If you are on social media, you will no doubt have seen copious amounts of posts about ditching cardio and only focusing on weight training if you want to 'lose weight' or as I like to say, lose inches, build muscle, lose body fat. When I watch this information on social media, it does annoy me because I don't feel that all the information is being given. This is a bigger topic that needs to be discussed and understood so that we can all make an informed decision on what is best for us.
So let's discuss this ...
First of all - WHAT IS CARDIOVASCULAR TRAINING?
Cardiovascular training, most often referred to as Cardio, is any type of movement that is repetitive and uses your main muscle groups to increase your heart rate and your lung capacity. 'Cardio' refers to your heart and 'vascular' refers to your lungs. Examples of cardio exercises might be a brisk walk, a jog or run, a basketball game, dancing, jumping jacks, swimming, cycling, jump rope and pretty much most sports. Cardio often includes jumping which can be hard on joints, but there are many cardio exercises out there that are gentle on the joints too, like mountain climbers, lunges into a kick, stair climbers and more. If it gets your heart rate up and your breathing gets heavier, you are doing cardio.
In a cardio workout you will see the calories burned getting higher and higher as you continue in your workout - if you wear any type of device that measures calories burned. This can be really exciting to see and can result in you only wanting to do cardio. Because let's say that after an hour of doing Zumba you burned 500 calories, well the 90 calories that you burned in the full body workout class yesterday will seem much less impressive. I know you are nodding your head LOL. But keep reading.
WHAT IS WEIGHT TRAINING?
This is any type of workout that includes weight - now that could mean dumbbells, barbells or kettlebells (of ANY weight) but it also includes body weight training and resistance bands. In these types of workouts the aim is to push a muscle group until it tires. As an example you might be doing a bicep curl - if you are using a 3lb weight you might need to do 50 curls before your bicep is tired. However you could also pick up a 40lbs weight and do 5 curls. Both of these examples are considered weight training however you will get faster results using a heavier weight. If you asked my son who is strong but trying to build a lot of muscle, he would tell you to go heavier with few reps and to keep going heavier (even if for just one rep) until failure. For me personally, I like lower weights and higher reps. The heavier weight will not bulk me up (as many women believe) but it is about enjoying a workout and personally I like lifting my small weights to music counting in 8 beats LOL - perhaps it is the dancer in me. My progress will be slightly slower but I am happy with my progress to date and I enjoy my workouts - and really that is key! If you are only result driven, you will do the workout that gives results in the shorter term, but if you are after lifestyle, you do the workouts that you enjoy and know you can continue to do every week, year after year.
Body weight training is another form of weight training which is harder than you'd think. In these workouts you only use your own body weight as the resistance. Think about planks, squats, lunges, push ups, pull ups. These are all examples of bodyweight training - which you can do anywhere and any time as there is no equipment needed. You could even use your staircase at home, stepping slowly up onto the second / third step and controlling the step down - a quick example.
When you look at your calorie counter, you won't see the high numbers of calories burned as you would in a cardio workout but that doesn't mean that you won't lose inches. Let's discuss further.
Calories are the measurement of energy. Energy that you need for your body to operate. In other words, our bodies need a minimum amount of calories (from food and drink) to survive. We each have a different number as this number is based on our sex, height, muscle mass, etc. This individual number is your minimum survival amount of calories needed - ie the calories just to keep your heart beating, your digestive system working, your lungs breathing, your brain functioning and all the other systems in our bodies working when we are at complete rest. There is a lot to learn about calories, and I will do another post on calories, but let's talk about how calories impact weight loss in cardio and weight training.
In Cardio, as mentioned, you will see the impact of your workout straight away. You will see from your watch how many calories you burned in a workout which is very satisfying. Once your workout is complete however your heart rate comes down and you continue to burn calories at a lower rate until you do another activity.
In weight training, you don't burn that many calories during your workout but what you are doing is building up muscle which is directly linked to increasing your metabolism. When you build muscle, your body becomes more efficient in burning your body fat. In addition, for 24 hours after a weight workout, your body will continue to burn calories (and thereby fat) at a higher rate.
SO WHICH WORKOUT IS BETTER FOR WEIGHT LOSS?
What we need to remember is that both types of workouts have their benefits. When we only do cardio, we definitely lose weight in that the scale number goes down. However that weight in pounds or kilos is going down due to you losing both muscle and fat. When you do cardio only, you can end up slowing down your metabolism in the long run. Having said that, cardio is immensely important to your cardiovascular health and it is a great tool if your goal is to 'lose weight'.
Weight training on the other hand has been proven to build muscle whilst burning fat giving you a healthier body composition and assisting your body in continuing to burn calories even when not working out. The big benefit of losing weight with weight training, is that you don't lose muscle when you 'lose weight'.
So really the answer is that both types of work outs are important and a good balance of activity, just like a good variety of foods is always more beneficial than sticking to just one.
It is worth pointing out these important facts:
Muscle weighs more than fat - so always understand what you are reading on the scale! If you are doing all the right things but the number on the scale isn't moving, then you might be building muscle and losing fat - the best way to monitor this is by using a body composition scale that tracks your weight, body fat percentage, hydration levels, visceral fat, lean muscle mass and more, or simply by measuring your body with a tape measure to monitor inches lost.
Weight loss is 80% about the food you eat and only 20% about your workout - tackle bad habits in the kitchen and use your workouts to improve your overall strength, to tone and to improve cardiovascular health. Remember that food / drink isn't all about the calories but also the quality of the food. Food is your fuel and builds your cells - put bad quality in your body now and 10 years from now you will be regretting it. Your body is literally a result of what you ate several years ago.
Cardio and weight training work hand in hand - having a good balance of both of these types of workouts will benefit you for many reasons, not just weight loss. Benefits include stress management, improved coordination, better posture & balance, mobility improvements, confidence and yes.... weight loss. Tabata and HIIT are great classes for incorporating both cardio and strength training in one place.
Most importantly, please remember not to get obsessed with losing weight. Life is not about looking amazing, it is about feeling good and experiencing love, fun and joy with those whom are important to you. If losing weight is a goal, do so in a healthy way in mind, body and heart.
Much love always, Amanda xoxo