Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cardio Queens and Disappointing Fat Loss Results

If you belong to a gym, I'm sure you've seen them. The members (usually women) who spend all their time on the cardio equipment racking up hours and hours. Have you noticed how their shape rarely changes from month to month or even year to year (if they last that long)?

I know that for years we were led to believe that cardiovascular exercise was superior for dropping pounds. However, research has disproved this.

So, imagine my frustration when I took my brother and nephew through their new program on Sunday and found out that my sister-in-law was not doing the quickie strength training routine I had designed for her at Christmas.

She has been using her treadmill but that's it. I'm always glad when people are being active, in whatever ways, rather than being sedentary. And, luckily, she's been doing intervals rather than steady state cardio but she is definitely depriving herself of optimum results by neglecting the strength training.

Check out the results of the following two studies.

Kramer, Volek et al.

Influence of exercise training on physiological and performance changes with weight loss in men.

Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 31, No. 9, pp. 1320-1329, 1999.

Overweight participants were divided into three groups: diet-only, diet plus aerobics, diet plus aerobics plus weights. The diet-only group lost 14.6 pounds of fat in 12 weeks. The diet plus aerobics group lost 15.6 pounds (just one more pound than the diet-only group).

The aerobic training was performed three times a week; over the 12 weeks the subjects worked their way up from 30 minute sessions to 50 minutes. So, over the 12 weeks, the diet plus aerobics group spent anywhere from 18-30 hours performing aerobic exercise which produced only one pound more of fat loss than the diet-only group.

The champs were the diet-aerobics-weights group who discarded 21.1 pounds of fat- 44% more than the diet-only group and 35% more than diet plus aerobics group!

Bryner RW, Ullrich IH, Sauers J, Donley D, Hornsby G, Kolar M, Yeater R.

Effects of resistance vs. aerobic training combined with an 800 calorie liquid diet on lean body mass and resting metabolic rate.

J Am Coll Nutr. 1999 Apr;18(2):115-21.

This study separated subjects into aerobic-only group and a resistance training-only group.

The weight training group worked out three times a week, performing 8-15 reps of 10 exercises for 2-4 sets. The aerobics group completed one hour of aerobic exercise (walking, biking or stair climbing) four times per week.

Both groups were limited to 800 liquid calories. (Don't try this at home, folks. Calorie intake was that low to remove any dietary variables and to compare the effects of exercise on metabolism and lean body mass.)

Both groups lost weight and VO2 max increased equally in both groups.

However, the strength training group lost no lean body mass (LBM) and also lost significantly more fat than the aerobic training group. The resistance training group preserved both their LBM and their RMR and although the aerobics group lost weight, they also experienced a decrease in their resting metabolic rate (RMR).

It's obvious why lowered metabolism would be a problem but why should you care if you lose muscle as long as the scale goes down?

Muscle, along with fat loss, gives you that defined body that most of us want. (No one likes the "skinny-fat" look.) More muscle means you can be more active and independent as you age. Most important to a fat loss discussion, muscle tissue is metabolically active; the more muscle you have the more calories you burn even at rest.

Any magazine, book, or internet guru who promotes long bouts of steady state aerobic exercise over strength training for fat loss is way behind on the research.

If you're interested in fat loss and are not already strength training, what are you waiting for?

Want to get started on an effective resistance training program? Join Body & Soul or contact me about personal training. If you're not in Lancaster, here are my recommendations:

If you are a beginner, check out Craig Ballantyne's TurbulenceTraining. If you've been lifting for and for a while and haven't seen the results you'd like, pick up a copy of The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess.


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