s. Cardio vs Resistance Training

The Science

Losing body fat is simply about creating a negative energy balance,

i.e. expending more energy than we take in. We expend energy


– our metabolic rate

– the energy required to take in, digest, absorb and utilize food

– physical activity

Your metabolism is the key to effective, long term body fat reduction.

Metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories to sustain

itself. The higher your metabolism the more effective your body is at

burning calories even whilst you are sleeping, sounds good to me.

There are ways to increase your metabolism, however before I get

onto that, a quick tip. Cutting calories can actually cause your

metabolism to get slower, so dieting in the traditional sense will

actually cause your body to go into a survival mode, enabling the body

to store more fat rather than actually ridding yourself of it. So long as

you have a reasonable calorie intake there is no reason to diet,

however there is no substitute for eating good fresh, natural produce

(but that is another discussion)

So what is the most effective way to increase your metabolism? Muscle

is the most metabolically active tissue in your body, so increasing the

amount of muscle mass in your body substantially increases your

body’s abilities to burn body fat.

Cardio Training

Physical activity of any kind burns calories, we all understand that, and

actually jumping onto a treadmill and pounding out a few kilometers

each day has the overall effect of burning calories whilst you are

training. This is good, but you do need to stick at it, and you’ll need to

change your training regularly to continue burning the same amount of

calories. This is because you body is clever, it quickly becomes more

efficient at doing this type of training i.e. not expending as much

energy for the same quantity of work. Cardio training is also not the

most effective way to build lean muscle mass, in fact doing to much

cardio training is catabolic in nature, meaning that it actually breaks

down muscle mass, you just have to look at marathon runners for

evidence of this.

Resistance training

Resistance training is training your body to overcome resistance in the

form of a weight, be it your body weight, using weights held in your

hands, or operating the machines in your local gym. Many people shy

away from this form of training for a variety of reasons. However

many studies have shown this type of training is by far the most

effective fat burning strategy, and guys (and especially girls), you will

not end up looking like ‘Arnie’, not unless you want to live in the gym

for the next 5 years.

By following a resistance training program that focuses on working

multiple muscle groups in every exercise is by far the most time

efficient training. In double quick time you will shed the excess body

fat and develop a lean and flexible, fat burning machine. Women

benefit especially from this mode of training, as it is physiologically

improbable for you to make substantial gains in size. A study by

Staron et al. (1990) showed that after a 20 week program of heavy

resistance training, female participants showed decreased body fat

with an increase in muscle tissue, however, with no change in physical

size. So the muscle you build, gives tone and shape to your figure,

gives you stronger bones, improving also your body image and


Resistance training has a triple effect for effect fat loss:

– you burn calories whilst you are training

– you are burning calories whilst your body is recovering

– And you are burning more calories because your metabolism has

increased with the increased muscle tissue.

Cardio vs Resistance Training for Fat Loss

There’s a common misconception that cardio is a more effective fat

loss tool than resistance training. This could not be further from the

truth. The jogging boom of the 80s and a misinformed media would

lead you to believe you need to work your “fat burning zone” to lose

fat. Not to mention when you walk into your local health club there are

more cardio machines than free weights. Unfortunately, those

machines are there because that is what you are looking for when you

buy your membership. Next time you are doing cardio, take a break

from the magazine or television program you are viewing and look at

the gym floor. Who looks better, the people doing cardio, or the people

doing resistance exercises? I know that’s a very anecdotal example, so

let me elaborate with science based facts.

The hierarchy of fat loss is DIET, resistance training, high intensity

interval training, and then cardio. All the training in the world will not

get you to your goals if you don’t have a sound diet. But lets talk

about resistance training. Science has proven a significant metabolic

increase for up to 48 hours after resistance workouts. Conversely,

typical steady state cardio routines show no post workout energy

consumption. Once you step off that treadmill, the caloric burn stops,

and while you are on the treadmill you could be eating your

metabolically active muscle tissue and decreasing your metabolism.

After a resistance workout, your body works to repair the muscle

tissue your broke down, burns calories to build it up, and requires

even more calories to sustain your new lean mass! You have just

increased your metabolism and are burning calories while you are at

rest. So get your diet in check, add three full body resistance routines

to your week and forget about cardio.

Get More from Your Workout

Sure, cardio is a great way to work up a sweat. It’s good for your

heart and lungs, and people who do it tend to live longer, some

studies report. But if you’ve ever seen a frustrated marathoner cursing

an upward-creeping scale, or a middle-aged runner hobbling over bad

knees, you’re right to suspect it isn’t the be-all end-all. Don’t get us

wrong—aerobic exercise is a great start to fitness, and some 65% of

Americans could use a lot more of it. But if logging a dutiful 30

minutes a day on your cardio machine of choice still isn’t giving you

the results you hoped for, it’s time to reach for the weights—even if it

means cutting short your treadmill routine. Read on to find out why

strength training is a must.

It Can Change Your Weight Fate

You’ve probably heard of—if not experienced—the middle-aged creep.

Of weight, that is. Truth is, the seeds are planted as early as age 30,

and can affect you even if you haven’t gained a pound. That’s because

around that age, your body starts to cash in its muscle mass at a rate

of about 1/2 pound a year. Seems harmless enough, but that muscle

burns three times the calories of fat—an open invitation for weight

gain, even if you don’t change your diet. But there is something you

can do. An average strength-training routine can add about 3 pounds

of muscle in about 8 weeks—that’s enough to boost your metabolism

by 7%, burning an extra 100 calories a day, or over 10 pounds a year,

says Wayne Westcott, PhD, author of Get Stronger, Feel Younger: The

Cardio and Diet-Free Way to Firm Up and Lose Fat.

It’s the Best Fat Fighter Around.

Think cardio burns the most calories? Only if you stop the clock when

your workout ends. In fact, circuit strength training—where you

alternate muscle toning moves with aerobic bursts—can burn about

the same number of calories as jogging , but the burn doesn’t stop

there. In a study published in the European Journal of Applied

Physiology, researchers compared women who burned an identical

number of calories either on the treadmill or doing a circuit-training

workout. Identical until the workout ended, that is. After the women

cooled down, the strength trainers kept on burning about 18% more

calories during the half hour post-workout for a bigger total burn.

Take that, fat. In another study comparing dieters who lost weight

through either a cardio or strength plan, both groups lost the same

amount of weight, but the weight-training group lost more fat and

preserved all their lean metabolism-boosting muscle, while the

cardiophiles lost muscle and ended up with a slower metabolism.

It Tames Your Appetite

Have you ever noticed that certain workouts leave you famished and

salivating in front of the fridge? Don’t write off exercise and reach for

the Slim-Fast so quickly. A study in the Journal of Sports Science and

Medicine showed that people who did strength training with their

cardio ate a whopping 517 fewer calories daily than those who did

cardio alone. Researchers say combo workouts may boost satiety

hormones and stabilize blood sugar so you feel full longer.

It’s Cellulite’s Biggest Enemy

We hate to break it to you, but if that pricey cream in your bathroom

cabinet hasn’t proved magic, the next one won’t either. A better bet:

Focus on firming muscles with strength training, recommends Len

Kravitz, PhD, associate professor of exercise science at the University

of New Mexico, who reviewed the evidence for cellulite treatments

ranging from lyposuction to lasers. Cellulite lies on top of muscles,

Kravitz explains, so if those muscles are weak and flabby, bumps will

be more pronounced. Firming muscles with strength training, on the

other hand will go a long way toward smoothing things out—not to

mention it’s virtually free.

It Takes the Weight Off Your Knees

If you’re worried about knee pain, it can be tempting to avoid

exercises like squats and lunges. But done correctly, these moves can

help ease soreness and prevent it in the future, says Chris Freytag, a

Minneapolis-based personal trainer and star of dozens of fitness DVDs.

In fact, strength training has even been shown to slow the progression

of knee osteoarthritis, allowing you to stay more active (a double

whammy for joint problems, since maintaining a healthy weight is on

one of the best ways to keep knees spry). Bolstering strength in the

muscles that surround and support the knee—like your hips and the

fronts of your thighs—helps take some of the pressure off by

absorbing some of the impact with every step you take. The key to

avoiding pain is practicing good form, says Freytag. When you

perform a squat, sit back as though into an imaginary chair. Your knee

should stay behind the toes, always pointing in the same direction of

your toes to stay in line. Still painful? Leg lifts and leg extensions with

an exercise band are good options to strengthen muscles with less

pressure on knees.

It Strong Arms Back Pain

Back pain is big business in the U.S. with an estimated 80% of

Americans willing to shell out for whatever it takes to make it go away.

How about a set of dumbbells? That’s right, strength training trumps

both cardio and bed rest when it comes to getting relief. In a study

from the University of Alberta in Canada, back pain sufferers who did a

16-week weight lifting program improved their symptoms by over 60%

(over 4 times as much) while the group that jogged or walked on a

treadmill or elliptical machine improved just 12%.

It Fortifies Bones

While weight training is beneficial for your skeleton at any age, it

really becomes essential for women around their 30s when bone mass

gradually begins disappearing. Short of taking drugs, which tend to be

rife with side effects, strength exercise is one of the best ways to

preserve bone mass density, says Kathryn Shmitz, an associate

professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “Bone

loss begins at a glacial pace, picking up steam during perimenopause

and beyond,” says Shmitz, “But it’s really a preventative medicine

issue.” That is, use it or lose it. And men aren’t off the hook either,

emphasizes Vonda Wright, MD, author of Fitness After 40. They do

tend to build up more bone early and hold onto it longer, but some 2

million men in this country have osteoporosis showing bang for your

buck, include some higher impact toning exercises, like throwing a

weighted medicine ball back and forth with a workout buddy, suggests


It Spices Up Your Sex Life

It’s no coincidence if you feel a little randy after a gym session.

Exercise of all types has been shown to boost libido and encourage

blood flow to the genitals for enhanced arousal. But strength training

has its own set of benefits. “Stronger muscles to support the body can

give couples the liberty to experiment with more sexual positions,”

explains Sara Nasserzadeh, PhD, a certified sexual therapist.

It’s a Fountain of Youth

Lifting weights is one of the most powerful ways to look and feel

younger. Women who do it three times a week have more of a type of

growth hormone that prevents muscle and bone loss with age,

according to researchers at the University of Connecticut. Producing

growth hormone become harder with age, making regular strength

training even more important for keeping your metabolism humming

and preventing bone fractures as you get older.

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