Some people do lose weight by doing cardio training only. Very few women can achieve weight loss through cardio only, however. It is possible, but it is very unlikely. You see, a woman in between the ages 35 to 45 needs to consume about 1800 to 2200 calories per day on average. If you do have weight in excess, it is safe to assume that you consume more calories than what you need on a daily basis, which is what led to gaining weight in the first place.
A woman in in her 30s or Shorty burns on average 250 calories from running 30 minutes. It is not hard to bust your caloric requirement by 250 calories. A couple of cookies, a Frappuccino, dessert after dinner, snacking on chips watching Netflix and that's it: you busted. If you rely on doing cardio alone to lose weight, the caloric deficit you create by doing so is quite small to be honest. It will probably, at best, be just enough to compensate from those extra calories you ate on that day. A little depressing isn't it?
Also, I don’t know anyone who does cardio every day. Therefore even when you create a caloric deficit because you perform cardio, you might do it two or three days a week top, not even 50% of the time. Do not get me wrong here, doing cardio a few times a week is still waaaay better than nothing. It is good for your health, it is awesome for your heart, it will probably prevent you from gaining more weight. But it might leave you frustrated because you do exercise hard, you take precious personal time to exercise and yet, the scale is not moving.
So what can you do then? If you are like hundreds and thousands of women who tried to lose weight by doing a little bit of cardio and failed, you might wonder if it is worth it? Let me assure you that there is a better way. You see, cardio training has to be considered for what it is: one of many tools in your toolbox, and it is not the best one. I am a huge advocate of cardio training for weight loss, but what you need, especially as a woman, is to burn more calories throughout the week and to control the amount of food that you ingest.
Most women fret over training with weights. In fact, none of the female clients I've had for the past 20 years had even considered it as an option to lose weight before training with me. I get it… You have seen the pictures on Instagram of very muscular women, almost looking like men, with veins all over the arms. You don't want to look like that. Again, I get it. The pictures you have seen do not depict the results of 99.9% of women who lift weights. These women are outliers. What lifting weights does for a “regular” woman (like you!) is that it will slightly increase your muscle mass. The result being that with every bout of physical activity, like jogging for example, you will expend more calories. Think about it, it is like revving up the engine of your car. With a bigger engine comes a higher fuel consumption. That is exactly what training with weights on a regular basis will do to you. That’ll increase the fuel requirement of the engine. More calories burned. Each. And. Every. Workout.
What I have found with the years is that most women enjoy training in a circuit fashion and get very good results from it. In a circuit, you do three to four exercises in a row with no break. That is the system we promote here at First Step Fitness, and it works really well for 3 reasons. 1) It creates that slight increase in muscle mass I just mentioned. 2) The fast pace of the circuit is such that it burns more calories in 30 minutes than the usual bout of jogging will do. 3) Most women like to feel that they’re out of breath and sweating after a workout. They like to feel that they’ve got the work done, and circuit training will definitely do that for you.
But there’s more! Here’s the cherry on top of the sundae. When you do weight training, your metabolism stays elevated for up to 16 hours. What that means is that your muscles have been stimulated and now need to reconstruct. Thus, the amount of calories you burn at rest is elevated for almost the rest of the day. This does not happen when you do cardio, as your metabolism is back to normal within 30 minutes. That is why women who do weight training circuits and cardio training experience better and faster weight loss.
As if that wasn’t enough to convince you, consider this for a minute. The only way to increase the amount of calories burned when all you do is cardio is to increase the duration of the workout: going from 30 minutes to 45 minutes and then to an hour. That's very time consuming and most of us don't have that much time to devote to training. Any weight training circuit done at a fast pace and high intensity can be done in 25 to 35 minutes. It will never need to last longer than that. Therefore, it will save you a lot of time and it can be done anywhere, at home or at the gym. Try this free circuit for a few weeks and look at the results it brings about (insert link). I think you'll be positively surprised.
If you are already training with weight a few times a week, you can try, if your schedule allows it, to add cardio training in your off days. The combination of both will fasten your weight loss even more. I am going to end this blog by saying that losing weight is one thing and keeping it off is something else. Many will find it hard to lose, but even harder to maintain. With weight training, once you reach the weight that you’re happy and comfortable at, it'll be much easier to stay there.