Misinformed beliefs about fat loss just refuse to die.
The particular belief that's on my mind tonight was inspired by a conversation I had with a client this past week. A conversation that I've had numerous times over the years with new-er clients. It's the belief that cardio is the most important piece of the puzzle for losing fat.
Half of my clients have over 50 pounds to lose. What I see most of them do, early on, is allocate most of their time and energy to doing cardio, and IF they have time and energy left, they'll do some lifting.
They think what they always need is more cardio.
But research tells us not to do more cardio, but to lift. And lift heavy.
In 1999, one of the OG's of exercise science, Dr. Kraemer, and his smart pals did a study that compared a weight loss protocol with and without exercise over a 12-week period.
They took 35 overweight men (175 to 275 pounds with around 30%+ body fat) and split them up into four groups:
A) Control (no intervention, just came in for testing)
C) Diet + cardio
D) Diet + cardio + heavy resistance training / lifting
The average daily caloric intake for the three experimental groups (B, C, and D) was about 1500 calories.
The cardio group (C) did cardio three days a week at 70-80% intensity while gradually increasing the time from 30 minutes to 50 minutes a session over the course of 12 weeks.
The diet plus cardio plus lifting group (D) still did the same cardio program (three days a week) - but they followed that with a weight training session right after.
By the end of the 12-weeks, all three groups (the diet, diet plus cardio, and diet plus cardio and heavy lifting) lost a similar amount of total weight -- 20 to 22 pounds. But there was a significant difference in the makeup of the weight loss. The resistance training group (D) lost the most amount of fat weight and maintained the most amount of muscle.
For the diet-only group and the diet plus cardio groups, only 69% and 78% of the total weight loss was fat weight, respectively. Whereas for the diet plus cardio and resistance training group it was 97%.
The study pretty much says when it comes to making body composition changes, cardio plus diet doesn't do much more than dieting alone. But diet plus cardio plus heavy resistance training has the largest impact on improving body composition (Kraemer et al. 1999).
Is cardio important for fat loss? Yes, it is. I'm not saying it doesn't so don't stop doing it.
If you're spending most of your effort on cardio, I just want you to switch that strategy. At least for a while. Try it.
Do what they did in this study. Some days use weights that you can do only 5-7 repetitions with and rest 2-3 minutes between sets. Other days go a bit lighter and use weights that you can only do 8 to 10 repetitions with and rest 1-2 minutes. Keep your cardio in there and get your eating right. You're set.
Oh, and be patient.