Most trainers used to advocate for cardio as the be all end all for weight loss solutions. Every time I spoke to a trainer or coach they’d say “just up your cardio and the weight will fall right off.” I know now that’s probably some of the worse advice that you could give to an overweight individual who is trying to lose weight. 

That aforementioned statement may be contradictory to everything you’ve previously heard with regards to weight loss. So before you rage quit and stop reading this article give me a chance to explain myself. The human body is living masterpiece in the form of adaptive cells and tissue that strives to be extremely efficient. This need to be efficient is what makes cardio a bad idea and lifting weights a great idea in regards to weight loss.

The Good and The Bad

It’s true that cardio can be a great tool for cardiorespiratory health, but the adaptations that increase cardiorespiratory health make it a horrible tool for weight loss. For example, let’s say you run 2 miles three times a week for an entire month. Lets say the first week you burn 400 calories from each run (gross estimation). The caloric burn you receive from running will actually diminish week over week. So the first week you’d burn 400 calories but by the last week you may only be burning 250 calories per each run. That’s significantly less calories!

This occurs because the body becomes more biomechanically and physiologically efficient from activities such as running. Over time, the body will alter a person’s running style and mechanics to make it more efficient. Energy expenditure is a physiological adaptation that can be made more efficient from certain activities, so the body will naturally expend less and less calories while running. This means that you’ll have to continually pile on mileage in order to burn the same amount of calories for running. If you’re cardio bunny that may work great, but I personally don’t have that kind of time to dedicate to pounding pavement.

Weights Are The Answer

Enter the discussion of weights, the true hero of the people! Just like with running, the human body can physiologically and biomechanically adapt to movements like squats or bench press. BUT the better you get at bench press or squats, the more weight you’re able to lift. The ability to lift heavier loads has benefits such as building more muscle and burning more calories. So being more biomechanically efficient at lifting weights won’t detract from your progress the same way cardio does. Also, Physiological adaptations to weight lifting can be overcome by playing with work to rest ratios. At the end of the day lifting weights helps build more muscle which then speeds up your metabolism. A faster metabolism equates to more calories burned when at rest and during workouts.

Essentially lifting weights makes it much easier to lose weight over time. Cardio can help with some weight loss in the short term. But using the same running strategy as a long-term weight loss solution is bound to backfire in the long run.