Enter any gym and 80% of the women and overweight men will be on the cardio floor. Anyone over 30 years of age, or over 30 on the BMI scale, assumes that cardio is the way to go for weight loss. Questions like 'Will I lose weight only with cardio' plague most gym trainers, and sometimes even they give up. Today, we're letting strength and fitness coach, Arnav Sarkar, destroy this only-cardio-for-weight loss myth once and for all. Here are his detailed and expert answers.
It is a widespread belief that cardio is enough and excellent for weight loss. Is this true?
Arnav Sarkar: To be honest, this is a belief that has been greatly promoted by exercise equipment manufacturers and retailers. Next time when you look at the ad for exercise equipments in a magazine or a newspaper, take a note of what equipments you see most. Invariably you will find that 80-90% of the equipments displayed will be cardio equipments. Why? This is because the cardio equipments are the high end costly products that bring the maximum profits to the seller and thus he advertises and markets them as the most beneficial for health and fat loss.
To burn the maximum amount of bodyfat in the least amount of time, it is ideal to have a good combination of diet, weight training and cardio. So yes, cardio is helpful in weight loss. However if one is to only rely on cardio then the results will not be optimal, especially if a lot of weight is to be lost. The problem with regular cardio like running, cycling, etc is that the body soon adapts to the relatively low intensity of these activities and thus actually burns lesser calories per minute with time. On the other hand some of the more intense cardio alternatives like kickboxing, sprinting are a better choice as they involve an element of strength training in it and can provide a better long term weight loss. So if one were to only rely on intense cardio choices like kickboxing for weight loss, then it will be ideal to add some squats, push ups, and other bodyweight exercises to get better results.
As a trainer, what mindsets do you face when you recommend weight training for weight loss?
Arnav Sarkar: Thankfully today the media, especially the online media has helped to erase the myths related to weight training in the minds of the general population to a great extent. People are relatively better educated about the benefits of weight training today than say compared to 10 years back. Having said that, I still do face the old mindset, that “weights are bad” from some people. Here are some of the common fears that I face when I recommend weight training:
“It will bulk me up “
“I will lose my feminine look”
“I am too old for it”
“It will surely cause injuries, and ruin my joints”
“I just need to lose weight and cardio is enough for it”
“My muscles will turn to fat if I were to ever leave weight training”
“It will make me musclebound and I will lose my flexibility”
Is weight loss through cardio a long-run weight loss solution?
Arnav Sarkar: Pure weight loss maybe, but pure fat loss not likely. A lot of folks who lose a ton of weight through cardio alone end up becoming what is called “skinny fat”. This means that they are slim in terms of weight but do not have any muscle tone whatsoever and are still soft and shapeless as they were before. The reason for this is that they also lose a lot of precious lean muscle tissue with the fat that they lose. Thus that belly still bulges, arms still lack any toning even though a lot of weight maybe lost.
Another major problem of only doing cardio is that with time your body will get efficient at it and thus it will burn lesser calories. When this happens one will need to continually lower their food intake to keep losing weight, and there is only a point till which you can lower your food intake before you start starving and your health starts worsening. Plus let us not forget that long duration cardio after a time simply gets boring for the majority, and they give up simply due to boredom. I mean how long are you going to use that treadmill for the same action of running 6 days a week before getting bored?
So in short cardio is rarely a good long term weight loss or fat loss solution. A good mix of a healthy diet, weight training and cardio is your best bet to lose all those unwanted pounds and keep them off in the long run.
Does cardio help muscle tone at all?
Arnav Sarkar: Most of the regular forms of cardio like walking, running, cycling do not really help with muscle tone. Even if they do help they only help with partial muscle toning rather than a whole body effect. For eg. Running may help with some lower body toning but will totally ignore the upper body, and even then it will not do the best job for the lower body. Intense cardio activities like kickboxing are still better choices to get an overall toning effect, especially if you practice against a heavy bag since there is an element of strength training involved in it.
However if you are after maximal muscle toning then strength training is your best bet. Add some intense cardio to it and you have a killer formula that your excess bodyfat cannot survive.
*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images
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