Cardio v. Weight Training for Fat Loss
Cardiovascular training is best for losing weight, while weight training is best for building muscle, right?
The thinking has been that, in order to lose weight (fat), you need to burn calories. You can burn more calories by consistent effort that keeps the heart rate elevated (Aerobic).
However, this argument looks only at the calories burned during the actual exercise activity, instead of during the entire period of the exercise program. Weight training builds muscles and muscles burn calories at rest, especially after a hard workout, when the repair process is taking place. Therefore, bigger muscles lead to more calories burned and fat lost. Is the amount of calories burned all day by muscles more than the amount burned in a relatively brief period of aerobic activity?
The Study About Weight Lifting for Weight Loss
A study conducted at Duke University and published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in December 2012 addressed these very questions. The study surveyed 234 overweight adults and placed them in one of three programs -- aerobic training, weight training, or a combination of these two.
The aerobic training group exercised at 70 to 85 percent maximum heart rate for 45 minutes three times a week. The resistance training group did eight to 12 repetitions on resistance machines, increasing resistance as the study progressed. The combination group did both routines. Each participant was weighed, measured and tested for cardio fitness, body composition, and strength at the end of each routine.
Eight months later, body weight had decreased in the aerobic and the combination groups, but increased in the weight-training group. Fat composition and waist circumference also decreased in both aerobic and combination groups, but was unchanged in the resistance training group. Muscle mass increased in both the combination and resistance groups, but not the aerobics group. The weight training group didn't lose fat or inches, but did decrease its members’ percentage of body fat by increasing muscle mass. The weight training group did not gain weight, suggesting that its lost fat was replaced by muscle.
This is a reason why it is important to distinguish between fat loss and the more euphemistic “weight” loss. Which do you really want? The aerobics group actually lost lean body mass. What do you want to look like? Fat people often want to be thin and thin people often want to be more muscular. The combination group did roughly twice the work of either of other groups, but its members did not lose significantly more fat or inches than those in the aerobics-only group. It seems that most of us are not at the extremes, where fat loss or muscle gain are the only thing we care about. So it seems that we should benefit most from the routines of the combination group.