The epic battle between cardio and strength training for weight loss lives on. It is far and away one of the things I hear/see the most. People who want to lose weight become cardio junkies, chained to those treadmills in hopes of seeing the scale move. But are they winning the weight loss battle?

The reason so many are completely confused as to why they shouldn’t be chained to the treadmill is because like a recent study at Duke University shows cardio indisputably burns more calories minute per minute than strength training and aerobic exercisers lose more weight in less time.  So now you’re asking me ‘where’s the confusion?’ Why in a battle over losing weight does the opponent that shows faster weight loss not win every time? 

The answer becomes blaring when you are able to tear yourself away from the number on the scale. Studies have proven time and time again that weight loss through cardio tends to burn muscle as well as fat. Let me break this down with an example, meet Jim and John, 36 year old twins who both weigh 300 pounds and want to lose weight. Both twins follow the same healthy eating plan while Jim only does cardio workouts and John does a combination of cardio and strength training. In eight weeks time, Jim loses 16 pounds and John loses 10. But what if I told you Jim loses 8 pounds of fat and 8 pounds of muscle and drops 1 pants size while John loses 10 pounds of fat and drops 2 pants sizes…. who wins the battle? If you answered Jim, then cardio away my friend; If you answered John, you’ll be looking much better in those fall sweaters! 

Numbers on the scale aren’t the only ones that throw us off course; f you wear a heart-rate monitor don’t get too caught up in just the calorie burn of your workout. There are so many other numbers and factors that aren’t being shown on the screen. For every three pounds of muscle gain, you can expect to burn an extra 120 calories a day without doing anything! Also, keep in mind that the calorie burn your heart-rate monitor gives only indirectly estimates calories expended during certain types of exercise and need to be set up properly and updated regularly. Heart-rate monitors do not measure caloric expenditure, they measure heart-rate. Your caloric expenditure should hold more weight (pun intended) when you are looking at calorie burn and judging effective workouts, programs and most importantly how many calories you should be eating. Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is an estimate of how many calories you burn per day when exercise is taken into account. It is calculated by first figuring out your Basal Metabolic Rate (the number of calories you burn involuntarily: breathing, swallowing, etc. ((this is where that extra muscle helps!)) then multiplying that value by an activity multiplier. 

If you’re bored and I’ve lost you here is what I’m trying to say: do a combination of cardio AND strength training… build the muscle and burn that fat. Let go of the obsession with the number on the scale and the obsession with burning more calories based on your heart-rate. Educate yourself, learn about your specific numbers and how to utilize them to get the body you want, not the number you want to see on the scale. 

Sweat & Smiles, 

150 pounds and don’t care what the scale says, Melissa.