For ages we’ve been being told that weight training makes you bulky and cardiovascular training makes you skinny. However there is extensive research and growing opinion which disagrees with this.
The ‘fat burning zone’ is a myth. During exercise your body draws energy from two places: fat stores, or glycogen stores. (Glycogen is stored carbohydrates in your muscles and liver).
At lower exercise intensities more fat is burned relative to glycogen1. Sounding good so far – BUT losing weight is about calories, not just burning fat stores. It goes without saying that you burn a lot more calories when you work out intensely than if you stroll along at 55% of your max heart rate. And when you exercise at higher intensity such as during a HIIT workout (75%+ your max heart rate), there is a metabolic disturbance that burns calories after the workout is completed – i.e. afterburn. This afterburn is what gets fat-loss results.
Steady cardio training is one tool in your arsenal; it just isn’t the most efficient.
However, while I highly recommend exercise to get lean and make modest increases to your metabolism, there is something more important than exercise when it comes to fat loss… Nutrition.
The hierarchy for people wanting to loose fat is as follows:
- Resistance training (with weights or bodyweight)
- Interval training (HIIT)
- Steady cardio training
Nutrition comes first and traditional steady state cardiovascular training is last. You cannot out train a bad diet. It's not that it's not beneficial, but in terms of effectiveness and efficiency, better results are achieved when people combine sound nutrition with a dedicated resistance training programme.
1. Bryant, Cedric X. 101 Frequently Asked Questions about “Health & Fitness” and “Nutrition & Weight Control“. Sagamore Publishing, 1999.