Fat Loss in 2017 – Should I perform cardio or lift weights?

breaking the weight loss plateau

2017 is already upon us. There’s literally no better time to take the initial steps to a better you than right now. If you’ve been wanting to make a change, NOW is the time. And if you’re wondering why you waited until 2017 to make the change, check this article out.

No matter if you’ve already joined our gym or are thinking about it, we can almost guarantee this question is floating around your head – I want to lose weight, but I don’t know where to start. Should I do cardio, should I lift weights, or should I do both?

Before we answer that question, first let’s squash a few of your other fears…

1. Don’t be afraid. No one will judge you. No matter how out of shape you are or how little you know about fitness, not ONE single person at Ageless will ever judge you. As we commonly say, we were all beginners once.

And while we’re at it, let’s also dispel this misconception too. A lot of people that’s never been in the gym before have this erroneous belief that a gym is this oasis of ripped guys with 6 packs and women with toned arms, fabulous butts, and long, lean legs. It’s not. You’ll see belly fat, cellulite, and arms that jiggle. 99.999% of us are just like you. We have our own imperfections and are fighting our own battles. Models and cover girls we are not.

2. Ask. Exercise is confusing. There are so many “experts” with so many conflicting answers that a simple answer can get really complex. On top of that, research is always changing so what may seem like the best method today may end up not being the best method tomorrow. We’re here to help. We pride ourselves on keeping up with the latest research, and spend a lot of time and money on continuing education and training. And if you can’t find an Ageless team member, ask a fellow gym member. We’re a small town gym. You won’t find a member that isn’t willing to help another member out.

Now let’s get to your question….

The short answer – cardio.

Here’s why.

The formula for losing weight is relatively simple (the methods are not nor is the process).

Calories consumed < Calories burned

So to lose weight, you have one of two options, or both: 1) Eat less. 2) Exercise more.

If you’re joining a gym, obviously you’re interested in exercising more. So, we need to pick the method that burns the most calories that YOU are able to do without risk of injury or burnout.

If you’re new to exercise, overweight, or out of shape, cardio will be the best solution because:
1. Compared to resistance training, cardio will burn more calories during a single workout.
2. Compared to resistance training, you can perform cardio daily without getting too sore or impairing your recovery ability. Thus, you’ll burn more calories over the course of the week because you’ll be able to exercise more frequently.
3. Cardio is more convenient. It can be done on a treadmill, ellitpical, bike, rower, or with light weights. You can do it indoors, outdoors,watching TV, sitting, or standing.
4. Cardio has less restrictions. If you have bad knees, a bad back, or almost any other medical condition (always consult a doctor first though), you can always find some form of cardio that can be done.

Summary: If you’re interested in losing weight, when you enter the gym, your goal should always be to burn the most calories possible.

What if I have no injuries, am in good health, but have never lifted weights before?

If you still have 15+ pounds to lose, cardio is still the better option simply because you’ll burn more calories doing it. If you’ve never lifted weights before, you won’t be strong enough to get a good calorie burn from a resistance training workout. A 45 minute spin or Flow class can burn 500+ calories, while a resistance training workout using light weights and traditional reps/sets of 3×10 may only burn 200 calories.

What about the fitness magazines that say you have to resistance train to keep your muscle mass so your metabolism stays up?

That’s true. Guess what also keeps your metabolism up? Gaining weight. Always remember the equation from above. It’s always about burning more calories or eating less calories so you’re in a caloric deficit.

The error we see too often is members performing a resistance training routine with the hopes of fat loss, but unfortunately, they’re not using a heavy enough weight. Worse yet, they never attempt to progress to heavier weights from workout-to-workout. Thus, they aren’t getting a large enough stimulus to increase muscle mass nor are they burning many calories during their workouts.

What about high intensity interval training (HIIT) and tabatas?

We love HIIT. However, once again, to get the most out of it, you need a foundation of fitness built from traditional cardio. Someone who has never stepped in a gym before shouldn’t jump onto the treadmill and sprint for 30 seconds. That person is just asking for an injury, and is high unlikely going to be able to complete a 20-30 minute HIIT-style workout. Again, her workout will be void of the total calorie burn she’ll need to lose weight.

So when should I lift weights if I want to lose weight?

We recommend members slowly transitioning to weights once they feel comfortable with their cardio and feel they’ve hit a weight loss plateau. Although we’d love to have a definitive number, we can’t give you one. It’s different for everyone. Some say you should shoot for a distance of say 3 miles on the treadmill. Others say it should be time related like a mile run in less than 8 minute, while others say your goal should be a resting heart rate less than 75. Honestly, those are all speculations rooted in very little evidence. You’ll know it when you get there. Trust your body.

However, remember one thing when it comes to resistance training to lose weight. Your goal is to build enough muscle mass and strength to perform HIIT/circuit-style resistance training workouts. So, pick the big exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, chin-ups, and bench presses and really strive to add more weight to the bar each week or every other week. Once you have a good foundation of strength, you can add complexes or circuits to your resistance training workout and really turn up the fire on your calorie burn.

Now hit the gym with some enthusiasm.