Weights or Cardio? Experts spend considerable time and energy debating which is more effective for tackling hard to lose weight often centred in and around the abdomen. While many exercisers opt for cardio based programs, studies performed by Harvard University and other medical researchers suggest weight training offers more sustainable and reliable results.
Cardio exercise has been shown to be effective at keeping weight off once a goal weight has been achieved, but to get to that weight you have to lay the foundation to burn stomach fat.
Weight Training Burns Calories for up to 38 Hours After a Workout
Losing belly fat is one of the hardest components of any weight loss goal. If you seek to shift stubborn fat from your mid section the key is to continually burn fat, even when no longer exercising.
Cardio advocates speak of it’s ability to burn an abundance of calories in a relatively short period of time. They have a point. You can burn up to 12 calories per minute with cardio such as running or cycling compared to a lesser 8-10 per minute with weight training. That's great, but the calorie burn basically stops when cardio ceases.
Because weight lifting and strength training is pretty taxing on your body you continue to burn calories during the recovery process, long after exercise is complete. Weight training causes micro-trauma within your musculature - and the repair of this muscle fibre breakdown causes an elevation in metabolic rate. Some research has suggested the weight training afterburn effect can provide a metabolic boost of around 10% and last up to 38 hours post exercise.
The magnitude of calorie burn depends on a number of variables including the intensity, duration, exercise type, current fitness level and gender of the exerciser.
Let’s think about this for a second. If you workout every other day with strength training you could continually burn stomach fat and calories at a higher rate for the majority of time between workouts. Sounds fantastic right?
A key consideration though is the structure of your workouts. You need to regularly vary your routine. This might mean increasing the weight, altering reps, equipment or exercises in your program every few weeks. Once muscles adapt to a particular routine or stimulus the impact on metabolism and fat burning potential becomes less pronounced. Muscles tend to become stagnant if the same lifts and exercises are performed time after time.
Weight training promotes lean muscle development
Specific weight training can be employed to enhance lean muscle throughout your body. Why is this important? Not only does it look great, lean muscle burn calories more effectively, and allows your body to function efficiently.
Admittedly, there is still some debate over the lean muscle burns more calories theory. A few years ago hopeful weight loss enthusiasts bandied about stats like one pound of extra muscle would burn an extra 50 calories per day. Unfortunately there was no factual basis for this number.
It’s true, lean muscle aides calorie burning. The numbers are just a lot lower. A couple of studies have demonstrated the extra burn is about 6-10 calories per day for every pound of muscle gained. Yes this is still helpful, as part of a wider weight loss effort, but it is not the miracle cure so many have prophesied.
However, weight training remains vitally important in maintaining lean muscle. As we age we lose lean muscle and increase fat mass. The impact of weight training on weight loss could be more pronounced when you consider the losses in important calorie burning muscle that may have occurred otherwise.
It’s important to keep in mind that as you add more lean muscle to your frame, your weight may actually rise. Ladies, in particular, don’t fret if you don’t see a significant drop in weight on the scales or even a slight increase. Lean muscle weighs more than fat. But it will give you a more attractive, streamlined appearance and is positively associated with metabolic rate and the function of the cardiovascular and circulatory systems.
Focus your ‘weight loss’ efforts on fat loss not scale weight. The more lean muscle you build within your body and core, the more belly fat you’ll continue to lose.
Cardio Can Burn Fat AND Muscle
Excessive amounts of cardio can burn both fat AND muscle. Burning muscle compromises the foundation you are trying to build on, especially if you are trying to lose weight.
It's relatively common for individuals looking to lose belly fat to over indulge in cardio as they strive to achieve weight loss goals. They often wonder why they get that ‘skinny fat’ appearance. You know the one - you seem to be losing weight but still suffer from a fat belly or unsightly fat deposits around other specific parts of your body.
Too much cardio can actually lower overall calorie burning potential by reducing muscle mass as your body uses muscle for fuel. Muscle tissue is made up predominantly of protein, formed by amino acids. Now you're probably familiar with carbohydrates and that these are a predominant source of fuel during exercise when broken down into glucose. In fact in order to burn fat, carbohydrates must be present in the physiological process.
But if your blood glucose is low, and muscle glycogen (stored glucose) is also compromised, your body may turn to muscle protein as a source of fuel - breaking down amino acids into all important sugar. You’ve worked so hard to put on lean muscle - you don't want to lose it when trying to get rid of fat.
The impact of this can be further exaggerated if dietary regime is inadequate. A diet deficient in calories or lacking specific macronutrients can enhance muscle breakdown.
Create A "Bigger Weight Loss Engine"
Lifting weights builds or tones muscle. Using weights to effectively reduce excess body fat offers a variety of benefits over and above the creation of lean muscle mass.
Let’s think of your body as an engine. The foods you consume as the fuel. Hopefully this gives you some idea of how the "bigger engine" concept works. To build a larger engine you need to create the right foundation or components. Your foundation includes strong bones and lean muscle tissue. Weight training provides both.
The more lean muscle mass the body has, the bigger the engine. As the engine gains in size and becomes more powerful it runs more effectively. The metabolism increases to help maintain optimum weight and maximum efficiency. A bigger engine is capable of running for longer periods of time without slowing or losing momentum.
With all of this talk of weight training and losing weight, it’s important to consider the impact on dietary intake. A wonderful side benefit of weight training is that a person may not need to count calories as closely as they would in absence of this type of training.
In fact, individuals who lift weights on a regular basis may need more calories than the average person once they successfully burn stomach fat and achieve their ideal weight. A person who lifts weights will need more protein to help maintain the lean muscle that begins to form. Carbohydrates and fats are also essential for fuel and should be consumed in moderation to prevent excessive fat cells forming on days when no exercise is planned.