Archive for the tag - cardio only

Cardio or Strength Training to Lose Weight?

Hi Davey,

I have a lot of body fat and know that cardio is the only way to lose it. I spend 45 minutes 5 days a week doing interval training on the elliptical. I also want to appear toned and know that I need to add weights to my routine. I only have an hour a day to spend at the gym, so if I add weights, then it will be cutting down on my cardio time big time. What should I do to get ready to hit the beach this June? Stick with cardio and just do pushups and such, or cut back on the cardio and start with free weights?


Dear Anonymous,

You’ve just touched upon one of the biggest fitness misconceptions that the world has ever known. In fact, in some ways, I feel like it’s my personal mission to set things straight. Just doing cardio isn’t – I repeat, is not – the best way to lose weight.

Weight loss is most effectively achieved through a combination of BOTH cardiovascular exercise (i.e., treadmill, biking, swimming) and strength training. While the cardio will get your heart rate up and burn calories, strength training brings great weight loss benefits, too. Strength training adds muscle mass to your body, and increased muscle mass means a dramatically increased metabolism. Adding even a few pounds of muscle will increase the number of calories your body burns each and every day.

Focusing only on cardio and skipping strength training could actually make it harder for you to lose weight. In fact, you may even gain weight – especially if your cardio workouts exceed 45 minutes. If you do cardio too long, your body consumes muscle for energy. For most people, that “too long” mark is at about 45 minutes. Done over and over again, day after day, this excess cardio could have a substantial impact on your body – and the muscle loss could decrease your metabolism and result in weight gain.

If you have 60 minutes of gym time, here’s what I’d recommend for a client looking to lose weight:

  • 25 minutes of cardio (5 minutes of warming up, 15 minutes of intervals, 5 minutes of cooling down)
  • 30 minutes of strength training
  • 5 minutes of post-workout stretching

I hope this helps, and let’s forever put to rest that cardio-only workouts are a good idea for people looking to lose weight.