According to a new study, the best weight loss workout isn’t necessarily what we think it is. And between cardio and weights, the winner is …
It’s one of the most common training myths: to build muscle you need weights, to lose fat you need cardio. But no, at least not necessarily. According to a new study published in Sports Medicine we can lose about 1.4% of all body fat through strength training alone (weights). About how much we could lose through cardio or aerobics workouts. The study – a systematic review and meta-analysis of previous studies – was carried out by researchers from the University of South Wales (Australia).
Weight loss training: weights or cardio? –
“A lot of people think that if you want to lose weight, you have to run,” he says Mandy Hagstrom, physiologist and lecturer at UNSW Medicine & Health and author of the research. “But our results show that even when strength training is done alone, it still causes a loss of body fat without having to diet or go for a run“.
Until now, the link between strength training and fat loss was unclear. Other researchers have studied it in the past, but they had only small groups of volunteers available and this made it difficult to search for statistically significant results. “But when we put all these studies together, we create one large study and we can get a much clearer idea of what’s going on,” comments Hagstrom, explaining why the Australian study is more accurate.
Cardio VS weights: the study –
The team from the University of Soth Wales has in fact collected the results of 58 studies, based on highly accurate forms of measuring body fat. Overall, 3000 participants were involved, none of whom had previous weight training experience. And they exercised for 45-60 minutes each session about 2.7 times a week, over five months. Result? On average, by training only with weights, each participant lost 1.4% of body fat, more or less about half a kilo of fat each (fat, not weight, ed).
The best workout for weight loss is … –
Encouraging results, especially for bodybuilding enthusiasts. But beware: this does not mean that lifting weights is enough to lose weight and act on the metabolism: Dr. Hagstrom herself continues to believe that the best approach for those aiming to lose fat is still to stick to a healthy diet and follow an exercise program that includes both aerobic / cardio and strength training. But those who can’t practice one or the other now at least have a choice: “If you want to train to change your body composition, you have options,” says Dr. Hagstrom. “Do the exercise you prefer and in which you are most likely to be consistent.”
The myth of aerobics to lose fat –
According to Australian scientists, one of the reasons we believe strength training falls short of cardio in terms of fat loss is due to inaccurate ways of measuring fat. Many focus on the number they see on the scale, or the total body weight. But this figure does not differentiate fat mass from everything else that makes up the body, such as water, bones and muscles. “Most of the time, we don’t gain muscle mass when we do aerobic training,” says Hagstrom. “We improve our cardiorespiratory fitness, get other health and functional benefits and we can lose body fat. But when we train for strength, we gain muscle mass and lose body fat, so the number on the scale will not be as low as after aerobic training, as muscles weigh more than fat. “
Weights vs cardio: which workout makes us lose weight more? –
The research team focused on measuring how much the study participants’ total body fat percentage changed after strength training programs. This measurement showed that fat loss would appear to be on par with cardio and aerobic training, despite the different figures on the scale. The study did not show whether variables such as exercise duration, frequency, intensity or volume of weights affect the rate of fat loss, but this the team hopes to investigate later.
Fat loss: how is it measured? –
The reason that until now it was believed that an aerobic training was better in terms of fat loss, was due to the methods chosen to measure fat. “Many recommendations come from studies that use imprecise measurement tools, such as bioelectrical impedance or balance,” comments Dr. Hagstrom. The most accurate and reliable way to assess body fat is through DEXA, MRI or CT scans instead. which manage to separate the fat mass from the lean tissue. Researchers hope future studies take this into account.
The scale? No, better try on clothes –
“Resistance training does so many great things to the body that other forms of exercise don’t, like improving bone mineral density, lean mass and muscle quality. Now, we know it also offers us benefits that we previously thought only came from aerobics, ”concludes Hagstrom. “If you are strength training and want to change the look of your body, then you don’t have to focus too much on the number on the scale, because it won’t show you all the results. Instead, think about your whole body composition, for example how your clothes fit and how your body starts to feel and move, differently ”.
Training for weight loss: the conclusions –
- Strength training allows you to lose the same amount of fat mass as cardio.
- The myth that aerobic training was more effective was based on a less accurate measurement of fat loss.
- According to scholars, alternating between aerobics and strength training and following a healthy diet remains the best way to lose fat. But those who didn’t feel like it or couldn’t do cardio now have one more option.
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