When training for fat loss, you will hear a lot of personal trainers, celebrities, and gym goers talk about cardio as your best fat loss option, with rarely any mention of weights training, but is cardio really the best way to lose fat?
At Real Results, we say definitely not.
Our personal training for fat loss is centred heavily around the use of weight training with some, if any, use of standard cardio.
Below are 3 reasons as to why we believe weights training to be superior compared to standard cardio for fat loss.
1. HELPS RETAIN LEAN MASS
Weights training will help retain lean mass during a fat loss phase whereas cardio does not. Lifting weights with adequate protein consumption will trigger muscle protein synthesis, which is the production of muscle tissue. This production of muscle tissue can help offset any muscle loss from the energy restriction of the fat loss phase.
Also, any increase in lean mass in the body will increase basal metabolic rate, meaning your body will burn off more energy without you having to lift a finger!
2. MUSCLE PROTEIN SYNTHESIS HAS A HIGH ENERGY COST
How much muscle you have has an effect on your basal metabolic rate, meaning that the more muscle you have, the more energy your body burns at rest. This is true, but the energy output of muscle mass is quite overstated, with 1kg of muscle mass only attributing to 6 calories burnt at rest. The benefits of muscle on energy expenditure come from its production more so than its existence.
For your body to build 1 gram of muscle, it costs your body 3 calories to do so. If you manage to build 1kg of muscle mass, then your body will have spent 3,000 calories to do so. That is a large chunk of energy that your body can expend without you having to spend extra hours training each week to get the same effect.
3. WEIGHT TRAINING DOESN’T IMPACT NEGATIVELY ON ENERGY EXPENDITURE
When looking to train for fat loss, there are 3 variables that can be progressively overloaded; Nutrition, Cardio, and Weights Training.
If you choose to overload 1 of these 3 variables, then moderating cardio and nutrition and increasing weights training would be the best option.
Progressively overloading nutrition for fat loss is generally done by reducing food intake, which would decrease energy intake. The negative side of that is that it also reduces energy output by lowering the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF). The TEF is dictated by the volume of food being consumed. The more you eat, the more your body burns through breaking down and digesting that food.
If you eat less, you also burn less.
The take home point, is that reducing food intake for fat loss does also reduce metabolic rate to some degree, making it counterproductive for fat loss.
The second option is to progressively increase cardio, which also has it’s drawbacks. In some cases, increasing the time spent doing cardio actually reduces how much activity a person completes in a day. After spending time doing cardio, non-exercise activities like taking the stairs or walking the dog can actually be reduced due to feeling tired from the cardio session, or believing that you have completed your cardio requirements for the day and therefore don’t feel the need to perform extra activity.
Not everyone experiences this and some people thrive from doing additional cardio sessions, but the average person would benefit more from increasing non-exercise activities as opposed to walking on a treadmill.
The third option to progressively overload weights training doesn’t carry any negative effects to energy consumption. Overloading training volume or intensity of weights training will allow for the maximum consumption of food possible, resulting in an even higher expenditure from TEF. It also means that additional cardio may not be required; meaning any negative effects of cardio can also be avoided.
Progressively overloading weights training carries the benefit of increased protein synthesis, increased lean mass, and improvements to strength and conditioning.
The use of traditional cardio methods for fat loss are not nearly as effective as weights training. That’s not to say that it can’t be beneficial, however it shouldn’t be the priority of an effective fat loss program.