I was talking to a big guy recently—tall and a little heavyset. I’ve been thinking about his nutritional needs during his upcoming training regimen for a marathon (quite an undertaking!), and he shared that he expects to lose a significant amount of weight because of all the cardio he’ll be doing.
On the one hand, I’m sure he will. I can set him up with a nutrition plan that will support his needs while he’s ramping up his run times and distances, so he would definitely be burning a lot of calories.
On the other hand, I’ll have to give him a little talking-to about how cardio isn’t the only friend you want to make on the way to a weight loss goal. Even though a lot of people find this counter-intuitive, lifting weights can really help with weight loss.
But let’s talk about weight loss before we get to far down this path. If you are carrying extra pounds, weight loss is a reasonable goal. Reaching a healthy whole-self is a better goal, though, and there are better measurements than just the scale. Increases in strength, endurance, stamina and overall well-being are all worth taking note of while you’re losing pounds and inches. And weight lifting helps here, too!
Maybe the best way to reframe this weight loss conversation is to focus on “fat loss,” which might show up more in gaining muscle mass and losing inches than it will in losing pounds. Here are the two big “why’s”:
- Muscle burns more calories than fat at your resting metabolic rate (RMR). This means that when you’re just sitting around, if you’ve got some good muscle mass going, you’re burning more calories than someone who has more fat.
- Too much cardio can decrease your muscle mass. Even with proper diet and supplementation, the body will utilize muscle as fuel for prolonged cardio exercise. This can result in a higher body fat percentage. In order to balance this out you need to stress out the muscles with resistance training so they will grow bigger and/or maintain their size.
Like anything I ever recommend, the heart of this post is that you need balance. Balance between cardio and weight training will have better results for overall fitness and weight loss than going hard with one or the other, and making the right lifestyle (sleep, hydration, time outside, etc.) and dietary choices to complement your workouts will get you there happily and, probably, more quickly.
If you need help with finding this balance, I hope you’ll call me. I can give you a consultation at the beginning of your program to help get you on track, or I can work with you throughout. Whether you call or not, remember: Balance!