Cardio, Cardio, Cardio

Updated: Jun 24, 2018

Cardio, cardio, cardio, to loose weight you must do cardio, right? Wrong, cardio does burn calories I'm not disputing that, that's science!

However, there are other ways of burning fat or dropping weight in a much more adrenaline pumping, soul loving way! Yep, weights, the god send of all exercise choices. Endless hours of cardio on the treadmill is great for burning calories instantly, however, if you're sick of looking at the timer, hoping for 20 minutes to have flown by while your sweating up a storm, gasping for air and absolutely mind crippled from the realisation that only 22 seconds has gone by, welcome to weight lifting!

Weight lifting does indeed burn more calories, even while your sitting down recovering after your training session watching a bad ass episode of Game Of Thrones. This is due to Excessive Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) also known as the 'after burn'. EPOC is the amount of oxygen required to return your metabolism back to its resting function level. Anaerobic exercise (short bursts of exercise which does not require oxygen) burns calories even after workouts due to a spike in metabolism. This spike remains higher for a longer period of time in comparison to steady state aerobic exercise (exercise for long durations which require oxygen) as the body has a greater demand for oxygen after the workout. This period of EPOC has previously been researched to last up to 16 hours, yet more recent research shows EPOC lasts well beyond 16 hours (Schuenke, Mikat & McBride, 2002). Whether it is significant after the 16 hour period is another debate. EPOC has been shown to be small and insignificant with steady state cardio but greater with heavier, intense resistance training (Bersheim and Bahr, 2003). We all know what that means, more food.

Don't get me wrong, cardio does have its benefits. As much as I despise it, it does improve/maintain cardiovascular fitness which has numerous health benefits including lowering cholesterol, lowering resting HR and an increase in stroke volume, just to name a few. To have a balanced healthy lifestyle, cardio definitely should be included in a work out regime. However, a benefit from resistant training (which cannot be gained solely from cardio) is shape. Hitting the weights will allow you to manipulate your body's shape, gain that perky booty you've always wanted or tighten up your abs. Cardio doesn't allow you to control the shape of your body. Yes, you will burn calories (which means dropping weight, IF you are in a calorie deficit) however, you will most likely be soft with very little muscle mass and minimal levels of muscular definition ('tone'). And guess what? The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn. The body burns calories trying to maintain the muscle you have developed, so calories are burned by just having muscle sit on your body!

The greatest problem with cardiovascular training, which is great for resistance training, is that the body adapts to work more efficiently to whatever stress we throw at it. If you consistently burn calories from cardio the body responds by slowing down the metabolism to store more fat. With weight training, there are a number of variable you can change (sets, reps, weight, resting time). There is no finish line to adaptations. With cardio, you increase the speed or time to get better or burn the same amount of calories you once did. Eventually, you will hit your max speed and aerobic adaptations will cease all together.

A better way of cardio training to prevent these adaptations is interval or Met-Con(metabolic conditioning) training as EPOC increases with higher intensity or shorter rest periods. This type of training has a greater demand on the anaerobic system and has greater EPOC effect. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) has been shown to burn fat tissue more effectively than low intensity exercise. Heavy weight training and HIIT workouts appear to be superior to steady-state running or lower-intensity circuit training in creating EPOC (LaForgia, Withers and Gore, 2006).

Of course, just like everything, resistance training has its cons (which, in my biased view) are very small in comparison to the benefits. EPOC is only an advantage with high intensity training and there is also a risk of injury associated with weight lifting. HIIT is extremely hard and ideally, should not be done continuously throughout the week as it does require a longer rest/recovery period. Although, if you are doing resistance training at anything less than a high intensity, you really need to up your game! Go hard or go home!

If you're thinking summer is over, "let the winter coat begin", stop right there! (To some extent I agree, bring on the donuts) But remember; beach bodies are made in the winter! So keep hitting the gym, preferably in the form of resistance training. I'm not claiming to know everything but I'm putting what I do know from my own experience, knowledge and research out there to help you on your fitness journey.

Danielle Lennon Power Moves Fitness

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Reference list Bersheim, E. and Bahr, R. (2003). Effect of exercise intensity, duration and mode on post-exercise oxygen consumption. Sports Medicine, 33, 14, 1037-1060

Børsheim, E. and Bahr, R., 2003. Effect of exercise intensity, duration and mode on post-exercise oxygen consumption. Sports Medicine, 33(14), pp.1037-1060.

LaForgia, J., Withers, R. and Gore, C. (2006). Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Journal of Sport Sciences, 24, 12, 1247-1264

Schuenke, M.D., Mikat, R.P. and McBride, J.M., 2002. Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 86(5), pp.411-417.

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