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Cardio alone doesn’t cut it

Weights or resistance training, coupled with cardio has proven superior outcomes for weight loss, it’s logical and you’ve heard it before no doubt.

How does it work?

When we are overweight and embark on a serious cardio program it is very true we lose fat, by burning calories. But did you know you will also lose some muscle mass along the way?  Maybe quite a lot of muscle mass in fact. The problem with losing muscle mass is twofold, on one hand you are losing valuable muscle tissue which supports our limbs and locomotion, importantly making us strong, in turn aiding in the regulation of blood sugar.

What’s so great is that muscle actually burns calories just on its own when you are resting!  Interesting fact: if you added just 5kg of muscle mass, you will burn 100 calories a day extra – just by having that additional muscle, there’s no secret to achieving this.

Let it be said I totally endorse cardio and its vital benefits in both weight management and vascular heart health, including controlling blood pressure. But as we get older, lean muscle tissue becomes so important.

The clock’s ticking

As you age the importance of resistant exercise is key to controlling diabetes and it is actually prescribed now as part of the regime to not just control diabetes – but in many cases – to reverse it.  Naturally combining healthy eating and cardio will result in optimum outcomes.

Even more remarkable, it is now strongly suggested that resistance exercise and its muscle making effects even extends life in older adults by reducing falls and trips to hospital which can often be a downward spiral.

The Wash Up

By undertaking a resistance exercise program with free weights or machines, means a post exercise depletion of glycogen (energy) stores, translate to post exercise your body is asking for and burning more calories during rest for up to an astounding 38 hours.

This cumulative effect of post session calorie burning can means a loss up to 5kg of body fat over a period of a year, excited?   When most of us in the Western World are increasing our weight by the same amount per annum.

What’s the catch?

Sounds too easy, pretty impressive for doing nothing after you finish your gym session?  Of course there’s a catch, you do need to work hard and we’re talking pretty serious gym workouts here.

How do I succeed?

What you do need to do is make a decision, set a goal, work hard.  The easiest way to work through this especially if you are a newbie, is remember bite size chunks.  40 minutes, 5 days, no excuses, simple, wake up earlier, watch 10 minutes less television, you’ll be so surprised that you DO have the time after all!

Stop making excuses, visualize how you will feel when you are one, two, three dress sizes smaller!

  • Key areas of focus, should be caloric intake versus expenditure – watch what you eat
  • Learn to sweat, it’s healthy
  • Adopt an holistic approach – work your entire body

Generally you need to perform an exercise for 8 to 12 repetitions in a set to failure for a total of 8 to 16 sets. And bicep curls and ab crunches alone don’t really count. You need to do a full program including legs, back and chest. Your local gym will have a personal trainer to help guide you through a program. If you can afford a personal trainer that’s a great start, they’ll teach you how to train each body part and write a program for you to adhere to, that’s great. There are so many options out there, gyms, parks, in home resources, the World Wide Web is at your fingertips with something to suit your lifestyle and budget.  Get healthy, feel better, love life with just a few daily decisions.

HIT training versus steady state cardio exercise – which is better?

The controversy surrounding High Intensity Training (HIT) versus Steady State Cardio as to which is the most beneficial for weight management and health has been going on for decades. The consensus has been that moderate to low intensity cardio is the best bet when it comes to fat loss.

So let’s actually cut to the chase here. Yes, there are better outcomes between the two depending on your aims.

For example, a typical HIT session where your heart beat gets up to 80% to 90% of maximal predicted heart rate (MPHR) for half the workout time may burn the same calories as a longer session of steady state Cardio at 65% of MPHR – but – the post exercise effect with HIT means you should burn a few more calories even after the session finishes.

What is more important than splitting hairs over a few extra calories is actually carrying out the exercise in the first place!

So the question begs, are you the sort of person who prefers a 45minute to 60 minute slow jog or fast walk compared to a gut busting 25 minute HIT session? If the answer is yes to preferring cardio – then unless you want to mix it up and try HIT to see how it feels, then you should stick to the Cardio if that is what you are enjoy best.

What’s the difference in health outcomes?

Recent research shows that there really is “too much of a good thing” when it comes to cardio. HIT entails working out at about 80 to 90 % of you maximal effort for say one minute – then backing off and just cruising for a minute. This sort of on / off effect seems to stimulate muscle growth while at the same time burning fat. Whereas cardio may actually reduce lean muscle tissue and cause an inflammatory response in the body.

For the Girls

HIT training may seem to be something that mostly the guys do. However women can get a real sense of achievement with the rigours of HIT training. HIT isn’t just for the younger members at the gym or those doing beach or park circuits either. Middle aged women undertaking HIT training get all the same weight management pay offs as well as strengthening their bones in the process. This is a great remedy for those later years as osteoporosis becomes a common issue as women age.

For the Boys

In men this seems to upset the hormonal balance and men who undertake long cardio workouts have suppressed testosterone compared to men who undertake HIT training who have a better testosterone profile. Testosterone is the muscle building hormone and also helps regulate insulin and body mass generally. So having the right amount of testosterone is important (and yes – too much testosterone from steroids for example is actually harmful).

So the verdict seems to be in favour of HIT. But when you think that 75% of middle aged and older men in Australia are overweight and not partaking of an exercise program at all.

No matter who you are the key thing is, as they say “just do it” – whether it be HIT or good old Cardio.

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