Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cardio before weights? Or vice versa? The chicken vs. egg debate of fitness

Just last week I was working with a new member of my gym, Positively Fit, going over her new exercise program.  She was really excited to get started and begin her weight loss journey.  Following her workout, we recapped her plan for the next two weeks. 

She then asked me, "why am I lifting weights before walking on the treadmill?" Before I could even respond, she then asked, "if getting into my fat-burning zone on the treadmill is important, why am I lifting weights?"

Before I got frustrated with her since we had just spent 45 minutes together during her gym orientation, I told myself two things: 1) I have thrown so much information at this woman over the last 3 workouts that I can't possibly expect her to remember it all in one week.  2) I broke my cardinal rule about training clients - I forgot to mention the purpose of my methods.

Just like how I felt as a child when my mom used to say, "because I said so," my clients feel the same way when I don't explain the reasoning behind the plan. It's so much easier for most people to embrace a new way of thinking and a LIFESTYLE change if they know why it works.  So, I'm going to address her to questions here.

"Why am I lifting weights before walking on the treadmill?"
The reasoning behind this is two-fold. 

1. You need fuel to lift weights.  Your body is an incredible machine that can do phenomenal things when fueled properly.  Weight/strength training requires fuel.  Eating carbohydrates 30 minutes before a strength workout will give you energy.  Eat enough to sustain your activity.  This looks different for everyone. I recommend fruit like apples or oranges 30 minutes prior to a workout.  Depending on the intensity of your workout (time, exertion), you may need more to eat.

2. You don't enter your fat burning zone until about 30 minutes into your workout. Now don't get discouraged when you read this.  Any movement you do during the day is good for you.  It's good for your heart, your mind and stress management.  You burn calories anytime you move.   However, if your goal is to burn fat, you need to get into your fat burning zone.

So, if your weight routine takes you about 30 minutes, you've essentially burned off all the carbohydrates and sugar your body was storing for energy. Now, you're ready to enter your fat burning zone.  Once here, the entire time you are at your target heart rate, you are burning the most fat.  Essentially, the calories you are burning on the treadmill are coming from fat cells.  We'll talk about your THR in another post.   

"If getting into my fat burning zone is important, why am I lifting weights?"

 For many years, people have been sold a bill of goods by pseudo-fitness experts about the pitfalls of strength training (mostly women).  We've all heard the myths:

"lifting weights will make me bulky"
"low weight, high reps"
"you only need to do cardio 3-4 times a week"

As a fitness professional and someone who has not only changed my own body, but those of countless clients, I'm here to tell you to PICK UP THE WEIGHT!

I'll even give you 8 reasons why lifting weights is good for you:

1. Building muscle is the only way to permanently increase your metabolism.  Muscle is an active tissue; the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.

2. You burn more calories. Your body will be burning calories for up toe 24 hours post-workout.  There's a great article about that here.  

3. Women do not get bulky from lifting weights. When you lose fat and gain lean muscle, you appear thinner.  Any perceived "bulk" comes from fat on top of the muscle.  The more fat you lose, the more lean and fit you look.

4. Building muscle increases athletic performance.  I love to run and am always telling those in my group that adding strength training to their running programs will make them better runners.  Running great Hal Higdon promotes strength training in all his programs.

5. As we age, muscles deteriorate. Building more lean muscle will help slow the loss.

6. Muscle requires more calories, so you can get away with eating more.  Just make sure to choose healthy, nutritious foods.

7. Building muscle prevents and fights osteoporosis.

8. Muscle helps burn more fat.

I hope this helps you on your quest for fitness and weight loss.  If you'd like private coaching or additional information, please visit me on Facebook, Twitter or my nutrition website.

Yours in health, 

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