I used to be one of those girls who thought that lifting even the lightest amount of weight would turn me into the hulk. So naturally, I became a cardio bunny. I would spend countless hours each week slaving away on the treadmill, stationary bike, elliptical, or any other precious cardio machine that was available to me. I thought that doing this would help me lose weight most effectively, without bulking me up.
I had never been more wrong in my life.
What most people do not know is that resistance training is scientifically proven to be the best and most effective method to achieve weight loss, aside from nutrition of course. The fact is that after 30 minutes of high intensity cardio training or over 45 minutes of steady state cardio, your body will start to become catabolic. This means that your body will start to eat muscle for fuel instead of fat stores, which is the opposite of what you want. Muscle mass is essential for fueling an efficient metabolism, so the last thing you want to do is to lower your muscle mass while damaging your metabolism. If you aren’t eating enough, your brain signals your body, basically telling it to hold onto as many calories as possible and then your metabolism slows down. In plain terms, eat enough whole nutritious foods to fuel your body, and don’t revert to eating less because you think it will help you lose weight. Trust me, it will just screw you over in the end.
On top of that, resistance training leads to a higher calorie burn than a session of cardio. Hours after you finish a weightlifting session, your body is working hard to repair itself; it is using calories and converting them to energy to help your body recover and rebuild. On the other hand, as soon as you step off the elliptical, you are done burning calories. Plus, when you lift you burn a ton more calories in less time, and are more likely to lose fat because your body isn’t going crazy catabolic and eating into the muscle you are trying to gain.
So what should you do?
Actively control the amount of time you spend doing cardio. I’m not saying that cardio should be completely erased from a training program. After all, cardio has many health benefits and can aid you in fat loss, as long as you are not overdoing it. I recommend doing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), for no more than 25 minutes after weightlifting, or 20 minutes of steady state cardio after you lift. Even a good old fashioned 5km run will do you good. The key here is balance. I like to have the best of both worlds, so I combine weight training and cardio in a single workout session but limit myself to specific parameters.
It is so empowering to see more and more women becoming confident in the weight room and treating their bodies right! It can be intimidating to go into a gym and look over at the weight room and see a bunch of sweaty, groaning and beefed up men flexing in the mirror, taking selfies for their fitspo Instagram account. Things like that can make it easy to just retreat to the treadmill in the corner. But trust me, once you get over the fear of being judged, you’ll realize that no one is really there analyzing your every move. More than likely they are silently applauding you for having the confidence to do your thing, and lift alongside them.
Keep in mind that you do not need to be lifting excessively large amounts of weight in order to see results. Trying to start a weight routine with really heavy weights without much experience is just a recipe for disaster. Start with a series of weights that feel right for you, 5-25 lbs. is the range you should be aiming for, based on the muscle group being used.
There is also a misconception that muscle weighs more than fat, but this is just not true. A pound is a pound. However, muscle is much more dense than fat and therefore has less volume. In plain terms, muscle takes up a lot less space than fat does, and does a hell of a lot more good for you than fat does.
Also ladies, f*ck the scale. Numbers are just numbers. If you are feeling stronger and more fit, you don’t need the number on the scale to tell you you’re doing well. 145 pounds can look 100 different ways on different people, and I think it’s a waste of time and energy stressing about a meaningless machine that has become a source of grief for so many. Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly okay to keep an eye on your weight and it’s good to know what weight range you are in, but don’t let it dictate how you perceive yourself. It’s all about how you feel.
I myself have gone down the cardio only road, while eating a ridiculously low number of calories, only to end up frustrated and confused as to why I was never seeing any results. I was reluctant to change my ways because I’m stubborn, but also because I was a hangry b*tch all the time.
I wish that I had the knowledge I have now sooner, but sometimes you need to learn things the hard way in order to improve or search for new ways of doing things. Doing cardio for hours on end is just not good for you, and is in reality, a waste of time. Why not convert your cardio session into a resistance-training program, and burn more calories with half the amount of time?
Weights are not your enemy, they are your friends!