Cardio Vs Weights - Part 1.
In the first of a 2 part series, our Heath Club Manager Louise looks at the myths and truth surrounding the Cardio vs Weights debate, and how both play a role in achieving your fitness goals.
Cardio vs Weights, which is best and why? This is an age-old argument that constantly changes viewpoint depending on what body type is in vogue. For years, the fashion industry made super-skinny the ‘In look’ and so people dieted like crazy and made running and cycling they’re singular form of exercise. They feared lifting, especially women, as the perception was it would make you look manly and bulky. In more recent times, along with better education and freer thinking, this myth has nearly been de-bunked. Women are wanting to look athletic and healthy instead of gaunt and skinny. They prefer the ‘squatter’s bum’ over the flat bottom look and the toned arms over the skinny bingo wings.
Now before you think I’m going to be completely one-sided here, I’m not, well at least I’ll try not to be; both cardio and weights have their place in a healthy society. The issue I have is that people need to be better informed about both, need to know what the medium and long term results from both are and what way to fuel the body to achieve maximum results from both.
Fat loss and weight loss are most definitely not the same thing. Fat is fat and weight is weight, I can’t put it more simply then that! You can be light with a high bodyfat % and you can also be heavy with a low bodyfat %. People assume they must do endless cardio to burn fat, WRONG! Endless cardio will make you lighter but it could also give you a higher % of fat. Cardio primarily burns calories which can lead to being lighter on the scales (if your calories in are less than your calories out). Weight training can lead to weight gain! Of course, the results are also driven by what you fuel your body with while your exercising and just because you work out, you don’t have the freedom to eat what you like and expect the results you think you deserve!
There are many different types of cardio, ranging from LISS (low intensity steady state) which is one end of the spectrum to HITT (high intensity interval training) which is down the other end and everything in between. If you want to run a marathon then it’s obvious you need to put the mileage in. Weight training including squatting, lunging and hamstring work will provide massive benefits for power and endurance for your run but at the end of the day your training needs to be specific so you need to run, and not on a treadmill once you get past a certain distance. Likewise, if your participating in a cycle race, then bicep curling isn’t going to get you far. Let me clarify here, I’m talking medium to long distance running/cycling/rowing here, not short distances.
If you’re doing endless amounts of cardio because you think that it will get you in shape for that beach body then think again. LISS cardio makes you lighter, skinnier and more cardio-vascular fit then actually looking good. Your bum will be flat, you’ll possibly lose muscle tone (as it burns off lean muscle) and unfortunately you will age quicker as it elevates your cortisol (stress hormone) levels which prematurely ages you. On the positive side, you will be lighter and so will be able to go for longer distances then those carrying a lot of muscle.
Fuelling for long distance cardio is completely different then fuelling for gym work or short distance cardio. Glycogen (what carbs is turned into) is your primary fuel source and so you need to carb load to be able to keep going and not fatigue. You normally carb load up until about 36 hours before a long race, anything closer to the day and you fear bloating, cramps and non-digested food getting in the way. You need to re-fuel intra-race (if the race goes on longer then 50-60mins) which involves taking energy gels and liquids, stuff that will get into you quickly and give you that extra burst of energy. It also means you’re not laden down with heavy food while you race. The possible downside with this is that any unused fuel (which is primarily sugar based) will be stored as fat and at the end of the race your body is so exhausted that you will crave sugar whereas realistically its protein and fat that you need to eat. A lot of sleep is also needed, not only to help recover but to lower cortisol.
Off season training should be lighter and shorter distance with more protein and fat and less carbs in your diet. You need to give your body a rest from eating too much of one macro, some down time. Do some different types of training, re-energise your body to come back stronger and faster for the next period of racing. Like weight lifting, if you do the same type of training for too long, your body will plateau and no gains will be made. Dropping back from cycling or running and doing some gym floor work will benefit your body and you will find that your times will improve.
Louise Kavanagh - Spencer Health Club Manager