Fat loss – which is better cardio or weights?

By: Quinton de Bruin

Now this is one of those questions that is asked in gyms around the world and it is a great question! This morning in the gym I was people watching – sure that sounds odd in a gym setting but there was method to my madness. Firstly, I was in a gym in Kumeu. What a great facility Kumeu Gym have and I once again enjoyed being in an unfamiliar environment to train in.

What made this observing possible was the layout of the gym. No matter where I was, I was able to see what people were doing. As you train you observe who is doing what and with an interest in constant improvement, I watch what training they do also. While we were there, a spin class was taking place, a couple of personal trainers were doing their thing with clients and a group session was underway with a trainer working intimately with about six or eight people. It was difficult to tell exactly how many because he was constantly moving to different people doing different things – instructing sets and reps and on different equipment – brilliant skills! Then at the other end was the cardio equipment. As in any gym, there are always people on these machines (and I will disclose I too had a session on them).

So for a minute, put yourself in a situation where you want to shred some kilos and you walk into the gym and find yourself, drink bottle and towel in hand, right between the cardio equipment on one side of you and the weights and weights machines on the other side. You are busy, you want results and you want to know which way you should turn. Turns out that you burn 10 calories per minute lifting weights and up to a whopping 12 calories per minute doing cardio – easy call then right? Well hold the phone for a minute caller we have some more unpacking to do here. Exercise physiologist Mike Bracko says that our bodies are relatively comfortable when we undertake cardio activity. But when you weight training, your body is like "What the…what is this?" and as a result it takes about an hour to recover and as a result burning an extra 25% calories on top of the ones you smashed out at the gym!

The bonus: Your metabolism stays elevated by up to 10 percent for three days after you lift as your body repairs the microtrauma in muscles, says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., an exercise-science professor at Quincy College in Massachusetts.

I should add here though I have taken a one-dimensional view point above. Here is a different perspective. If you are purely interested in beating your battle with the scale, cardio will be your friend. Why?? Because you can do a lot more cardio and your per minute rate of burning calories is nice and high. If however you are losing weight because you want to look toned and shaping up for summer or just to fit into a dress (not sure why I assumed I am writing for females) – then you need to get comfy with weights. Cardio doesn't do much for your muscles. This about elite endurance athletes – marathon runners. They are lean, with elongated muscles.

So then the real question based on the above is do you want to lose weight or do you want to lose fat? One looks good on the scales and the other looks good on the beach. The reason for this is also a nicely kept secret. Strength training is the number one way to build more muscle. For roughly every 1.5kg of muscle gained you will burn an extra 120 calories per day without moving a single one of those muscles.

Please don't get me wrong this is not a reason to retire the running shoes. Cardio has a role to play in every programme. Being fit requires motion and motion creates emotion. Cardio is the best way to slash stress which is a waistline-wrecker by itself. The best solution – a health programme drawn up by a trainer that accounts for your individual requirements. That is day 19 drawing to a close, all in all it gets a tick in the box from a challenge perspective.

The small print: now is probably a good time to encourage you to have a discussion about your personal situation with your doctor, a nutritionist and the Body and Motion trainers to work out how best to achieve any challenges you have in mind. The thoughts in these blogs are my own personal opinion and shouldn't be taken as direct advice. Some of the choices around what I consume or what activity I partake in may not be endorsed by Body and Motion. However, the team will always be keen enablers of your fitness goals! Talk to us today.


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