Best strategy for weight loss: Cardio vs strength | Health

For decades, conventional wisdom said that cardio was the best exercise for weight loss. Then strength training muscled its way into the spotlight as the must do move for reviving your metabolism and increasing the resting metabolic rate.

The key to achieving any fitness goal is to be consistent and if weight loss is your goal, then health experts insist that the way to do that is by achieving a calorie deficit, which means that you should be burning more calories than you are consuming. When we say weight loss, it has to be in the form of fat loss and not muscle loss and any change in body weight consists of a change in both components – muscle mass and body fat.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Rhea Singh Anand, Co-Founder of Flexnest, suggested, “The best way to burn maximum number of calories is to get your heart rate up, which generally happens with a cardio workout. Only cardio however, makes you burn your muscle in addition to your fat. Strength training on the other hand, burns less calories but gives your body shape by building and retaining muscle. The correct way to losing weight is to burn the fat while keeping the muscle. Here is where the combination of strength and cardio comes in. This combination supplemented with a good nutrition plan is the key to achieving a weight loss goal.”

Aanan Khurma, Co-Founder and CEO at Wellversed, advised, “Our aim should always be to gain muscle tissue, which is the active metabolic tissue of the body and lose adipose tissue which is nothing but stored energy in adipose tissue. Talking about the best strategy for weight loss, we need to focus on all the 5 components of fitness – Cardiorespiratory Endurance, Muscular Endurance, Musculoskeletal Strength, Flexibility and Ideal Body Composition. So, there has to be a balance in all the components to achieve the desired results.”

He highlighted, “We do cardio to increase our cardiorespiratory and muscular endurance so that we can carry out daily activities like walking , running, climbing stairs etc, efficiently and we do strength training or weight training to avoid early degeneration and to get a more defined body. If we focus more on cardio for weight loss , there will be an unnecessary loss of muscle tissue leading to reduced strength and an unpleasant physique. If we focus more on strength training our muscles will tire fast as they lack the required endurance. So a balance between the two i.e cardio and strength training should be maintained.”

He asserted, “It is also important to remember one essential fact about exercise and weight loss i.e. exercise by itself will not lead to big weight loss. What and how much you eat has a far greater impact on how much weight you lose. So the best strategy for weight loss is simply to follow the fitness tripod – Exercise (cardio+strength training), correct nutrition and rest and recovery. If any one leg of the tripod is missing, it won’t lead to a desired result.”

According to Binita Kar, Health Coach at MyHealthBuddy, any workout like cycling, running, Zumba, weight training, Calisthenics, dancing, Pilates can either be classified into majorly being cardiovascular or strength training.

Cardiovascular training – Our Heart and lungs are muscles too and working them out helps make our heart and lungs stronger and more efficient at providing oxygen to the body.

Strength Training – Strength Training focuses on each muscle group of your body so as to become stronger overall.

So which one to include in our daily routine for optimal fat loss? Answering the same, she listed their pros and cons:

Cardio pros –

1. Can help burn more calories.

2. May be done in short span of time – like running or HIIT.

3. Can be done anywhere- like spot jogging, skipping, step ups on stairs etc.

4. Doesn’t need equipment.

Cons –

1. Low Intensity Cardio needs more time.

2. HIIT or jogging or skipping makes you prone to injuries.

3. It can translate into muscle loss.

Strength training pros –

1. Burn calories post workout session too.

2. Less injury compared to high impact Cardio.

3. Can be done anywhere- at home or Gym.

4. Doesn’t need equipment in the beginning- bodyweight can be used.

5. Helps you look toned by preserving muscle mass.

Cons –

1. Equipment is needed as your progress.

2. Learning Right technique and form can be time consuming.

3. Can get boring.

Binita Kar pointed out, “If you are overweight or obese then low impact cardio or walking coupled with 2 to 3 days of strength training can work wonders. The optimal use of cardio as a tool will also depend on a person’s situation, preference, medical condition and injury, time management etc. Both, cardio and strength training can have a place in your training plan. Both can be used effectively to prevent burning out from excessive training while delivering optimal fat/weight loss.”