Most Common Mistakes - Too much “cardio”, not enough Resistance work
Whether your goal is muscle gain or fat loss, you need to work your muscles.
They’re your biggest calorie burner, so the more muscle you have and the more active it is, the more calories you’ll burn.
There’s no downside to being stronger - it’ll benefit you now and long into the future as long as you’re doing it right and not overdoing it.
You don’t have to be shooting for 1 rep max’s every week, just working your muscles enough to stimulate them to maintain strength and possibly even grow a bit.
The common belief is that to lose weight you need to do endless cardio, and that weights will make you bulky.
Even the big guys who want to get bigger often fall victim to the idea that they need to do lots of “cardio” to drop body fat.
The truth is, to lose fat you need to be in a calorie deficit. In that situation, anything that burns calories will contribute to fat loss - cardio or weights. The main difference really being that there’s only so much weightlifting you can do, whereas you can walk for hours, so it can help you burn more calories overall, but you should never sacrifice resistance training for extra cardio.
If you have 1 hour a day available to train, that should be resistance work for 3-5 days of the week. You can use the remaining days for your cardio.
When you’re in a calorie deficit, you’ll lose both muscle tissue and stored fat, there’s very little you can do to avoid that, however you CAN manipulate the ratio of fat:muscle that you burn.
If you train your muscles and stimulate them with resistance work, your body knows it needs them and will work to repair and grow them, meaning you’re tipping the scales in favour of burning fat stores instead of muscle tissue.
If you don’t work your muscles hard, and just do endless “cardio”, your body sees the muscle tissue as being less important, and also a high energy cost (because it burns calories that aren’t coming in through your diet). In this scenario, your body will burn less fat and a bit more muscle tissue because it’s trying to establish an energy balance by reducing energy output.
There are also certain hormones that are released when you stress your muscles (growth hormone etc) that help your body to retain muscle tissue and burn fat to replace the calorie deficit. These are released more with higher intensity work, so anything you can do for hours on end isn’t stressing your muscles enough to produce these hormones at the same levels that resistance work does.
You’ll also notice that I often refer to “cardio” in inverted commas. This is because people tend to think of cardiovascular work as being walking, cycling, rowing, swimming, cross-trainer etc.
You know, the traditional “cardio” machines.
But, anything that raises your heart rate and increases your breathing rate is cardio.
Go do as many push-ups or pull-ups as you can do and tell me what happens to your heart rate and breathing…
Weight training is also cardio!
It’s just closer to interval training - short bursts of work that raise your heart rate and breathing rate, followed by short periods of rest between sets.
And the harder you’re working with your weights, the higher the intensity, the higher the weight, the more you’re going to jack your heart rate and the more intense the intervals will be.
So does your HIIT work need to be on a treadmill? Or can you do it within your weights sessions?
If you’re someone who’s worried about getting too big and bulky lifting weights, you don’t need to worry about that. If you’re in a calorie deficit, you simply don’t have the raw materials necessary to build new muscle tissue.
Also, in the case of females, you have MUCH lower amounts of testosterone in your body (which also helps maintain and grow muscle tissue) - so if men struggle to gain muscle, then you’ll really have a hard time doing it - it’s not going to happen by accident because you’re lifting weights in a calorie deficit!
Prioritise weight training, then add your “cardio” after that. Don’t avoid weights in favour of “cardio” - it’ll burn energy, but you’ll lose a larger amount of muscle tissue and strength alongside your fat loss.
After you’ve completed your resistance work, you can add in a reasonable amount of cardio, but don’t overdo it - your body and muscles will need time to recover from the resistance work. So anything beyond a reasonable amount should be extremely low level (LISS) like gentle walking just to keep moving.
So, I repeat, PLEASE take a sensible and logical approach to your fat loss efforts and, unless you’re training for a long distance event like a marathon or triathlon, avoid doing too much cardio.
For fat loss, prioritise weights and add the cardio after.
As always, if you’d like my help with your training and nutrition, get in touch and let’s talk through the options. Even if you don’t sign up, you’ll still get something out of our chat so you’ve got nothing to lose… except bodyfat! :)