Cardio vs. Weights: Which One Will Deliver Results?
So which is better, cardio or weights, when it comes to getting in shape? This is definitely a fitness question that is frequently debated. However, if weight loss is your goal, one essential factor becomes key, and that is metabolism (the way the
body burns calories). Increasing the body’s efficiency in burning calories is critical to effective weight loss. Did you know you can change your metabolism? You can! Yes, heredity plays a part, but there is a lot you can do to speed up your metabolism. So how do cardio and weights figure into the equation as far as metabolism is concerned?
Benefits of Cardio
Cardio is great because you reap immediate benefits for your work. You can burn off quite a few calories in a rather short period of time. This is especially helpful if you overdid it a little on calorie consumption and just need to burn a few off, or if you just want to burn some extra calories. Low intensity cardio also tends to burn more fat for fuel, rather than muscle glycogen, but in the end the truth is calories are calories and in order to lose one pound of fat, 3,500 calories must be burned. Cardio also has numerous heart health benefits such as decreased blood pressure, increased blood circulation, decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol and increased HDL (good) cholesterol. Other cardio perks include enhanced bone density, protection against diseases such as diabetes and osteoporosis, and improved mood, due to increased levels of serotonin, the “feel good” chemical of the brain, which can counter feelings of depression.
Cardio does not provide long-term benefits to your metabolism and generally speaking does not change the way your body looks. Expert Darin Steen said it well, “Best case scenario is a cardio hound that starts out like a pear shape, and ends up a smaller pear shape. Not my idea of progress.” Low intensity cardio also produces a short-lived after burn (calories burned after workout is complete). Pretty much the calorie burning that is going to happen occurs during the activity and ceases when the activity is stopped.
Benefits of Weights
The number one greatest advantage of weight lifting is that of turning stored fat into lean muscle mass. By changing the composition of the body to include more lean muscle mass, numerous things work to our advantage. First, metabolism increases. Lean muscle mass burns more calories while at rest than fat does. This means that just sitting on the couch, at a work desk, or even sleeping, more calories are being burned each and every day. Second, experience a greater after burn. With weight lifting as well as other high intensity training, you will continue burning calories for 2-4 hours after you stop exercising. What a bonus! Last, but certainly not least, weight lifting will CHANGE the way you look. Your body will appear leaner, more toned, and fit! Other benefits of strength training include improved posture, better joint support, and decreased risk of injury.
Note: There is a common misconception indicating that weight training makes women bulky, steering many away from getting serious about weight training. This is absolutely not true and here is why: Women have a pittance of the amount of testosterone that men have. Therefore, it is genetically impossible for women to get very big at all. Secondly, it takes a lot, and I mean a lot of hard work for a woman or a man to get big and bulky. According to Mike Roussell, author and nutritional consultant, “Bulk isn’t muscle. It is muscle covered by fat. So if you feel that you are too bulky, then it is important to fine-tune your diet to lose the excess fat-not give up weight training.”
So What Am I Saying: Weights or Cardio?
The answer is BOTH! There are definite advantages to including both cardio and weights into your fitness routine. You should not only be focusing on how many calories are burned IN the gym, but how many you’re burning up OUTSIDE the gym, by increasing lean muscle mass .
However, the way you design your day to day workouts may differ depending on your overall goals. For a distance runner or biking enthusiast, more emphasis would be placed on cardio as a means to improve cardiovascular endurance. Weights would be used as a form of supplementary training to help in injury prevention, muscle strength, and joint support. Weights would likely be after cardio for an endurance athlete.
For a bodybuilder, weights would be the primary focus, goal being lean muscle mass o’ plenty, while cardio would serve as a means to burning extra calories to create a leaner, more ripped muscular appearance, as well as to maintain the heart health benefits associated with cardio. Bodybuilders would strategically plan their cardio workouts to avoid, as much as possible, a situation where muscle is being used for fuel. This may be accomplished by engaging in cardio exercise early in the morning on an empty stomach, where fat is what is available to be used as the primary fuel, or at a time when refueling can take place between exercise bouts. If both were to be combined into one session, weights would come before cardio for a bodybuilder.
Bottom Line Scenario
If there are two people, same height and weight, but differing body mass percentages, the one with the more muscle will appear thinner. Lean muscle mass just looks better, hands down. The way to get there- a nice, solid combination of cardio AND weights!
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