Every day I hear quotes such as the following: “I want to lose fat, so I will start doing cardio for the first six months and then I will start the weights AFTER I lose the fat”, or my all time favorite, “I just do cardio to keep the fat off”. The problem with these statements is that they disregard basic principles of exercise physiology that state that there exists a balance of these two exercise modes.
There is a term in Exercise Science known as Specificity. This principle is based on the fact that the human body adapts to various exercise stimuli. In other words if I were to train you to be a bodybuilder I would want to train you using a resistance of about 75-85% of your I repetition maximum. On the other hand if I wanted to train you to be a marathon runner I would be training in the 40-50% 1 rep max range because the body will respond entirely different to that kind of exercise. So you may be asking yourself, “Well how does this have anything to do with finding the correct balance of cardio and weights?” The answer is a resounding EVERYTHING.
Remember that cardiovascular exercise and resistance training exercise have a completely different affect on how your body adapts physiologically. Take for example the following key differences:
-Cardiovascular exercise is catabolic (meaning that it promotes the breakdown of tissues, both fatty and muscular)
-Resistance training exercise is anabolic (meaning that it promotes the build-up of muscle tissue…BUT it does not encourage the build-up of fatty tissue)
-Aerobic exercise does NOT favor optimal strength development. So when you hear somebody say “I lift weights for my upper body, but for my lower body I just run”, you will know that they are fooling themselves.
-Aerobic exercise encourages catabolic hormones (breaking down) such as glucocorticoids (cortisol,cortisone, ect). These hormones prevent muscle growth and promote the storage of FAT…yes you heard me right…the storage of fat. This is your bodies attempt at turning you into an efficient fat-burning machine. The problem is that you don’t want to be an efficient fat burning machine. Think about this for a minute…what do you want your air conditioner to be? Efficient or non-efficient? Well, you want it to be efficient because then you are using LESS energy and that is a good thing. But what about your body? Remember that your goal is to burn fat NOT be efficient with it.
This is where resistance training comes into the picture. Where cardiovascular exercise is excellent in burning extra calories and getting your weight down, it also has the tendency to keep you in a state of efficiency.
-Resistance training promotes the secretion of Testosterone and Growth Hormone which ARE FAT BURNING HORMONES! So what have we now…? We have the best of both worlds: the immediate fat-burning affects of cardiovascular exercise and the long-term fat-burning effects of resistance training (growth hormone, testosterone, and muscle itself which is highly metabolic in nature).
Summary: Cardiovascular exercise and Resistance Training Exercise have different outcomes on the human body. A proper balance is needed to ensure fat-loss is maximized. The following is a general starting guide for you to consider:
Beginners (less than 6 months weight training): 3-6 days cardio and 2-3 days of weight training
Intermediate: 50/50 split between the two modes of exercise. For example weights on Mon/Wed/Fri and Cardio on Tue/Thur/Sat
Advanced: Favor more resistance training to optimize hormonal balance and maintain metabolism. For example weight training 5 days a week and cardio 2 days a week. This will ensure you stay on the fat burning fast track.
Well there you have it my friends! I will dive more aggressively into this topic, but this should keep you thinking squarely for now! Remember that life is good!