You asked: Cardio versus strength training for fat loss

I am not sure if you have heard, but you do not need to run to be thin. But cardio, more accurately aerobic exercise, is often promoted as THE BEST STRATEGY for weight loss. Aerobic exercises are touted as:

  • Burning more calories in a shorter period of time.
  • Cheap, all you need is a pair of shoes and ground to walk all.
  • Supposedly higher fat burning.
  • And more.

The truth is that long duration, aerobic activities are not the most effective, efficient strategies for fat loss.

I could tell you all the benefits of strength training. But you can Google that and come up with some pretty respectable answers. What I want to tell you are a few reasons  WHY strength training is better than aerobic exercise for fat loss and weight maintenance.

EPOC

After exercise , the body continues to need oxygen at a higher rate than before the exercise began. This sustained oxygen consumption is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Because of this, the body continues to expend energy after exercise and therefore burn calories. Research shows that EPOC is greater after resistance training than it is after aerobic exercises – likely as a result of greater intensity and disruption to the body’s homeostasis.

While you may burn more calories during 30 minutes of aerobic training than you will with 30 minutes of strength training (not always the case!), you will burn more calories in the hours following strength training than you will in the hours following aerobic training because of EPOC.

MORAL: Strength training ultimately burns more calories than aerobic training.

Muscle burns calories – fat does not

I know you have heard it, “Muscle burns more calories than fat.” I hate this phrase – because it implies that fat would burn some amount of calories. It does not!

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Want to see results from only working out 3-5 hours a week? It’s possible! I have done it and so have many of my clients.

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Training for sport: Running

Running is a sport. What many individuals fail to realize is that you need to train to run – you do not just go out and do it. Similar to other sports, in order to become proficient and remain injury free, you need to train for competition. This training is not exclusive to sport-specific training – for example, running if you want to run – but incorporates a full spectrum of cross training.

I meet more and more individuals who only run – and others who throw in a few crunches here and there. I also know many individuals who believe that running is the only way to lose weight or stay in shape. Please know, you do not need to run to be thin. Running is hard on the body. The human body is no longer regularly conditioned for this level of impact – as we have become an incredibly sedentary society. This is not to say that the human body is not capable of sustaining the wear and tear of running – it is – but we need to train for it.

runnerWalking & jogging

If you are not running now but want to start to run – you must first walk. Unless you spend many hours a day on your feet walking around as it is, I caution against the popular “Couch to 5K” programs before appropriately conditioning your body and feet to walking. Many of these programs have you running/jogging on Day 1 – allowing for generous walking breaks. While you might think, I walk every day, how much do you walk? And do you walk with intent and speed? Walking in preparation for a jog or run has a different impact on the body than walking into the supermarket.

Something running misses

Let’s say that you are beginning to run and you decide – I will train for a 5K. Awesome! I love these goals. So, you begin a running program, and by race day your lungs are ready and you feel like your legs are too! Later that day your knees hurt. Why? You train running in a relatively straight line. Race day, you are dodging manhole covers, puddles, and other runners. The lateral movements take their toll and later manifest as pain. This can be avoided with cross training – in include strength training and movement specific functional training. For example, adding speed or power skaters to a strength circuit.

Repetitive motion injuries

Common running injuries? Blisters, lost toenails, plantar fasciitis, shin splits, knee and hip pain, and iliotibial band syndrome – just to name a few. Blisters (and calluses) are out body’s way of protecting itself. This could be the result to ill fitting shoes, improper socks, or simply doing too much too soon and the body not being accustomed to being on its feet.

Many running injuries are the result of repetitive motion. We can categorize “runner’s knee” – or chondromalacia patella – as a repetitive motion injury and liken it to carpal tunnel or trigger finger – injuries most often sustain on the job. How do we reduce the likelihood of these injuries and/or lessen the effects of them? We cross train and we train to run.

My testimony

I started running longer distances to prove to myself and my doctors that I could. I have been very inconsistent about it over the years. In Spring 2010, while training for a half marathon, I sustained what I now know what a stress fracture in my foot. I did not run for a month – weeks 7-10 of my 12-week training plan. This is a large portion of the training and I missed 4 significant long runs. BUT, I did not miss my training. I converted my training program to the rower (Concept 2) and I trained for those 4 weeks with rowing and my usual strength training. I allowed my foot to heal and I was able to ease right back into my run training. I finished that half marathon – doing a third or more of my training on a rower and running 3 or fewer days a week for the other two thirds of the training.

So let me ask, is running the only method for training to run?

And is it the best method?

I am training for another half marathon next month. I run 3 days a week in preparation. It will be two years since my last half marathon – and I have run very little in those two years. However, I have cut more than a minute off of my per mile time. Again, with little to no running until about 8 weeks ago.

How often do you run?

The bottomline

This is all meant to be food for thought. It is often said that running is the easiest and most inexpensive physical activity you can partake in. Do you also know is has one of the highest risks of potential injury – often ranking with sports like skiing and soccer? (While walking and swimming have MUCH lower risks). Finally, I am not discouraging running – I am discouraging ONLY running. Train smart and your body will thank you for it.

Do you run and only run?

Are you feeling aches and pains?

Are you getting results?

Look at those legs! GOAL 6

Years ago I was walking downtown with a girl friend and headed into a bar. A group of guys came out, intoxicated, and were awed by my ‘soccer legs.’ Now, I will be the first to tell you that I do not have soccer legs. If I were to categorize them, they would be mid-distance runner legs! I have naturally strong legs. I remember the first time I managed to squat 225. I hadn’t trained towards it – not specifically – I just pick up the bar and I did it. Whoa!

squatGOAL 6 – Squat 300

After that, I began more focused training. I managed to max out at a 300 pound squat. I will complete 4-6 squats with 300 pounds. My most recent weight has been 235 pounds – I fear going above that without the security of a trusted spotter. NOTE: Due to back and knee restrictions I do not squat to quite 90 degrees. For best results, I encourage everyone to work within their individual range of motion and use proper form, technique, and safety precautions.

 
Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. – Psalm 105:4