We’ve all heard it, seen it or done it or most likely all three at some stage during our quest for a better physique; “My goal is to lose weight/burn fat so I just run for an hour on the treadmill every day”, or, “Well I don’t want to bulk up so I don’t do weights”. And who can blame us? Until recent years a lot of the information out there was telling us that steady state cardio was the best way to burn body fat and that heavy weight training was for those who wanted to look like the Hulk.
The reality however is not that black and white, and in fact when you delve into the science, all the evidence shows that it’s quite the opposite. Research shows that cardio aerobic training is not only ineffective for fat loss, but can actually be detrimental. For example, in one study, subjects who did 40-minute, steady state cardio workouts for 3 months gained an average of 0.44kg of body fat, whereas a group that did much shorter, high intensity (HIIT) cycle sprints lost 1.5kg of body fat.
The main reason for this is that the “after-burn” effect is much greater after a 15-20 minute HIIT workout than it is after a traditional, 40 minute, constant-pace cardio workout, meaning that you will burn considerably more calories during the 24-hour period after your workout, thus burning more fat for energy and recovery.
Sprint training also increases your metabolic rate by stimulating the production of your human growth hormone (HGH) by up to 450% during the 24 hours after you finish your workout. HGH is responsible for increased caloric burn and also slows down the aging process, making you feel younger both inside and out.
HIIT training also preserves muscle whilst burning fat, as opposed to aerobic cardio, which has been shown to encourage muscle loss along with fat loss. Not to mention that HIIT is much more time-efficient and perfect for a busy schedule as you can achieve more progress from a 15-minute interval session (done 3 times per week) than someone else running on the treadmill for an hour. You can do it anywhere, as it requires no equipment so you can even cut out the commute to and from the gym to save more time!
Lifting weights builds lean muscle mass. The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate (the more calories your body will burn at rest). For example, a large review of public research shows that weight training leads to an average loss of 1.7kg of fat in both normal and over-weight individuals, while preserving lean mass and metabolic rate.
When people cut calories to lose weight, anywhere between 30 and 50 percent of the weight lost is from muscle mass. For example, when overweight women went on a low-calorie diet, they lost 7.8kg of which 35% was lean mass. Only 5.1kg of the weight lost was from body fat, so as a result, their basal metabolic rate would have dropped and they would now be burning fewer calories at rest.
Not to mention the physique shaping curves that building muscle through lifting weights provides. When you burn away your body fat, you have to ask yourself the question, do you want to be “skinny” or do you want a lean, toned physique?
Sprint training and weight lifting are without a doubt the 2 most powerful tools (along side a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet) when it comes to not only losing fat, but keeping it off too.
So stop wasting all those hours pulverising your joints and eating into your valuable muscle stores with long-duration, steady state cardio, save time and get far more back in terms of fat loss and health with sprint training and lifting weights.