Bulk up or slim down? Torch fat or build muscle?
When it comes to cardio vs. weights, the best method is a combination of both.
You know that fitness is important to your overall health. Beyond that, however, things get a little confusing.
What does “being fit” really mean? Does it involve building huge muscles like a bodybuilder? Or should you focus on using cardio to slim down? In the showdown of cardio vs. weights, what’s the difference and which one emerges as the winner?
Many people go to the gym with the assumption that cardio is only for weight loss, while weight training is helpful for building muscle and “bulking up.” As a result, they are only getting half the results they should be.
Read on to find out why combining cardio and weight training is the best choice for the ultimate healthy body.
What is Cardio?
Also known as cardiovascular exercise or aerobic exercise, cardio is any physical activity that elevates your breathing and heart rate. Popular cardiovascular exercises are things like walking, running, cycling, swimming, and dancing.
So, how does it work?
For most gym-goers, the primary purpose of cardio is to burn calories and lose weight. And in fact, cardio does burn more calories than strength training, but this is only a small piece of the puzzle. During cardiovascular exercise, your heart pumps blood faster and your breathing gets shallower. You might feel short of breath or even dizzy (if you work out hard enough).
During moderate to heavy physical activity, your body burns fat and carbohydrates for energy, but it also needs oxygen (this is why you feel out of breath). Your body increases your heart rate and your breathing to keep your body well supplied with oxygen.
You might hear cardio referred to as “cardiovascular training” and for good reason. Doing cardio regularly improves your body’s ability to deliver more amounts of oxygen to your body when it’s needed. The same exercise that was so difficult at the beginning of your fitness journey becomes a piece of cake after a few months of working out. You’ll even discover that you have more energy during the day and don’t tire as quickly.
As you can see, cardio is a lot more than just a way to burn off that chocolate chip cookie!
But if you’re like most people, you might have had spectacular results with a cardiovascular exercise routine…only to plateau several months later. What gives?
It’s very likely that you skipped a key component of any successful fitness routine: weight training.
What is Weight Training?
Whether you call it weight training, strength training, or anaerobic activity, weight training is any activity that builds muscle. Although the gym is full of machines and free weights, you don’t actually need any equipment for weight training. Moving your own body weight works, too.
Unfortunately, the term “weight lifting” makes a lot of people’s eyes glaze over. “I don’t want to be a bodybuilder,” they think. “That’s not for me.”
But the idea that lifting weights will create big, bulky muscles? That’s an old wives tale.
In fact, by building muscle, you’ll actually be increasing your metabolism. That’s because muscles require a lot of energy even when they’re at rest. When your body has more muscle mass, it’ll help eat away at any excess fat stores even after your workout has ended. Weight training also helps improve your strength (obviously!), posture, balance, and bone density.
But, just like cardio, the key to growth is to go just a little past your comfort zone. While your workout shouldn’t be excruciating, feeling that slight burn is a sign that you’re doing it right.
Cardio vs. Weights: Why Do I Need Both?
“If cardio helps you lose weight and weights help ramp up metabolism and strengthen your muscles, why bother doing both? Can’t I just pick based on my goals?”
Not exactly. You’ll see better overall results if your cardio and weight training work hand-in-hand.
Let’s see how each of them stack up.
For weight loss, cardio works well because it burns a lot of calories while also training you for longer, more vigorous workouts (provided you hit your target heart rate zone). But if you don’t mix things up with some strength training, you’ll eventually plateau and start to lose muscle mass.
And if “losing mass” sounds great, think again. Lean muscle mass not only takes up less space than the same amount of fat (making you look slimmer, even if you didn’t “lose weight”), it actually raises your metabolism. When you combine cardio with strength training, you essentially burn the candle at both ends.
One study found that weight training can cause higher metabolism up to 38 hours after a workout. There was no such benefit after cardio activity.
But strength training doesn’t just enhance your cardio activity. Continual building and toning of your muscles will help keep the weight off over time while also sculpting your ideal silhouette…whatever that might be.
Don’t Forget About Nutrition!
We cannot emphasize enough how important nutrition is when trying to achieve your fitness goals!
You might spend hours at the gym and burn off 1,000 calories, but put the same amount of calories back into your body at your favorite fast food chain. Consuming calories is much easier than burning them, especially after starting an exercise routine.
However, you don’t want to starve yourself. Your body needs a certain amount of calories just to keep your organs functioning.
When you join Ludus Actius we can create a nutrition plan that is tailored towards your individual needs. Want to build muscle? We have a plan for that. Want to lose weight? We have a guide for that too.
What you put in your body will help you get the most out of it.
When it comes down to cardio vs. weights, there’s no true winner because they are both important parts of a good fitness routine.
By exercising your muscles and your heart, you’ll be laying the foundation for overall good health that improves your quality of life. Think of cardio and strength training as the powerhouse couple you need to achieve your fitness goals.
Excited to learn more? Let’s get started on the new you! At Ludus Actius, we understand that everyone has unique goals. We can help by tailoring a program just for you.
Contact us for membership information or any questions you may have.