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Is Cardio Necessary to Lose Weight? 2013 – 12 Days of Fitness: Day 7

December 14, 2013 0 Comments

(This is Part 7 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Pre-Workout-MistakesIt stands without question that the most popular piece of equipment at the gym (or in home gym purchase) is the treadmill. Is it because everyone enjoys walking or running so much that on a beautiful day they’d still prefer to walk the human hamster wheel inside? Or is it that it just doesn’t get more convenient than pushing a button and starting the workout without any knowledge of proper exercise technique? Could be any one of those things and not to pick on just the treadmill but cardiovascular (cardio for short) exercise seems to take precedence when someone heads to the gym to workout. Why? Because of the belief that cardio is the best way to lose weight. But is that necessarily true?

The Requirement for Weight Loss

In order to lose weight, it comes down to one simple equation – you need to eat fewer calories than you burn – plain and simple. All the minutia doesn‘t matter if you aren’t creating a calorie deficit. You could be lifting weights 5 times a week, doing HIIT (high intensity interval training) cardio on your non-weight training days, eating whole, clean foods, and managing your stress levels, but none of that matters if you aren’t creating a calorie deficit. You can still lose fat while maintaining your weight or even increasing it. Weight and fat are not always one in the same. However, if you want to get lighter, the calories (energy) that you are storing on your body need to be burned off.

Creating a Calorie Deficit

There are a few different ways for you to create a calorie deficit. They will all give you very different results in body composition. For example, you could create it through:

a)    Through Diet Alone – You will also lose quite a bit of muscle in the process. However, by simply eating fewer calories than you burn, you can lose weight.

b)    Through Exercise Alone – Let’s say that without any exercise, you can eat 2,000 calories a day and maintain your weight. To lose weight, you could keep your calories at 2,000/day and create a calorie deficit through exercise.

c)    Through Diet and Exercise – You can also create a calorie deficit through a combination of diet and exercise. For example, you could reduce your 2,000 calorie diet by 500 calories through diet, and then another 500 calories through exercise.

While these 3 methods for creating a calorie deficit will all help you lose weight, only the ones that include exercise will provide a stimulus to your muscles to keep them from wasting away while dieting. Your ratio of fat loss to muscle loss will be much greater if you include exercise. Muscle boosts your metabolism and helps keep fat loss humming right along.

Does Cardio By Itself Do The Trick?

Plain and simple, resistance exercise is going to give you the biggest return on your investment. Cardio is nice, but if you are strength training a few times a week at a high intensity, then dedicated cardio sessions aren’t even necessary to lose weight. Cardiovascular training is great, and you should do it for other reasons, but separating cardio and strength training, or even prioritizing cardio sessions as your primary means to weight loss can be a waste of time. Is cardio necessary to lose weight? Based on the above facts – no, it is not necessary to lose weight. Will it help you lose weight? Yes it can if you’re using it to create a calorie deficit. However, if you’re doing cardio without a calorie deficit, you can obviously forget about any kind of weight loss. Of all the methods for creating a calorie deficit, it’s through a combination of diet and exercise that will yield the greatest result. These methods will allow you to eat the most food, get in the most nutrients, while at the same time building and maintaining the most muscle – all while dropping a high percentage of body fat.

Keep your diet spot on 90% of the time, create a calorie deficit through high-intensity strength training, and you will begin to notice that you don’t have to labor day in and day out on the treadmill to get results. Be smart about your food choices and how much you eat, and push yourself in the gym when you do go, be active, and you will begin to see great improvements in your body composition.

See you tomorrow for Day 8 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.


About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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