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Cardio vs Strength for Weight Loss

Where is my time best spent if I’m trying to lose weight?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions I get from clients starting their fitness journey and is one of the most debated in the health and fitness community. We take a look at the benefits of both.

All too often, I see and hear about people smashing themselves on the cardio machines in an effort to lose weight, yet who are often scared of picking up dumbbells for fear of getting bulky.

In reality, we need to come to terms with the difference between weight loss and fat loss and how to use both cardio and weight training to achieve the right weight outcome.....

By way of comparison, we take two individuals of the same age, gender and weight. Individual (A) has more body fat and less muscle than (B), who has more lean muscle and less overall body fat. Individual (A) will inevitably appear bigger than (B) despite their weight being the same. This is simply because muscle is denser and metabolically active and takes up less total volume than body fat. Furthermore, individual (A) has a lower metabolic rate (due to lower lean muscle mass) and will be more susceptible to weight gain when diet and activity levels change.

We always question weight being the ultimate objective rather than size. While weight is easily measured, lean muscle and low body fat should be the end game and will always result in a smaller more toned body than weight loss achieved through muscle breakdown.

So what works best for increasing muscle and reducing fat? Strength and resistance training or cardio?

Cardio:

  • Reduces risk of heart and vascular diseases by lowering blood pressure and improving cholesterol.
  • Increases insulin sensitivity and helps control weight, reducing risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Studies have also shown a reduction in risk of Alzheimer’s disease and colon, prostate and breast cancers
  • Either slow, long sessions or fast, intense bouts of cardio can burn fat stores for energy, reducing overall body fat

Strength:

  • Reduces the risk of heart disease.
  • Also increases insulin sensitivity and helps control weight, reducing risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduces risk of Osteoporosis.
  • Resistance training builds lean muscle. As opposed to fat, muscle is metabolically active. So the more lean muscle mass you have, the better your metabolism. You’ll be burning more calories well past the completion of your workout.
  • The correct resistance level for strength training will not make you ‘big’ or ‘bulky.’

The answer?

Getting lean and keeping the fat off is the end game, rather than watching the number on the scale go down. For the majority of our clients, the best strategy is to include cardio to maximise fat burning while also integrating strength and resistance training to keep the fat off for good.

If you’re still not sure about the best approach for you, drop in and have a chat with one of our trainers and we will work with you to determine the precise mix to suit your current state and your training objectives.

Written by Matt Sutherland on Sunday, 05 November 2017.

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