Low calories and pounding the pavement – why you’re wasting your time

Posted: 2013-10-16

So you’ve decide you want to lose ‘weight’, what do you do? You cut the calories down, start eating salad, maybe skip a meal and then put on your running shoes and start jogging. After the first week you notice a few lbs has come off. “Great” you think, so you start running further and further determined to not let your weight loss plateu….. but then it does. Many of you will lose weight using this approach, but it is most likely down to the low calorie diet you've been consuming rather than the miles you've clocked up. In the recent documentary “The men who made us thin” it was well documented that the effects of “exercise” were minimal in ones quest for weight loss. If we consider the exercise they looked at in the documentary it was all cardiovascular based: running, cycling, X trainer, and on this basis we would have to agree with what they portrayed. It isn't news to us that jogging for miles isn't optimal for weight loss. However they didn't once consider the effects of weight training and weight loss.

For an exercise professional that has helped dozens and dozens of people shed the lbs watching a program on national TV explaining that “exercise” was in most cases as waste of time for weight loss was frustrating. Though we completely agree that low calories and high cardio won’t get you anywhere long term, it’s a real shame the program didn't look at the quite different effect weight training has on the body. Before we go any further lets clarify one thing: most of you are looking to lose fat, NOT lose weight. The two are completely different. One involves maintaining (or even increasing muscle mass) and the other is only concerned with making you a smaller version of your current self. We call this “skinny fat”.

So back on topic, what does weight training do that cardiovascular exercise doesn't do? In 1999 Kraemer, W. et al. conducted study on the Influence of Exercise Training on Physiological and Performance Changes with Weight Loss in Men.

Kraemer established 3 control groups: men on a calorie restricted diet, men on the same calorie restricted diet with 50 minutes of aerobic training (running) 4 days a week and finally a the third group of men followed the same diet with weight training 4 days a week.

The results showed that the men in the third group (diet & weights) lost on average 10KG of body fat. They lost a minuscule 0.3KG of lean mass on average which means their “weight loss” was an incredible 97% fat (remember fat loss vs weight loss!). In the diet only group, they did lose weight, but only 69% of the weight loss from fat (they lost 3KG of muscle). The diet and aerobic group lost 78% fat (they lost 2kg of muscle)

When we talk about losing body fat instead of losing weight, what we are really talking about is a change in body composition. Muscle is the most significant factor in your body for burning calories. This is called metabolic rate. Maintaining muscle is critical as long term it keeps your resting metabolism raised. If when you lose “weight” you maintain your muscle mass it will help you not to regain the weight you have lost. Those of you who have lost weight and then regained it will have done so because you lost muscle in the first instance. This is what we term “yo – yo” dieting and contributes to metabolic damage – but more of that another time!

So to summarise, if you want to shed the lbs start weight training. It comes with a whole host of benefits:

• Increased power
• Increase in tendon and ligament strength
• Improve your overall shape
• Increased bone density – offsetting osteoporosis
• Allow you to perform daily tasks easier

Take away the following points to lose fat from training and keep it off:

• Do weight training to build muscle and increase your metabolic rate if your goal is fat loss.
• Avoid aerobic training because it will compromise power output and mobility in the long-term.
• If you want to add in cardiovascular (running), do intervals in which you go all out for a short period and then rest, repeating for a total of 20 to 25 minutes.
• Use multi-joint exercises through the full-range of motion.
• Use moderate to heavy weights with fewer repetitions (use a weight you can lift 6 to 8 times before reaching failure instead of one you can lift 12 or 15)

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