- Endless amounts of cardio is NOT the answer to optimal fat loss.
- More cardio and little resistance training will simply eat into your muscle making it more difficult to lose fat over time.
- Adopting a proper resistance training program to build muscle will optimise your fat loss by raising your metabolic rate, increasing calorie burn over a 24 hour period and hence making it easier to maintain a CALORIE DEFICIT needed to lose weight.
- Building muscle is your key to fat loss!
Your Body As A Fat Burning Machine
Many clients want to shed those excess pounds and keep them off over the long-term. I mean, who doesn’t? After all, reducing body fat significantly improves our health, makes us feel a lot better about ourselves and, allows us to perform everyday activities, better. However, the important question everyone is asking: what is the best way of going about getting rid of this fat? Ok, firstly, nutrition is key. In other words, less calories consumed than your body uses over time is needed. But, in this article I want to talk about the mode of exercise people choose to aid in their fat loss journey. Why? Simply because there of many people falling into what I like to call the fat-loss exercise trap when wanting to get rid of fat. This trap actually makes your fat loss task much harder and less effective over time. So, I figured this would be a good time to write about it and help people avoid it!
Muscle Is Not Your Enemy!
In my experience, when you talk about building muscle with clients, many clients become afraid that you are trying to simply turn them into bodybuilders. Ok, I can see why clients might be a little hesitant about this! I mean after all, bodybuilding is usually associated with building as much muscle mass as possible. However, building muscle is not only reserved for bodybuilding-specific goals, but for EVERYONE looking to lose fat and keep it off! Believe it or not, muscle is going to be the driver of your fat loss and without more of it, you are never going to lose fat and keep it off in the long-run. You know that last bit of fat you have so desperately wanted to lose for so long? Well the truth is, it won’t come off with more cardio or juice diets. It is only going to go away with building a little more muscle. That, I can promise you!
So, why does building more muscle help you lose more fat? Simple! Muscle utilises and burns calories! Muscle produces force which allows you to move, and this force can only occur in the presence of energy. This energy, you derive from the calories you consume from food. In terms of fat, calories are everything when it comes to losing it over time. At the end of the day, it all comes down to one simple scientific principle: energy balance (energy in and energy out). For fat loss, this means that you must expend more calories than you consume. You can achieve this through two means: eating less food and doing a little more daily activity than usual. Doing both, is optimal.
So this is where muscle building comes into play. Since fat loss is all about expending more calories than you take in on a daily basis, you need a means to allow this without having to resort to drastic measures like restricting your food intake massively or doing hours and hours of cardio each day. Well, building more muscle is the key! Why? Muscle is what we call a metabolically active tissue. In other words, your muscles require energy on a constant basis in order to optimally function (e.g. producing force allowing you to move). The more muscle you can build, the more calories your body utilises throughout an entire day, and the easier it is to maintain a CALORIE DEFICIT in order to lose fat. As I have wrote about in previous articles, a calorie deficit is what you need to lose fat. That is the number of calories you need to subtract away from your current MAINTENANCE. By subtracting your calorie deficit from your maintenance, you get the number of calories you need to eat everyday in order to reach your fat loss target. The great thing about having more muscle is that this whole process becomes easier to manage! This is why I am a big fan of getting clients started on a resistance training program when they want to lose fat. Resistance training will simply allow clients to build up more muscle, in turn making fat loss easier both now and in the longer-term. Cardio, is not the answer despite what the fitness magazines have been telling you.
More Cardio Is Not The Answer
I am sure most of you have heard of the term cardio bunnies? Those that go to the gym and do nothing more than run, cycle or row for a straight hour most days of the week. Don’t get me wrong, cardio is great if you want to massively improve your stamina and are preparing for an endurance event (e.g. marathon), but most people mistakenly do this thinking it’s the best way to burn lots of excess body fat. Unfortunately, this is by far the the WORST way of approaching fat loss despite what popular marketing would have you believe. In the morning, I frequently come across crowds and crowds of joggers. While having a morning jog can be a great way to clear your head and catch the fresh air, if you are doing it in the hopes of shedding the excess pounds, I can tell you with confidence, it is going to make things actually more difficult for you over the longer-term. Now, I am not saying you cannot participate in cardio or jog outside if you enjoy it and/or have specific goals in mind which require these activities. However, please don’t fall into the trap of using this as your PRIMARY method of burning fat because it will just send you spinning your wheels!
The biggest problem with cardio is muscle loss. Prioritising cardio training in the hopes of burning more fat is only going to do two things: 1) increase calories ONLY during your cardio session and 2) increase muscle breakdown due to lack of resistance training. The side effect of these two things is that your body becomes WORSE at expending calories during the ENTIRE day. The result being that it becomes more difficult to maintain your desired calorie deficit needed to lose fat. If this happens, the only way to compensate so that you do maintain your deficit, is to eat even less food and/or do even more cardio. Both of which can make your fat loss efforts just a miserable experience. By prioritising muscle building over cardio, you increase your body’s ability to use and burn calories. As a result, this means you can afford to eat a little bit more and do less boring cardio all while maintaining your chosen calorie deficit needed to lose body fat.
Fat Loss: Ditch The Cardio, Adopt Resistance Training
Stop wasting your time! Honestly, if you truly want to lose body fat, then you need to stop doing hours of cardio a week and get onto a properly designed resistance training program. Any decent coach or personal trainer will tell you that. If they are telling you to eat less or do more cardio before adopting a proper weight training program, ditch them! You will be on the wrong path. Muscle is your friend when it comes to fat loss. It will quite literally turn your body into a fat burning machine. More muscle will increase your bodies ability to expend more calories over an entire day. This in turn will make it easier for you to maintain a given calorie deficit goal without the need for drastic measures such as lots more cardio or starvation diets. More cardio, will simply eat away your muscle, destroy your metabolism and make it harder for your body to lose fat over time.