January: This is the month that everyone goes back to the gym and commits to exercising regularly. You might ask, what type of exercise should I do to burn the most fat in the shortest amount of time? I have news for you; the answer to that question is not so simple. As you mostly likely remember, it was all about cardio for a long time. Cardio, otherwise known as aerobic exercise, was THE way to lose weight and burn fat! Aerobic exercise includes jogging, cycling, swimming, and power walking. Does it work for a lot of people? YES! Does it work long term for people? Well, some yes and some no. Then came along all the benefits of resistance training, which includes weight training. Not just for body builders anymore! The premise of resistance training is that it increases your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), which means you burn more calories at rest. This is a good thing, right? You continue to reap the benefits of your work-out, long after it is over! And some research has demonstrated that resistance training can improve glucose control, which is also a good thing for long-term weight management! And fast forward to today, the current trend in exercise is combining high-intensity cardio with resistance training, which looks like Cross Fit or a boot camp class!
According to a new study by Duke Researchers, aerobic training is the best mode of exercise for burning fat. (1) What?? The researchers compared aerobic training, resistance training, and a combination of the two in 234 overweight and obese people. Resistance training consisted of three days per week of weight lifting, three sets per day, 8-12 repetitions per set; aerobic training consisted of approximately 12 miles per week; and aerobic plus resistance training consisted of three days a week, three sets per day, 8-12 repetitions per set for resistance training, plus approximately 12 miles per week of aerobic exercise. The researchers found that the aerobic only group and the aerobic plus resistance training groups lost the most amount of weight and fat, and the resistance group, while increasing lean body mass (or muscle), did not lose weight overall. The combination exercise group, while requiring double the time commitment, did not significantly reduce body mass nor fat mass over the aerobic training group alone. However, this combination group did notice the largest decrease in waist circumference! Which means going down a jean size or two!
A few important things to consider here. Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) was not measured in this study. This is indeed important because to keep weight off, you want to have a higher RMR to burn more calories at rest! Makes sense, right? And resistance training has been shown to increase RMR. And did the aerobic group alone lose more muscle mass than the combination group? This was not measured. And certainly, losing muscle mass is not going to affect RMR favorably. If this study had been conducted over a longer period of time, would the results have been the same?
It makes sense to me to do cardio for heart and lung health, resistance training to preserve lean muscle mass and increase RMR, and stretching/light yoga to remain flexible and decrease stress. And choose fun exercise programs that you actually enjoy! But again, back to the question – in what ratio and how much to lose fat most efficiently?
I have exciting news for you. Genetic testing can now help you determine if you benefit most from endurance training, strength training, or interval training! No more guessing! And genetic testing can also tell you if you have a normal or enhanced blood pressure response to exercise and a normal or enhanced HDL (good cholesterol) response to exercise. Your genetic markers can help you put together an exercise program that is just right for you! Stay tuned as I will have more details for you very soon on how you can test your genes to find out what type of exercise helps you lose weight and fat most efficiently!
Duke University Medical Center. “Aerobic exercise trumps resistance training for weight and fat loss.” ScienceDaily, 15 Dec. 2012.