A study was released showing that running works better than lifting weights for getting rid of unwanted fat. Should you drop your strength training routine and focus 100% of your energy on cardio rather than strength training? The answer is no because this study pitted a good cardio routine against a bad strength training program.
The study compared 196 overweight, sedentary adults over an 8 month period to see whether aerobic exercise (cardio) or strength training was better for visceral body fat - the dangerous kind of fat that is stored around organs.
The cardio group ran 12 miles per week while the strength training group did 3 sets, 8-12 repetitions per set, 3 times per week. The result was that the cardio group lost more visceral body fat than the strength training group and burned 67% more calories during their workouts.
What do the results say?
If you're looking at the results of this study and trying to lose body fat, you're probably thinking about ditching your strength routine and focusing more on cardio such as running and biking. That would be a horrible idea and actually set you back. What this study showed is that if you put someone on a good cardio workout, they'll get better results than if you put someone on a bad strength training routine.
All of the participants of this study were sedentary, overweight adults. They were fat and didn't workout at all. They took half of them and made them run 12 miles per week. That's 3 miles per day, 4 times per week (or 4 miles per day, 3 times per week). That's a pretty hard workout, especially for someone that doesn't workout at all on top of being overweight.
The other half got it easy. They did 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions 3 times per week. Of coarse the other group is going to show more results. This strength training workout is a waste of time.
Best Way to Lose Fat
Losing body fat can only be accomplished by creating a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit is a state in which you burn more calories than you eat. If you burn 2,500 calories per day and only eat 2,000, your body is forced to look for that 500 calorie deficit from sources other than food. Your body stores fat when you eat too much (calorie surplus) and burns it when you don't eat enough. Only by using a calorie deficit can you reduce your body fat percentage.
Calorie balance is the relationship between how many calories you burn and eat. Since there are two sides to this relationship, there are two areas in your life that you can adopt healthier habits in. First, you need to eat the appropriate amount of calories. You can use the calorie calculator for help. This calculator uses your size, gender and physical activity level to estimate how many calories your body needs. Next, you need to create an exercise program that will help your body burn more calories and create a calorie deficit enabling it to burn body fat.
Your diet can easily be fixed by ditching unhealthy, high calorie foods with low calorie, nutrient dense food. You should also start counting your calories to ensure you're getting only the amount of energy you need. Get rid of foods such as cookies, fast food, doughnuts, muffins, pizza, fruit juices and sodas. Replace those with lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seafood and legumes.
Your exercise routine should be made up of both cardio and strength training. Cardio helps burn large amounts of calories while strength training builds muscle which helps speed up your metabolism (and makes you look better). Good examples of cardio include running, biking, swimming, rowing and playing most sports. Do cardio 3-5 times per week with each session lasting 30-60 minutes.
Strength training should be done 3-5 times per week and focus on compound exercises that workout large muscle groups. Good examples of these exercises include squats, deadlifts, bench press, bent over rows, pull ups and push ups. Bad examples include bicep curls, tricep extensions and sit ups. For help on different kinds of strength training routines, visit full body vs. split routines.
The Bottom Line
The best way to burn body fat is by incorporating every tool possible. This includes a calorie restricted diet, cardiovascular exercise AND strength training. No tool alone can get the job done by itself. By using all three, your results will be healthier and longer lasting.