Hitting the Road or the Gym?
The term “weight loss” is too generic. What you really mean, and want, is fat loss. In other words, you want to improve your body composition: reduce excess fat and increase muscle mass. Better body compositions are associated with leaner bodies, more muscle definition (or tone) and healthier organ function and blood profiles. You have four choices you need to make if you want to lose fat: 1. Restrict calories; 2. Perform cardiovascular exercise (e.g. running); 3. Perform resistance training (e.g. weight lifting and bodyweight training); and 4. A combination of any of the above. So, what choice is the best?
Quality vs. Quantity
The scientific research tells us that steady state aerobic exercise such as walking or jogging yields negligible weight loss. Contrastingly, burst exercise, referred to as high-intensity intermittent exercise ( hiie), has proven to be the best exercise method choice for reducing excess fat. Characterized as short intense efforts separated by relaxed efforts, hiie seems to be a more time-efficient yet effective method of exercising to reduce body fat. Competitive distance runners actually use hiie, combined with lower-intensity running, to improve their cardiovascular systems. Therefore, not only will this training method yield positive cardiovascular adaptations for running faster, you’re more likely to reduce body fat simultaneously. One study compared the fat loss effects between low-intensity cardio exercise and hiie and found that a lower total volume of hiie training over 15 weeks yielded more subcutaneous fat loss compared to performing solely low-intensity cardio exercise over 20 weeks. hiie training
appears to increase fat metabolism, especially fat located in the midsection. hiie also depletes muscle glycogen (essentially sugar) stores, which requires energy to refill. It increases growth hormone levels, which is a natural fat-burning hormone. Lastly, hiie promotes the healthy breakdown and rebuilding of muscle tissue, which requires additional energy post-workout.
Similar to solely performing low-intensity aerobic exercise, resistance training alone has also been shown to yield minimal weight loss. However, the intensity of the resistance training routines vary among studies. If weight loss occurs, the scientific studies have shown us that the majority of weight loss from combined exercise training and caloric restriction can be attributed to caloric restriction. This doesn’t imply that resistance training isn’t important in fat loss; it’s actually very important!
Resistance training can:
• Increase or minimize muscle lost during a caloric deficit diet. • Maintain or improve energy lost via increased muscle mass and
metabolism. • Correct for muscular imbalances or weaknesses caused via seden
tary living or distance running. • Prevent injury by improving tissue and body resilience to the
repetitive pounding caused by distance running. • Preserve muscle mass and alleviate joint pain in those over 40. The idea that lifting weights will make you bulky is a myth. Developing muscles that show through your clothes takes time, consistency and dedication (and a weight lifting program and nutritional plan specifically designed for bodybuilding to boot). You won’t get huge in just a few workouts so get the idea of looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger out of your head. It’s like saying eating a few salads will make you immediately skinny; it just doesn’t work that way.
The scientific research supports that idea that reducing calorie intake compared to calorie expenditure is a necessary relationship to lose fat. You burn the majority of your calories primarily through your basal metabolic rate or the energy required for you to stay alive. You also burn energy via digestion and food metabolism, at rest (known as neat, non-exercise activity thermogenesis), and lastly via planned exercise. So, to sway the energy balance equation in your favour, you need to choose a nutritional strategy that lowers overall calories but increases overall nutrition. You can choose any of the fad diets out there these days, but you can’t go wrong with increasing fruits and vegetables, water and homemade foods and decreasing processed foods, restaurant foods and sugar. To keep you mindful and on track, you can also use a tracking device or online calorie tracker to ensure you stick to your recommended daily intake based on your goals.