One lesson I have learned over the past 14 years being fitness professional is that common sense is not so common. Now this has nothing to do with the all the amazing members of Fit-2-The-Core over the years I’ve had the pleasure of working with, it’s the advice they get from the Media, Doctors and Friends that have taught me this very valuable lesson.
I had a big reality check this week, as a Doctor of one of my newest members actually prescribed that she stops strength training until she loses 6 pounds, no distinction between fat or muscle, just 6 pounds. His prescription was to perform a 4-5 week aerobic training program until she loses 6 pounds and then she could return to strength training – this blew my mind!
It seems that there is so much misinformation out there, that even Doctors must be confused by all of it. The fact is that there is information overload when it comes to fitness and I understand why the average person could be confused, but I really don’t understand why a medical professional would be. I believe if someone is going to give you advice, that they must back it up by science not hype, they must be a real world practitioner working with clients who got real results and have experience as a coach in this field.
Now beyond this doctors’ recommendations I do believe there are many people maybe even including you, that still believe that aerobics is more effective than strength training. Don’t mistake this with interval training or aka HIIT, as this is an effective strategy for fat loss, but stills fall shorts of the fat loss benefits associated with resistance training.
Cardio is simply anything that gets your heart rate-up; your body doesn’t know the difference, whether your jogging or performing kettle bell swings. The distinction between what type of result you get from cardio are the intensity or heart rate zones you’re working in. Simply imagine how different of a feeling it is to jog and sprint. Jogging can be done for hours, where sprinting at maximal speeds can only be done for seconds, and there is a huge difference in how your body adapts.
Now of course I don’t believe that someone who hasn’t worked out in awhile should just go head first into a high intensity strength or interval workout. So the initial goal is to move better and feel better while learning many of the movement skills required for the progression into higher intensity efforts, as this is where the fat loss magic happens.
So in a sense this could be considered a form of aerobic training and slowly as you start to move better, feel better and become proficient at many of the exercises, you start to ramp up the intensity. The same holds true for cardio, this is why the way we utilize heart rate training is so effective, it meets you where your current fitness level is (at), keeping you in the recovery zone longer than the training zone. Over the weeks you start to spend more time in the higher intensity zones as your fitness improves.
This is the beauty of strength training, it helps you to move better, and it gets you stronger and leaner, reshaping your body and mindset. It also increases many of the growth hormones that increases your bone mass, lean mass (the reason why scale weight is not a an effective measure for progress), insulin sensitivity and decreases many health risks such as heart disease, obesity and osteoporosis, something aerobics simply doesn’t do effectively.
I believe people; even Doctors apparently forget that it’s your muscles that move your limbs, not your heart. Also muscle is where sugar and fat is burned, so why do something that will shrink what basically increases how many calories you burn throughout your day?
Simply put strength-training changes the way your body looks, by gaining precious lean muscle mass, bone mass all while helping you to lose inches (This is why the scale can tell you lost minimum weight, but you dropped two clothes sizes). Now interval training compliments this perfectly by giving you some of the same hormonal effects, but also helps to stimulate the metabolism even further by demanding more fat calories be burned throughout the day, just like strength training, but for a shorter period of time.
Aerobics is the least effective strategy for fat loss, but it can compliment the other two as a recovery strategy and yes you burn some calories, but you do not improve your metabolism at all. In fact you only burn calories during your exercise effort, and depending on how much you do, you can slow your metabolism down.
Take a look at these two studies:
Six Month Study
Diet Plus aerobic exercise (50mins, 5 days per week)
No additional effect of aerobic exercise on body composition
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Jan 2
Effect of calorie restriction with or without exercise on body composition and fat distribution
Reedman et al
Twelve Month Study
- Six hours of aerobic training per week for one year.(60 mins per day, six days per week)
- Average weight loss after one year was 3.5lbs or about .3lbs per month
- 08lbs for women and 3.96lbs for men
Obesity 2007 June- 15:1496-1512
Exercise Effect on Weight Training and Body fat in Men and Women
Mctierman et al
The first study showed that 5 days of 50 minutes of aerobics for 6 months resulted in zero weight or fat loss. So they performed 1,200 minutes or aerobics and got nothing from it, talk about a waste of time.
The second study was for 12 months at 60 minutes 6 days a week of aerobic training, and at the end of the year, they lost only 3.5 lbs. that work (17,280 minutes) and only .3lbs of weight loss a month, not even sure of fat loss, as they didn’t distinguish between fat loss and muscle loss, so who knows?
This study compares aerobic training to interval training:
20 weeks of endurance training vs 15 weeks Interval training
- Energy cost of endurance training = 28,661 calories.
- Interval Training= 13,614 calories (less than half)
- The interval training group showed a NINE TIMES greater loss in subcutaneous fat that the endurance group(when corrected for energy cost).
Burn Fewer Calories and Burn more Fat with Interval Training
- Tremblay A, Simoneau JA, Bouchrd C.
- Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism
- 1990 Jul;43(7):814-8
Interval group burned nine times more fat and spent 47% less time exercising, ouch. The correction for energy cost is the amount of calories that the interval training group burned for the next 24-48 hours after their workout, EPOC(Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption). This is the beauty of interval training, you work without oxygen during the high intensity part of the interval workout, creating an oxygen deficit that your body must payback, so it increases your oxygen uptake during the next 24-48 hours, increased in fat calories burned, yay.
These are just a couple studies, but I believe it’s very clear that aerobics is literally a waste of time and effort and it’s because your body adapts to aerobic exercise by creating an environment that burns less calories. It does this simple by shrinking your metabolic engine (lean muscle mass) so you can go longer. This is why marathon runners have very little muscle mass compared to sprinters and also why they have a higher body fat percentage compared to sprinters, aerobics results is a hybrid human, just like a hybrid vehicle, not the goal if your looking to lose fat and get stronger.
Lets look at one study that shows the power of strength training when it comes to fat loss:
- This study compared three groups following a hypocaloric diet for 12 weeks.
- Group one was a diet only group. Group two was
diet, plus resistance exercise plus a casein (milk) supplement. Group three was identical to group two although they used a whey protein supplement.
- After 12 weeks the diet only group had a loss of 5.5lbs of fat with no change in lean mass. The resistance plus whey(cheese) group had a total fat loss of 9.2lbs and a lean mass gain of 4.4lbs. The resistance plus casein group showed a total fat loss of 15.4lbs and a lean muscle gain of 8.8lbs.
Demling RH, DeSanti L.
Effect of a hypocaloric diet, increased protein intake and resistance training on lean mass gains and fat mass loss in overweight police officers.
Ann Nutr Metab. 2000;44(1):21-9.
In both cases, fat loss was 2 to 3 times greater in the resistance training group that diet alone, with one extra huge benefit, they increased their lean muscle, thus their amount of calories throughout their day (Basal Metabolic Rate). Something even interval training can’t match.
That’s scientific evidence part, here is the real results of real people using these strategies:
Of course your diet is key as we see in all these studies, but this was a focus on exercise intervention and what strategies are most effective. Here are your priorities when it comes to fat loss:
- Train Hard or Go Home! Stop wasting your time.
- Completely flip your priorities when it comes to exercise. Focus on strength training, then interval training and then cardio.
- Take the emphasis off of burning calories during your workout and instead make boosting your metabolism the priority long term. Use exercise that will increase your metabolic rate, which means resistance training.
- Use interval style cardio instead of steady state.
There you have it, now you will be the common sense solution in a not so common sense world.
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