Everybody wants to know the answer to this question. A lot of people assume that cardio (usually on some kind of machine) is the best workout for weight loss. That’s not actually true, though.
Strength training is a much better option for those who want to lose weight and keep that weight off. Read on to find out why.
What’s Wrong with Cardio for Weight Loss?
Before I get into the specific benefits of strength training for weight loss, I want to quickly go over why cardio is not the best workout for weight loss.
When you start doing cardio as your main form of exercise, you likely will see a lot of weight fall off initially. Basically, when you make any kind of change to your workout routine (or start a workout routine, period) you’re going to see a lot of weight fall off.
Pretty soon after you start cardio, though, your body is going to start to adapt to the demand you’re placing on it. As a result, you’ll burn fewer calories while doing the same amount of activity. If you want to keep losing weight, you’ll have to run faster, farther, and longer than you were before. You can only keep that up for so long, right?
Instead of clocking in tons of hours on the treadmill or elliptical, you’ll be better off strength training.
Strength Training Benefit #1: More Muscle Mass = More Calories Burned
When you strength train on a regular basis, your lean muscle mass increases. The more lean muscle you have on your body, the more calories you’ll burn, both while you’re working out and when you’re resting.
Muscle is more metabolically “expensive” than fat. Basically, it takes more energy for your body to maintain muscle than it does fat.
Your muscle is always being used, synthesized, and broken down. All of this activity (a lot of it unconscious) causes you to burn more calories throughout the day as a result of having more muscle.
Strength Training Benefit #2: Maintain Muscle Mass While Losing Fat
In addition to speeding up your metabolism so that you burn more calories, strength training also helps you maintain your muscle mass while you’re losing weight.
This is very important, even if you’re not particularly concerned about strength or gym performance.
Maintaining muscle mass while losing body fat helps you to get a more “toned” physique. If you lose weight but don’t have adequate muscle mass, you’re more likely to end up looking “skinny fat.”
Strength Training Benefit #3: Better Metabolic Health
Weight loss often results in a metabolic slowdown. Your body will adapt to consuming fewer calories and you’ll have to continue eating less in order to continue losing weight.
If you make an effort to maintain your muscle mass, though, this metabolic slowdown will be less pronounced. Because your metabolism speeds up when you have more muscle on your body, you’ll continue to burn calories at a higher rate than if you didn’t make strength training and muscle building priorities.
Building muscle also yields other metabolic health benefits. For example, more muscle mass helps you to be more insulin sensitive. Increased insulin sensitivity, in turn, decreases your risk of developing diseases like diabetes.
Does This Mean I Can’t Do Cardio Anymore?
At this point, you’re probably convinced that strength training is a good workout option for weight loss.
Some of you are probably jumping for joy at the fact that you don’t have to slog away on the treadmill for hours on end to reach your weight loss goals. On the other hand, some of you might be wondering whether you can combine your strength training with cardio.
Here’s the thing. If you genuinely love doing cardio, I’m not going to tell you not to do it. There are definitely health benefits to getting your heart rate up on a regular basis. I’m just telling you that you don’t have to do tons of cardio to lose weight.
I’m also recommending not combing your cardio and strength training. This sends your body mixed signals and can make it harder for you to get the results you’re looking for.
Instead, do your cardio and strength training on separate days, or at least leave some space between the two workouts to ensure you enjoy the greatest benefits from both of these workouts.
Do you strength train right now? If not, what’s holding you back? Let me know in the comments down below!