When it comes to losing weight, nobody wants to put in a load of effort for no gain in the long term. That’s why, as a rigorous study shows, you should make building muscle, not burning loads of calories in a short space of time, your priority.
How many people do you know who decide to get in shape by cardio alone? We can think of plenty of examples of friends and family members who’ve gone on a health kick and taken up running and then lost a decent amount of weight, only to pile it back on again – sometimes even more than before – as soon as they take their foot off their proverbial gas. Why is this?
Well, it has something to do with your body’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) – the amount of energy your body burns throughout the day just to meet its resting needs – and what tends to happen to this when you lose weight through cardiovascular exercise. Rather than increasing your body’s BMR, cardio weight loss is likely to lower it, meaning that when you cease your program of exercise, it’s actually easier for you to overeat and thus put on weight.
Scientists have now shown that when you lift weights, the muscles send instructions to fat tissue causing it to begin burning its fat stores. Click here to read all about these fascinating new findings.
So what’s the answer if you want to lose weight and stay in shape? Build muscle, of course, as one very thorough study shows.
The Study: Data on 10,000 men between 40 and 75
The study focused in particular on older men, but the conclusions apply more broadly. After the age of 30, muscle mass gradually decreases, reducing the body’s BMR, thereby making it easier to put on weight as time passes.
Although cardiovascular exercise will burn more calories in the short-term than weights-based exercise, strength training helps to retain muscle mass in the face of aging. Excess cardio can actually lead to muscle loss too: just look at a marathon runner’s physique for an extreme example of this.
Here’s another way cardio can kill your gains, courtesy of Athlean-X
The study drew on a vast amount of longitudinal data on middle-aged men. Data on 10,000 healthy men for the period between 1996 and 2008 were used, charting how the men’s waist measurements had changed over that period. All of the participants in the study were between 40 and 75 when the study first began.
“Because aging is associated with the loss of skeletal muscle mass, relying on body weight is insufficient for the study of healthy aging”, stated the lead author of the study. “Measuring waist circumference is a better indicator of healthy body composition among older adults.”
All 10,000 men were then divided up according to the amount of aerobic exercise they did, followed by the amount of strength training they did.
The results show beyond a shadow of a doubt that those who also did strength training saw a much greater decrease in relative waist circumference over the 12-year period, with the result for those performing more than 25 minutes a day being especially striking. The relative waist circumference change was actually most for those who performed 25 minutes a day of strength training but did not adhere to the aerobic-exercise recommendations.
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The evidence clearly shows that strength training offers greater protection against an increasing waist circumference than moderate or vigorous aerobic exercise.
What Does This Mean for Me? No Cardio?
Whether you choose to do cardio depends, of course, on your goals. If you want to be a Marine or a rugby player and one of the requirements is to be able to run a certain distance in a certain time, you’re going to have be able to meet that requirement, and cardiovascular training will probably be involved.
Likewise, if you just want to feel good and get a rush from the endorphins, that’s fine as well. But clearly cardio isn’t the only way to lose weight, and this study shows that it may actually be much less effective as a long-term strategy for staying in shape than doing regular strength training.
Even though weight training should always be the priority, we have an article explaining why cardio is still very important when trying to lose fat. If weight training is your primary focus, you should still throw in frequent cardio sessions to train the most important muscle in your body: your heart.
If weight training doesn’t quite cut it, here is the best form of cardio when attempting to lose fat.
If you’re starting out and want to lose weight, the best place for you to start would be with our amazing Fat Loss Bundle, which contains everything you need to lower that scale and start feeling really good about yourself.
Don’t hesitate to email us at [email protected] for personalized coaching and a client questionnaire if you’d like DEDICATED tailor-made personal training on strength training, building muscle, losing fat, developing athleticism, and more — all to your liking, lifestyle, habits, and taste!
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