Saturday, June 7, 2014
The fundamentals of fat loss

By Daniel Reynen Citizen Columnist

"Don't bother working out anymore. If you want to lose weight, just do more cardio." Even as I heard those words being said, I could barely believe it. A friend that I've known for years told me that was the advice of her massage therapist.

My friend then said, "I know you say I have to count calories, but I'm just not willing to do that. I know I can lose the weight doing things my way."

In the nearly 15 years I've known my friend, she's put on 60 pounds of fat. She's tried "her" way of losing weight by going to countless spinning classes, becoming a fixture at Pilates, buying packaged food, and even by attempting a juice cleanse.

Through it all, she's continued to gain weight. Now she thinks her occasional strength training workouts should be stopped so she can "just do more cardio."

If you're trying to lose weight, there is only one truly successful long-term path. You've got to deal with three different things -- strength, cardio and diet. Cut out or ignore any one of the three and you're setting yourself up for failure. Here's why.

Resistance exercise (also known as weight training) builds muscle. As we get older, the ability to synthesize muscle protein decreases, so it becomes harder and harder for our body to make new muscle tissue. You can still increase the size of the muscles you already have, but new muscle gets increasingly difficult to add.

People who don't engage in some kind of resistance program slowly lose muscle mass. As you lose muscle, your metabolism drops. Keep eating the same things you always have, and you'll continue gaining weight. Lift weights at least twice a week, and you're more likely to retain muscle and keep your metabolism running at a higher rate.

Unfortunately, resistance training doesn't burn off as many calories as people like to think. A tough, hour-long workout may only burn 200 to 300 calories. That's why cardio is critical.

Cardio exercises burn fat and improve the cardiovascular system. Interval cardio sessions are the most effective and can be done in the shortest period of time. For best results, schedule at least two, but preferably three cardio sessions a week.

The more muscle you have, the more effective cardio workouts become. All the muscle continues burning fat, long after the cardio session is over.

But even a program of cardio and weight training together may not be enough to get rid of excess fat. If someone only has a couple extra pounds, they can probably work it off. But if you're carrying 30, 40 or 50 pounds extra, it's difficult to exercise hard enough or long enough to burn it all off.

The final piece is diet. You've got to cut 500 calories a day just to lose a single pound a week. You need to start some form of controlled eating. You can do that by keeping a food journal, counting calories with a smartphone, or by ordering prepackaged food from a plan.

My friend followed her massage therapist's advice and kicked up her cardio to an hour a day. After nearly two months, she put on another three pounds. She can ride a bike for hours without getting winded, but her strength and metabolism are both dropping. Because her eating continues unchanged, the weight gain continues.

Strength training, cardio and counting calories -- only by combining all three will you see consistent, long-term results.

Special Note: There are programs that combine both strength training and cardio in a single workout. They go by names like CrossFit and Metabolic Resistance Training. What these programs do is package a cardio program and weight training routine together,to save you time.

Most combined strength and cardio programs stress quantity and speed of movement rather than quality of movement, making you much more prone to injury. In fact, a recent study in the United Kingdom revealed that three out of four CrossFit participants were injured during training.

Proper form is more important than being fast.

CAUTION: Before beginning any exercise program check with your doctor first. For a free consultation with a WeBeFit Trainer, call 305-296-3434. Read all our articles online at and get updates by "liking" us on Facebook.