Monday, August 2, 2010

Cardio Vs Strength Training: Who Wins?

As a cardio addict, I myself have been guilty of neglecting weight training.  And it shows.  Although my weight roughly stays the same, my shape has not.  I'm flabbier than I was 8 years ago.  And I work out.  Imagine what would be if I wasn't exercising at all!

Something else interesting happened too:  The number of calories it took to maintain my weight 8 years ago, versus the number of calories it takes to maintain my weight now, has dropped.  Meaning, I have to eat less to stay this same weight.  Ugh.  Who wants that?

So last year, I began to take a closer look at the role our muscles play in our metabolism and how not building them, can lead to both of the above problems.  And I started lifting weights.  It's been start and stop, but the past month I have been much more consistent and am VERY pleased with the results.  Plus I get to throw around phrases like "super set" and "chest press" and that makes me totally cool.  Or a geek.

In last week's GOOP, Gwenyth Paltrow's excellent weekly newsletter, she had the following interview with Dr Oz Garcia.  It explains this muscle business perfectly:

Q:  “How might a 40 something jump start a sluggish metabolism?”

Dr. Oz Garcia, who I've been working with, gave us his answer:

A:  Staying slim and fit is always a challenge but maintaining your girly figure after age forty can be an all out battle. Even maintaining an exact diet and fitness regimen will not beat the penalty of aging.

On average, women gain 25 pounds between the ages of 30 and 60 and it’s not from eating those extra Twinkies. During the course of the natural aging process, women shed lean muscle mass. These lean muscles are the force from which calories are burned even while sitting around and just blinking.

Technically speaking, a pound of lean tissue burns 35 to 50 K’s each day. A loss of just a half-pound of lean muscle could cause you to gain three pounds in just one year, 25 pounds in 10 years, 50 pounds in 20 years and a hefty 75 pounds in 30 years.

So in order for women to stay lean well into their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s they need to maintain those lean muscles. This means working out every day. Yes, every day. Exercise with increased resistance and lower reps will provide increased muscle density and bone strength.

Interval training, when you get your heart pumping at maximum capacity and then slow down for a period of recovery, is great for losing weight in your 20’s and 30’s. Once you’re a bit older, however, you want to regulate your cardio training into a steady bell-shaped progression. Start off slow, work to a crescendo and then work you way back down.

Dr. Oz Garcia is a New York city based nutritionist. He is an expert in anti-aging nutrition and the author of several books on the matter including, “Redesigning 50: The No-Plastic-Surgery Guide to 21st-Century Age Defiance”
So, have I convinced you yet, to pick up some dumbbells?  Here are some great resources to help you design a weight program and get started on re-building your lean muscle mass:

The Body Fat Solution by Tom Veunto  (It's worth clicking that link just to get a gander at Tom's AMAZING physique!)

The New Rules of Lifting for Women - Alwyn Cosgrove and others

E-program, Turbulence Training by Craig Ballantyne who gets brownie points for recently going Vegan!  There's a good video presentation when you click that link.  This is mostly body weight exercises, so a good place to start if you're afraid of the weight room. 

You can get a free 4-week trial of Turbulence Training through fellow blogger Swigg:

Now, this wouldn't be a post by yours truly if I didn't take a minute to have an honest REAL heart-to-heart with ya'll, right?:

Experienced Exercisers:  If you aren't getting the kind of results you want even though you workout regularly, YOU HAVE GOT TO CHANGE YOUR WORKOUTS!  Sorry about the yelling, but you would not believe how often people complain to me "I already workout a ton and am STILL overweight!"  They use this as excuse to give up or as proof that they really cannot be as lean as they'd like.  Bollocks I say.  Not getting the results you want mean it's time to change something, not throw in the towel completely.  Open Your Minds, people!

Beginning Exercisers:  Don't worry too much about everything I wrote in this post.  You just need to begin building the exercise habit.  Start with walking if that's all you can do.  Start slowly but consistently.  Try to workout every single day.  This is the fastest and most effective way to build this habit.  Don't do so much that you get injured.  Keep it small, keep it slow, but do it daily.

OK, let's build some muscles!


  1. Em - spot on - I couldn't have been more engrossed were you to have revealed the secret of life and the Universe - sad thing is that I'm not kidding!

  2. Interesting post - weights are my passion but I only do them 2x/week. I don't agree with Dr. Oz' comment about weight training daily, UNLESS the exercises are incorporating different muscles (eg. chest/back one day and legs the next). Also, I thought it was ironic that this was from GOOP - I understood that Paltrow worked out with some Hollywood trainer who philosophy was quite different ("don't work with weights heavier than 3 pounds") - but who knows?

  3. Yeah, it looks like GPal has switched trainers after that low bone density diagnosis!

    I think the Oz quote was a little mixed up with weight training and cardio. I don't think he meant do weights everyday. I think he just meant work-out everyday. That's what Tom and Al seem to say too, although like Lisa said, weights are every other day and even then alternating muscle groups.

    Thanks so much for your comments!