One of the questions I get asked a lot is “What is the best type of training to do for me to lose weight?”. I am going to discuss the pros and cons of each and hopefully give you a better insight into what you can do from a training perspective in order to lose weight. I will assume that you have your diet in order, as it’s a well established fact that to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. A healthy sustainable calorie deficit is around 500kcals per day. At this amount you can expect to lose 0.5-1kg per week.
So, back to the question at hand of cardio vs resistance. Both have value to weight loss but which method is better?
Cardio is a very effective way to burn a lot of calories in a short space of time, or indeed a longer duration if you are someone who enjoys running for example. There are a variety of methods you can use, from steady state cardio through to HIIT (high intensity interval training). That will be something I will discuss another time.
Depending which method you choose you can expect your body to work at different heart rate zones. Which basically means your aerobic zone of your anaerobic zone. How many calories you burn really depends on how hard you work. For example The average person will burn between 80 to 140 calories per mile. That means 30 minutes of running will burn between 280 and 520 calories, depending on your weight and speed. A typical 30 minute HIIT session you can expect to burn between 250 and 350 calories. This can very much depend on how hard you workout and how fit you are, and truth be told it is only part of the story.
Looking at those comparisons you’d be forgiven for ditching HIIT training and going for a run instead, but there is research to show that there is something called the afterburn effect. This can be 6% for lower intensity and up to 15% for higher intensity of the total calories burned during your workout.
Cardio also brings a whole host of benefits for your health and fitness. Some of the benefits you can expect from cardio; A healthier cardiovascular system, stronger immune system, reducing blood pressure, and improving mood are just some of the benefits you can expect to reap.
Resistance training isn’t as effective at burning calories during a workout as cardio training but we need to look beyond that, and look at the benefits to be gained from resistance training. If you include resistance training into a weight loss program, you will prevent muscle atrophy or in some cases you may even find that you gain some muscle. This is great news for long-term weight loss as you are increasing your daily metabolism and ultimately your body will burn more calories on a daily basis. You will also have stronger and more shapely physique if that is a goal.
Other benefits of resistance training can include; Overall improvement in body strength, reduced risk of injury (if good form is maintained), stronger bones and joints and a reduced risk of osteoporosis, , better balance and mobility, improved posture, and an improved sense of wellbeing are some of the many benefits to be gained with resistance training.
One of the biggest problems I have found from this type of training is a complete lack of understanding about how to do it, what type of resistance training you should be doing and what it will do for your body. I will briefly outline some types of resistance training and discuss reps and sets. Later in another article I will discuss this in more depth.
The types of resistance training you can do are; Calisthenics also known as bodyweight training, weight machines, free weights, suspension training, resistance bands, functional training, and plyometrics. These are the main forms but there a few more that can be added to this list. With these types of training you will hear people talk about sets and reps, but what exactly does this mean for your training? Reps are the number of repetitive movements you will do within a block, known as a set. So, if you see 3×15, this means you need to do 3 sets of 15 reps. This knowledge is needed to understand how making changes to these numbers will affect the results you achieve. As this article is related to weight loss, as a starting point I would recommend doing 3 sets of 8-12 reps or 3sets of 12+ reps. These rep ranges will ensure you can build muscle and burn calories efficiently.
Both cardio and resistance have a place together in any sustainable weight loss program. The goal of any sustainable program should be to lose weight whilst minimising muscular atrophy. If I was pushed to say which is better for long-term weight loss I would go with resistance training as there is so much variety and it will bring the most benefits. My personal opinion is to include both elements into your routine and ultimately find something you enjoy doing consistently. For something to be sustainable it needs to be something you can enjoy doing without having to be motivated all the time . There is no point pushing yourself to do something you dislike unless of course you have a specific fitness goal and you will be setting yourself up for a more positive change if you do can something whilst enjoying it.
Consistency is the key to any long-term change.