Resistance training often gets overlooked for fat loss when really it's a very crucial part. After all, when we cut down weight, we want to look good don’t we? We don’t just want to be a smaller version of ourselves, we want to have at least SOME muscle tone pop once we get rid of the fat! Cardio alone won’t achieve that look.
Cardio Works….Up to a Point
When it comes to weight loss, cardio for sure burns more calories in a given session, but that’s where it stops. Over time, your body gets more efficient at burning less calories (due to being in a deficit). You are also sending no signal to keep the current level of muscle you have on unless you are lifting so if anything, excessive cardio during a diet will send a signal to also burn through some of that muscle as well as the fat. That is not ideal.
Resistance Training Speeds Up Your Metabolism
On the flip side to cardio, lifting weights INCREASES your metabolism. Muscle is expensive to keep on your frame. The more muscle you have on you, the more calories you burn at rest. So it behooves you to add a resistance training program into your weight loss goal so that you not only hold onto the current muscle you have, but keep your body burning more calories at rest than if you did no weight training at all.
Keep Your Hard-Earned Muscle
When in a deficit of calories, your body needs a signal to keep it’s muscle. The only way to do that is to send a strong signal that tells your body you NEED the muscle. That signal is resistance training. By continuing to lift with heavier weights, you are providing that necessary stimulus that prioritizes holding onto that muscle and burning the fat.
Resistance training does a whole lot more than add muscle. It increases health and longevity, improves all health markers, lowers incidence of obesity, and much more. Resistance training also reduces your risk for injury.
As we get older, we risk sustaining damaging injuries to our wrists and hips. Keeping a regular routine of lifting 2-3 times a week will help minimize the chance of suffering from a great fall, or breaking a bone.
The Bottom Line
So to recap, when we are undertaking our weight loss goals, I’d assume you’d like to keep the current amount of muscle you worked so hard to get. So let’s not waste your time and put all the right steps in place to prioritize muscle retention above everything else. Make sure to include weight lifting at least 2 times a week to send that signal. Choose a program that allows you to try your best at increasing the weight or reps week to week to ensure you are sending a strong enough signal. It doesn’t have to be to failure, even 2-3 reps shy will do.
You CAN still add cardio, but think of it as a last resort to further increase the deficit to lose 1lb a week. Instead try shooting for 10,000 steps a day (or 2,000 above whatever your average was). Find other ways to include extra activity throughout your day rather than a 30 minute cardio session on the treadmill. This will help with longevity on your diet. Weight loss is only great if you can keep the weight off once you are done with the diet. If you go so hard on your cardio, and can’t sustain it afterwards, then you will just gain the weight back once you add calories back in. Choose a frequency and activity level that works for YOUR schedule.