Pumping dumbbells or running 10km non-stop? Which will get you slim faster?

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Ever seen rush hour at your local gym with people fighting over treadmills or rowers? How about your always slim friend who swears by her daily runs? Or stumbled across a gym-junkie with abs as flat as your cheese grater who tells you they “only lift weights” and wondered, what is this person doing to get results that I’m not?

Many people think that if you want to lose fat, you should do more cardio and that if you want to build muscle, you should lift weights. It’s not that simple.

The religious exercise phenomenon and ‘gym-junkie’ craze have been hyped up in recent years with the popular rise of ‘Instagram Fitness Models’ and ‘Personal Trainers’. You only need to scroll through your feed to see pictures of women with 8 packs and no cellulite and men with oiled muscles that appear to resemble Zeus himself. These internet celebrities sell their workout plans and ‘proper nutrition’ plans with the promise that you can look like them. But the thing is, you can’t.

Every body is completely different, and what most don’t realise is that these ‘fitness queens’ and ‘kings’ have gone through years of trial and error, or may I be as bold as to say a bit of cosmetic help to look the way they do.

If you’re a beginner, or even if you’ve been working out for a while and not seeing results, then this is what you need to know about weights versus cardio.

They’re the two most popular types of workouts, but it can be hard to determine which is a better use of your time, considering how time poor we are. Let’s dive in.

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Benefits of Cardio 

  1. Cardio and Calorie burn– Cardio sessions burn MORE FAT during the session than weight-lifting. A typical cardio session burns anywhere between 300-900 calories. While a weight-training session may not burn as many calories per minute during the actual workout (however this depends on how intense the weight lifting session is), the overall calorie-burning benefits you receive from it typically outweigh those of cardio. That’s what we’re aiming at here.
  2. You must burn off 3,500 calories to lose half a kilo of body fat. If you do enough cardio and make sure you’re keeping track of your MACROS (macronutrient intake), weight loss will take place. There’s no doubt about it. But, keep in mind that you are going to have to keep up with consistent cardio sessions to see results. Time becomes a significant factor now, and boredom becomes apparent. That’s where treadmill exhaustion kicks in.
  3. Cardio And Health Benefits– We have to give cardio one point for health benefits. Strength training has many health benefits too, but cardio training has a more significant impact on cardiovascular health since your heart and lungs work harder for longer when you engage in such activities.
  4. Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of many conditions, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, stroke and certain types of cancer. Weight-bearing aerobic exercises, such as walking, help decrease the risk of osteoporosis, especially in the elderly. Read here for other health benefits of cardio.

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Benefits of weightlifting

  1. Weight Training Increases Short-Term Calorie Burn- Studies have demonstrated that after a weight-training workout, your metabolism can be boosted for up to 38 hours post-workout! This means that rather than burning, say, 50 calories an hour while sitting at your desk at work, you’re burning 65. When you figure out how many calories you’re burning on a monthly rate, it becomes transparent how regular participation in weight training will really increase your capacity to burn calories, and thus fat. Remember that losing weight is all about calories IN versus calories OUT.
  2. Weight Training Increases Long-Term Calorie Burn- The second factor to consider in the fat-loss battle is long-term metabolic increases. While it’s absolutely fantastic to be burning more calories for 38 hours after the workout, this won’t help you two weeks from now, unless you are consistent with your workout program. The purpose of weight training is that it enables the body to build up a larger degree of lean muscle mass, which then basically serves as a calorie-burning powerhouse in the body. This is a key point. You need to get build your body to be a calorie burning machine.
  3. Total Body Reshaping- Another huge factor that weight training powers over cardio training is that it will allow you to completely reshape your body. Cardio training will generally help you lose weight, however, this weight loss is typically a combination of fat and muscle, so what you’re left with is a smaller version of your current self. That’s why your cardio addicted friend has had the same ‘soft slim’ look her entire life. It’s impossible to build muscle with cardio. Muscle definition is sexy and also aids in preventing injuries.
  4. Bottom line, the more muscle you have the more calories you’ll burn! And the more calories you burn the fitter and more toned you become. Since muscle tissue is reasonably consistent (as long as there is some motive on the muscle to grow, aka weightlifting, and you are consuming enough protein) this proves to be the most effective long-term strategy for losing body fat overall.

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To add to the above statement, you must be realistic with how much muscle mass you can build in a given period of time. Usually, males build muscle mass faster than females. Guys can produce between 450-900g of pure muscle mass in a given month and females will get about half that, around 225-450 grams. Yes, muscles take a long time to grow. Over time, though, and with consistent effort, this will make you dramatically more resistant to weight gain as you grow older, making it extremely beneficial for long-term body fat reduction.

It’s time to lose the notion that cardio equates to fat loss and weight training equates to building muscle and weight gain. There’s a lot more to it. While doing cardio can help you achieve faster fat-loss, in many ways weight training is much more dominant in the long run to overall health and fitness.

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So, don’t completely eliminate cardio from your fat-loss training program, furthermore, you should do a few sessions a week IN COMBINATION with regular weight-training.

And girls, you won’t look like the Hulk if you hit the weights a few times a week. Don’t fret, that takes a lot of concentrated effort and huge amounts of protein. Weight lifting gives women’s bodies a beautiful toned shape, and who doesn’t want to look and feel strong?

If losing fat and overall weight is your goal, lifting weights can only benefit you, so make it a priority. Invest in a personal trainer and get a nutritionist. Practise patience and watch your body transform. You’ll thank me later!

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