on the SCD diet choose to interpret Tim's recommendations and MED too literally, when really they're just lazy. Most people don't want to do 30 mins of cardio every day and Tim gives the get out of jail free card by saying that that time would be better spent doing weight training. Ok, fine - but are we sure that for those willing it wouldn't add some additional benefit?

  • justingus25 commented Feb 24th 2012:

    I'd recommend doing the diet for a steady 3-4 weeks, then add the cardio in if you want to. You can better judge how it affects your progress. I exercise/train quite a bit, but only really added it in after I had a handle on my diet (as overeating is easy to do, as simple as just being a little less strict on portion control).

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Good topic. Would it be beneficial to do moderate paced cardio (heart rate in the "fat burning" zone)? Maybe 20-30 mins or would that have an adverse effect too?

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