If you want to lose weight what the most important thing you can do? 

Change your diet.  Period.  This is simple science, if you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. 

After that, what am I to do?  Cardio, HIIT, or Strength Training?

Cardio.

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Everything we read about fitness relates to cardio in some fashion.  Want to get fit?  Walk more.  Want to get more fit?  Run!  The health monitor I have on my wrist measures the number of steps I take every day and either rewards me with an “Atta Boy!” or chastises me with a, “Let’s set a goal for tomorrow to walk more!” message on my iPhone.   My fitness (according to my Jawbone device) is largely based on how many steps I take.  It doesn’t know or understand that I squatted 8,000lbs on Monday, therefore, I’m certainly destined to a life of depressed sloth unless I get out and walk!  A New York Times article1, published way back on November 4, 2009 does a very nice job of dispelling the benefits of why “Exercise” alone does not lead to weight loss.  According to the article, walking at an easy pace will burn 3-4 more calories an hour than sitting on the couch.  (Granted, I’m likely not stuffing my face with delicious Cheetos’s while walking, but what the heck.) There are many other articles including some from the Journal of Obesity that say the same.2

But here is the interesting part of the New York Times article.  Contrary to popular belief that cardio or “aerobic” exercise will “rev up” your metabolism, not one Dr. Edward Melanson’s 58 subjects that were measured had any such phenomenon occur.  Not even the athletes in the group.  No additional bodyfat, no additional calories, nothing.  Stop walking, stop burning extra calories, for me, I’d rather keep the four calories and enjoy a good rerun episode of Seinfeld, saving my energy for my squat.

High Intensity Interval Training.  (HIIT)

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This stuff works.  It works WAY better than aerobic, or Long Slow Distance (LSD) training.  Lots and lots of information out on this one, and CrossFit is largely based on this methodology.  An article3 from the International Journal of Obesity documents the study of 45 women approximately 20 years old and the effects of a 15 week HIIT exercise program.  15 did nothing, 15 did LSD, 15 performed HIIT.  Guess what?  There was significant fat loss in the HIIT group.   The study was documenting the efforts of Dr. Steve Boutcher at the University of New South Wales4.  Also of note the article states, “…being fat and fit is much healthier than being lean and unfit.  Those overweight people who don’t have excessive fat around their abdomen and don’t have low grade inflammation typically stay healthy and don’t become diabetics.”

Strength Training.

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Remember the first statement?  If you are eating more calories than you are burning, you will gain weight.  So, we can continue to eat whatever we want and punish ourselves with mindless aerobic exercise for hours and hours, or we can do HIIT, and get a bigger bang for our buck, or we can increase our metabolism through strength training.   If our metabolism is higher, we will burn more calories while watching the rerun of Seinfeld, sleeping, or yes, EATING!   I do not mean to imply that we can simply eat with abandon, but I do mean to say that we burn more calories with more muscle.  How do we acquire more muscle?  Strength training.  We get stronger with a barbell, and we can efficiently do that with the squat, deadlift, bench and press.  Yes, there are many other exercises and many variations of those four I mentioned, however, those four give us the best return for our effort by using the most amount of muscle through a full range of motion. 

 

Am I making this up?

 

No.

 

An obesity study5 published in the Journal of American Medical Association in which 304 overweight teens were divided into four groups.  Resistance training group with free weights and machines, aerobic training group with elliptical and stationary bikes, combined resistance training and aerobic exercise, and a group that got to do exactly nothing (control group).  The training groups exercised 4 times a week for 22 weeks.  All were given the same dietary advice.  At the end of it all, guess who had the most decrease in body fat?

 

The group that did strength training alone, that’s who.  Want to lose fat?

 

Get to the gym and squat.

 

 

1. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/04/phys-ed-why-doesnt-exercise-lead-to-weight-loss/ Pulled November 23, 2014

 

2. http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jobe/2011/868305/abs/ Pulled November 23, 2014.

 

3. http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v32/n4/abs/0803781a.html Pulled November 23, 2014.

 

4.  http://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/how-burn-more-fat-less-effort.  Pulled November 23, 2014.

 

 

5. http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1906022 Pulled November 23, 2014.

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