The majority of my female clients I’ve had come to me have all wanted to lose weight. A lot of them were already doing 4-5 days of 45-60 minutes of cardio. They’ll tell me how it worked great for the first month or two, and then everything came to a screeching halt. Then they added MORE cardio and the results still weren’t great. How is this possible?
Cardio Burns Muscle Over Fat
Even if you are a woman, and don’t care about having a muscular physique, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to lose any muscle you currently have. I’m also sure you DEFINITELY wouldn’t want to spend 5 days a week doing cardio, on a diet having lost 15 pounds, only to hear me tell you half or more of that was muscle.
Cardio sends little to no signal to keep muscle. How could it? You are using only your legs to jog at a moderate pace at best for 40+ minutes. That’s not a strong signal to keep muscle at all. Sure HIIT training may help a little more since the intensity is up, but the frequency you’d have to do HIIT training to keep that signal is way more than you’d be able to recover from during a deficit.
Resistance Training’s Muscle Saving Signal
Muscle is calorically expensive to have. If you are on a diet, your body needs a REALLY good reason to keep muscle. It needs a signal or stimulus that shows the demand. Resistance training is that signal. Forcing your body to move heavy weight is a STRONG signal to hold onto muscle. Your body wants to survive. If it knows you continually train under heavy weight, then it knows it needs to keep as much muscle as it can during a diet to survive those sessions.
This is why, even if looking muscular isn’t your goal, it still plays to your advantage to include even just two days of resistance training in your routine. Not only are you still burning calories when you lift weights, but you are also providing a frequent signal to keep muscle and PRIORITIZE burning fat. That is what you want in an ideal world after all isn’t it?
Stick to the Basics
The workouts don’t have to be complicated either. Do the compound lifts (bench press, overhead press, deadlift, squat, row, and a pull-up) and split them up between the two sessions. Feel free to add some arm work if you felt you wanted extra emphasis on those areas but you by no means HAVE to do so. That’s all it takes! Resistance training doesn’t have to be this 1.5 hour long, complicated routine where you hit every piece of machine and lift until you puke. Focus on getting really good at those 6 lifts.
Cardio Isn’t Evil
This doesn’t mean you CAN’T or SHOULDN’T do cardio ever again. It’s a tool like everything else. If you’ve been stalling in your weight loss, and doing more than 3 days of cardio, I’d suggest peeling back to 2 days. If you aren’t able to continue dropping weight doing multiple days of cardio while also in a deficit, your body needs a break. Drop to 2 days, and add those 2 days of resistance training to make up for it. Bring your calories back up to maintenance for a couple weeks just to continue aiding in letting your body recover, then you can go back to your diet.
Another option is, instead of adding more cardio, try and increase your movement throughout the day. So if you hit 7,000 steps per day on average, now try and hit 10,000. This will be a lot easier to sustain long term, and more realistic to implement into your life.