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by Bailey Petrucelli May 11, 2023 4 min read

Are you tired of trying everything under the sun to lose weight and keep it off, but never seeing lasting results? Even though it's a common strategy, spending hours in the gym — especially doing excessive amounts of cardio — is not the most effective way to shed unwanted pounds and achieve the strong, toned physique you're after.

What you do want is a healthy, strong metabolism.

So, what's the best workout for weight loss? Let's take a look at the differences between cardio and metabolic resistance training when it comes to our metabolism and where to start if you're looking to burn body fat and keep it off for years to come.

Why Cardio Alone May Not Work

Cardio (aerobic) workouts enhance your heart and lung health and burn calories during your workout, while strength training (anaerobic) uses body weight or equipment to perform physical movements like lifting a weight or doing a squat. This places physical demand on the muscle and this stimulus supports muscle maintenance or with progressive overload can facilitate muscle growth over time. Muscle is metabolically active, it requires more calories to maintain it, and you can burn calories both during the workout and after, increasing the total amount of energy you expend compared to doing cardio alone.

If you're starting out, cardio can be the fastest way to lose weight because of the high demand it places on your entire body as a beginner. But after about 12-16 weeks, you adapt to a certain base level of fitness that doesn't place as much demand on the muscles to perform the same workout. Over time, you may start to strip away muscle, which can lower your metabolism, so even if you consume the same amount of calories and do the same amount of cardio you may reach a weight loss plateau or even start to gain weight.

Muscle, Strength and Metabolism

Muscle is essential for a healthy metabolism; it's where the majority of our glucose is stored for energy, and it requires more calories just to maintain it. The more muscle you have, the more calories you'll burn overall - even at rest. Research shows that for every pound of lean mass (muscle), you'll burn around 30-50 calories, so at best we want to maintain a good amount of muscle mass to keep our metabolism strong. This becomes even more important as we age, especially for women but for men too, who from age 27 can lose 5-6 lbs of muscle every 10 years if not maintained.

Less muscle requires fewer calories and lowers our metabolism over time, it's why strength training is essential to maintain muscle as a minimum if you want to lose weight and keep it off. Without including resistance training muscle mass will begin to decrease, bones can start to weaken and hormones can become imbalanced - all things we require for a healthy metabolism. The percentage of muscle mass andfat mass you have make up your body composition and that is what will determine how "toned" you look. Metabolic resistance training incorporates both forms (cardio and strength training) so you can get the benefits of both and optimize your results.

Tips to Support Your Physique Goals

1. Be Active Every Day

Set weekly goals to include metabolic resistance training into your movement and exercise schedule. Low-impact steady state cardio exercises like walking, may burn fewer calories but utilize more body fat as energy. Aim for a minimum of 7000+ steps per day to increase total daily energy expenditure and provide far-reaching long-term health benefits. Include higher intensity cardio (running, spinning or intervals) for increased calorie expenditure and heart health, as well as strength training, which facilitates muscle growth/maintenance. It might seem like a lot, but you don't need to spend hours in the gym. A 20-40 minute resistance training workout that keeps the heart rate elevated, mimicking aerobic based training - with shorter rest periods or adding exercises that increase the intensity - will create the metabolic resistance training effects and benefits in one go. Or simply break it down into 2 x 20-minute sessions of cardio and resistance training, 2-3 times per week, plus your daily steps, and you'll be set to achieve great results.

2. Allow Yourself Recovery Time

Over exercising is a stressor on the body. Pushing yourself too hard and too often can lead to decreased energy levels and injury. It is just as important to include rest days in between more intense workouts, you'll likely see more improvement if you allow your body to recover after a harder workout, to repair and rebuild muscle if that is your goal.

3. Appropriate Nutrition

How you fuel your body will determine how your body functions. Food provides the energy required for your workouts and overtime will largely influence your results. Your body needs adequate amounts of essential nutrients: protein, healthy fats and vitamins and minerals for optimal cellular health, hormones and metabolism. Limit processed foods, and instead focus on eating nutrient dense whole foods. Adding an all-in-one protein powder to your breakfast smoothie or post-workout oats is a great way to optimize your nutrient demands for the day.

4. Get Adequate Sleep

Sleep is a vital time when your body focuses on recovery and repair. When you don't get enough high-quality sleep, your metabolism may slow down, and you'll be more tired - both can make it more challenging to lose weight.

5. Understand Your Metabolic Function

If you're struggling to lose weight no matter how much you exercise and eat right, or just don't have the energy to even think about exercising; taking a look at specific markers that play a key role in metabolism, stress and weight management overall can help identify any underlying imbalance using a simple at-home lab test. With your individual results explained by a certified health coach and an appropriate diet and lifestyle plan right for you - you'll be on a strong path to achieve your weight, wellness and physique goals.

Many people believe that in order to get great results you need to be training 6-7x a week, this is simply not true and is often a deterrent from taking the first step. Whether you are just getting started or tired of not getting the results you want, take a listen to this podcast and learn why often less is more plus how to ramp up your workout routine and get the results you're after.

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