The Surprising Truth: Can Steady State Cardio Cause Weight Gain?

The Surprising Truth: Can Steady State Cardio Cause Weight Gain?


Steady state cardio, such as jogging or cycling at a moderate intensity, has long been considered an essential component of weight loss programs. However, recent studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that steady state cardio may not always lead to the desired weight loss results, and in some cases, it may even contribute to weight gain. In this blog post, we’ll explore the possible reasons behind this phenomenon, including the role of cortisol and four other factors that might be at play.

  1. The Cortisol Connection

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress, including physical stress from exercise. While cortisol has essential functions in the body, chronically elevated levels can lead to increased appetite, fat storage, and muscle breakdown, ultimately contributing to weight gain. Prolonged steady state cardio sessions can cause a sustained increase in cortisol levels, which may partially explain the link between steady state cardio and weight gain in some individuals.

  1. Adaptation and Decreased Calorie Burn

As your body adapts to a regular steady state cardio routine, it becomes more efficient at performing the activity. This efficiency means that you’ll burn fewer calories during your workout than when you first started. As a result, if you don’t adjust your calorie intake or increase the intensity or duration of your cardio sessions, you may experience a plateau or even weight gain over time.

  1. Increased Appetite and Overcompensation

Engaging in regular steady state cardio workouts can lead to an increase in appetite. If you don’t pay attention to your hunger cues and calorie intake, you may end up consuming more calories than you burn during your workouts. This overcompensation can result in weight gain, negating the benefits of your cardio sessions.

  1. Neglecting Resistance Training

Focusing solely on steady state cardio and neglecting resistance training can lead to a decrease in lean muscle mass. Since muscle tissue is metabolically active and burns calories at rest, losing muscle mass can slow down your metabolism, making it more challenging to lose weight or maintain weight loss. Incorporating resistance training into your fitness routine can help preserve muscle mass, boost metabolism, and support weight loss.

  1. Misinterpreting the Scale

It’s important to remember that the number on the scale doesn’t always accurately reflect fat loss or gain. Factors such as water retention, muscle gain, and hormonal fluctuations can all affect your weight. If you’re engaging in steady state cardio and resistance training, you may gain muscle mass while losing fat, which can lead to a stable or even increasing weight on the scale. It’s essential to track other metrics, such as body composition, waist circumference, and how your clothes fit, to get a more accurate picture of your progress.


While steady state cardio can be an effective tool for weight loss and overall health, it’s crucial to understand the potential factors that might contribute to weight gain. By being aware of the role of cortisol, the body’s adaptation to exercise, increased appetite, the importance of resistance training, and the limitations of the scale, you can optimize your fitness routine to support your weight loss goals. Remember, a well-rounded approach that combines cardio, resistance training, and proper nutrition is the key to long-term success in your weight loss journey.