Want to Lose Fat? Do Less Cardio & Lift Weights
Updated: Apr 22
In my opinion, the best weight loss strategy is a blend of high-intensity interval cardio and progressive weight training.
Clearing the air: Will cardio make you fat? No! Eating more food than you burn will make you fat.
Want to lose your fat pockets and uncover those six pack? In order to achieve this goal, you must follow a systematic process. Unfortunately, picking the right parents is the single most influential facet in the body fat loss hierarchy. After that, diet is paramount. And I don’t mean starve yourself; eat wholesome sating foods (preferably low sugar and high protein). I can’t stress how important diet is in this equation. You can’t out-exercise a horrible nutritional plan. Now that you have the right genetics and a clean eating strategy forget the hours of cardio and do some intelligent resistance training – especially for reducing fat.
Doug’s Hierarchy For Fat Loss
Have great genetics (blame or thank your parents!)
Clean eating every day
Resistance training 2 to 5 days per week
Cardio (increase your non-exercise activity and do some high-intensity short duration intervals)
Let me be clear, cardio is great for a whole host of things (even weight loss) – it’s just not an efficient way to decrease body fat. Don’t believe me? Look at the majority of people at the gym who only do cardio. Their bodies don’t change. Moreover, stand at the finish line of a marathon and after the winners zoom by taking a look at how many overweight runners there are. Marathon training requires a lot of cardio, so why are so many runners still overweight? Simple: Cardio makes you hungry by directly affecting hunger hormones (ghrelin and insulin). Many people feel it is a license to eat more. “I ran 8 miles today thus I deserve some ice cream cake!” Some evidence shows chronic cardio stresses your endocrine system and increases water retention (due to the gross soft tissue/joint inflammation). In the end, you can’t outrun a bad diet. Do you know how hard it is to burn 500 calories with cardio? It’ll take about 1 hour of punishing work on a treadmill or rowing machine to barely eke out 500 calories. And you know what? Four slices of bacon or a bagel with cream cheese or one slice of pepperoni pizza will instantly negate all that hard work.
On the other hand, there is a healthy amount of evidence showing the superiority resistance training has over cardio when it comes to decreasing one’s body fat. Both ways will work but smart weight training tends to be more efficient than steady state cardio. One of the biggest reasons weight training is so good at fat burning is that it boosts your resting metabolic rate (RMR – consists of the bulk of calories your body burns in a day) for up to 24-36 hours post training session. Whereas cardio increases metabolism for about 2 hours post exercise. Anaerobic exercise: resistance training and high-intensity interval cardio will also increase your EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). This after-burn effect is important because it forces a change in your homeostasis and elevates the amount of energy your body burns for a few hours post exercise. It is difficult to estimate, but the general rule is the more intense the exercise, the greater the effect. EPOC is clearly important but stoking the RMR furnace stoked should be your chief concern. This enables you to burn more calories while you rest and sleep!! Your RMR is largely dependent on the amount of lean muscle you carry. Muscle is metabolically demanding tissue whereas fat is basically inert. Long steady state cardio diminishes your testosterone and lean muscle. In order to reap the benefits of a higher metabolism, you must work hard and progressively overload your body on a regular basis. According to William’s 2006 survey of almost 13k runners if you are not consistently increasing your speed and weekly distance you will likely lose muscle and gain fat.
Here’s the scientific rub: I can point to several studies that show cardio is superior to resistance training for weight loss and vice versa. Like here, here, here, here and here. Lots of conflicting information. However, there are some clear data points: with a proper nutritional plan short-term steady state cardio usually outperforms resistance training in overall weight loss but resistance training is better at burning off the fat. This is because steady state cardio eats up the metabolically demanding (and heavy) lean muscle tissue. So you lose weight but your RMR slows and you have less muscle. Now you have a slower metabolism and are working against your body to keep the weight off. This is not a sustainable method for most people. Data seems to favor resistance training long term because it has a larger effect on the weight-regulating hormonal mechanisms that try to maintain homeostasis.
The best way to burn fat is to eat less. Get your macronutrients in order and keep it clean. Do this every day. Get to the gym 3 to 5 days per week and hit the weights in a periodized fashion. At the end of your weight training workouts throw in a Tabata or HIIT session. Increase your non-exercise activity and move and stand whenever you can. In the end, the best workouts are the ones you are willing to do – but please do something.