If You're Relying on Cardio for Weight Loss, You Better Re-Think Your Workout

| Fitness
(Photo: Shutterstock)

The old weight training versus cardio debate has been around for as long as people have been trying to lose weight. While cardio is a good tool to help burn as many calories as possible, it turns out it isn't actually necessary to lose weight. Certified nutritionist and personal trainer (and the brains and beauty behind Pancakes and Push Ups) Sloane Davis says that strength training is actually more effective for weight loss, and that most people solely focusing on cardio are spinning their wheels and losing muscle

She also says drastically cutting calories just to see a calorie deficit is a waste of time and energy.

"The thought process that more cardio is better and less food is better is actually the opposite of the right mindset," Davis told Womanista. "Rather, one should keep food as high as possible while still being able to lose weight and to lift as heavy as possible in their exercise regime."

Weight training is important for weight loss, Davis says, because building lean muscle helps reshape your body and burn more calories — even when your body is at rest. 

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"Weight training builds muscle, which means you will burn more calories when resting," she said. "Muscle is much more dense than fat. So while they each weigh a pound, muscle takes up less space in your body, giving you a more tight, 'toned' look. You can't reshape your body on cardio alone. You must lift heavy enough to actually change the shape of your body."

So if you're one of those girls spending hours on the treadmill or elliptical every week just to be frustrated with your results, that could by why.

Why should you believe Davis? Because she's seen it work for herself and for her thousands of clients. "I hear all the time how much [my clients] love lifting weights and the results it's bringing them," she said. "I just received an email from a 46-year-old mom who told me eight weeks into the program that this is the first time ever she has seen her arm muscles."

When celebrities like Carrie Underwood, Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Kate Upton, Britney SpearsBaywatch star Alexandra Daddario and WWE star Nikki Bella swear by strength training, you know there's something to it. "Ripped" doesn't even begin to describe those girls!

Not only does strength training build lean, sculpted muscle, but it also allows you to eat without feeling like you're starving yourself! "Food is very important when lifting weights. You need the energy to progress in your exercise regime," Davis said. "Most people are amazed at how much they are able to eat [with strength training]. They are astonished that they are eating more than ever and losing weight at the same time!"

General food guidelines for strength training: Eat protein with every meal, never skip breakfast, eat lots of fruits and veggies, eat healthy fats, and eat carbs post-workout. Davis encourages her clients to eat a flexible diet, with no food off limits. She assigns them a macronutrient (proteins, carbs, fats) budget they must fulfill every day — as long as what they're eating fits into their macro budget, no food is off limits.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

"A successful diet is one that you can sustain long term," Davis says.

As for sweating it out in the gym, strength training can be a little intimidating to someone who's never done it. Whether you choose to enlist the help of a personal trainer or just hit the weights yourself, Davis says starting with a plan will help you be successful.

"It’s always nice to walk in with a plan. I have exercise videos that I provide on my website for my clients to view before any exercise they perform. Gyms also have people that are there to help you and show you all the equipment," she said. "Start whereever you feel comfortable, but just start! Everyone has to start somewhere, and remember, no one starts at the top."

Take, for example, Davis' fitness routine. She works out five days a week, separating those days into three upper body days and two lower body days. She'll do three to four sets of eight to 15 reps. Check out her sample weight lifting schedule:

Lower Body:

(Photo: Courtesy Sloane Davis)

Upper Body:

thumbnail Davis barbells
(Photo: Courtesy Sloane Davis)

At the end of the day, strength training will do more for toning and shaping your body than cardio by itself ever could. That's not to say you shouldn't supplement your strength training sessions with cardio, but don't drive yourself to frustrated exhaustion with cardio alone.


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