Which is Better for Losing Weight, Cardio or Strength Training?
Well, as you know, I am a huge advocate for both cardiovascular exercise and strength training. But the truth of the matter is, the only way to lose weight is to expel more CO2. "What? What does CO2 have to do with weight loss?" you ask.
CO2 is the bi-product of the process of oxidation in your body and the air that we breathe out each breath. So let me ask you now, do you take more breaths during a 45 minute strength session (low intensity strength training walking around the gym doing arm day or leg day) or during a 45 minute hike, run, bike ride, sustained time on machines at the gym? The answer, of course, is you take more breaths and expel more CO2 during cardiovascular forms of exercise.
Don't just take my word for it. Researchers have looked at where the atoms in fat go when we "burn fat." Remember, matter can neither be created nor destroyed as a law of physics. So when we burn calories, where do those atoms inside the fat cells go? Do we excrete them in our urine or feces? Do we convert fat to muscle automatically? No, none of the above. The fat cells that our body uses for storage must be triggered to release their contents for energy use, converted and oxidized in order to eliminate them. This elimination process occurs primarily through breathing and respiration, the inhalation and exhalation of air and our bi-product of catabolism which is CO2. Other bi-products are heat production and sweat secretion.
That was a bunch of metabolic jargon. To simplify -- in order to get rid of excess body fat, you must breath it out through CO2. Strength training accomplishes many other wonderful things which I will save for another post. But strength alone will not get rid of your body fat unless you get your heart rate up to a level that causes increased rate of breathing ... i.e. moderate to high intensity.
**Dr. Linda and Dr. Meredith started out as endurance athletes who discovered the benefits of strength training. They understand that maintaining a healthy body weight requires cardiovascular conditioning along with strength and stabilization training.
Now, before you start arguing with me in your head. There are many factors to consider here. How are you lifting weights? Are you doing high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts that combine running or jump rope with weight lifting? Are you doing cardio at a very low intensity?
It gets complicated which is why exercise science is such a fascinating field of study. But don't get caught up in the details too much. Remember to build your program around your goal. If your goal is to lose weight, you must breathe more and eat less than you burn. You must must incorporate cardiovascular exercise into your routine as well as stretching, stabilization training, and strength. But the key component of your exercise time should be increasing your rate of breathing to change your body composition. Don't negate cardio. It is what leads to a lean body and healthy joints.
If you need help building a program to reach a healthy body mass and protect your joints, schedule with us at FIT Colorado PT! We will listen to your goals, design programs for you, and also teach you how use use strength training in addition to your cardio routine.
If you would like to read more on this topic, the link below is a great resource!