Cardio and Your Metabolism

Everybody knows cardiovascular exercise is good for your heart. But what does it do for the rest of you? And why are you supposed to do it during Phase 1 of the Fast Metabolism Diet?

Cardio is perfect for Phase 1, when you’re eating plenty of carbs (in the form of whole grains) and natural sugars (in the form of fruit). That means you’ll have lots of available fuel to convert to energy. And along with that available fuel you’ve just eaten, you’ll be burning stored fat! So be sure to eat a fruit snack 30 to 45 minutes before you exercise so your fuel tank is topped up. Don’t fast before going fast!

For fat loss, you don’t have to be working out super hard — in fact, you shouldn’t if you want to drop pounds. Ideally, your heart rate should remain between 120 and 150 beats per minute, depending on your age and fitness level. Here’s how to find your optimal fat-burning heart rate. When you do cardio, try to keep your heart rate in that zone — check every once in a while by taking your pulse for 15 seconds and multiplying by four. You shouldn’t be breathless or unable to hold a conversation. By doing this, you’re working SMARTER, not harder — just like the Fast Metabolism Diet helps you eat smarter, not diet harder!

Here’s 4 reasons why cardio is so great on this phase of the diet:

1. Exercise regulates blood sugar.

When your blood sugar spikes and falls, your adrenals release hormones like cortisol that tell your body to hold onto fat — just in case! Exercise helps keep your blood sugar under control so your adrenals can do their job: triggering the release of hormones that burn fat, instead of storing it.

2. It busts stress.

What’s that got to do with your weight? Well, your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that slow your metabolism. If you’re struggling with your weight, that slow-down can cause even more stress and create a vicious cycle.

3. It boosts endorphins and catecholamines.

The fabled “runner’s high” is a good example of endorphins and catecholamines at work, but you don’t have to run to get your share of these feel-good hormones. Biking in the sun, kayaking across a lake, or taking an upbeat aerobics class set to music you love are all great ways of triggering the hormone release. It all happens because fuel is being quickly and efficiently converted to energy!

Not only does doing cardio for the endorphin rush feel good, it also primes your body to let fat go instead of holding onto it. Congratulations, you’ve just broken the stress cycle and replaced it with something positive instead.

4. It burns fat.

Cardiovascular exercise does more than prep your body for burning fat — it also gives your body a chance to put that stored energy to work. Some of the fuel your body burns during cardio comes from the food you’re bringing in; during Phase 1 that means lots of easy-to-metabolize, healthy carbohydrates and natural sugars.

The rest of the fuel you burn comes from fat and, because you’re not consuming fat in this part of your diet, guess where your body gets it from? That’s right — that extra jiggle your body’s been holding onto finally comes in handy for something. And as long as you’re giving your body the fuel it needs, the weight starts to come off.