I get asked this question all the time: “Matt, which workout plan burns the most fat?”
My answer is always the same: “It depends.”
Most people hate that answer but in almost all areas of physique transformation, “it depends”, is the catchall response.
Just because your gym’s spin class claims you’ll burn 1,000 calories in one hour doesn’t mean anything if your caloric intake matches or exceeds your activity level for that day.
Just because you did a power-lifting routine with heavy singles or a more traditional bodybuilding style approach with higher rep ranges doesn’t guarantee fat loss if you’re eating at maintenance or above.
See the theme here?
What drives fat loss is your diet, plain and simple. What aids in your fat loss is your training – whether it’s cardiovascular, resistance training, or both.
If your coworker Susan lost 15 lbs. by revamping her diet to include mostly whole and minimally processed foods with a focus on protein and an overall caloric deficit AND switched to Zumba as her mode of exercise, it’s not the Zumba that magically had her dropping fat – it’s the fact that her approach to nutrition was a sustainable caloric deficit.
So okay, you’ve read my previous blog posts, you’ve figured out your calories and your macronutrients, you’re tracking everything and now you want to know how you should train to best create physique changes – how should you do it? Running? Lifting weights?
My answer: probably a mix of both… but again, it depends.
If you enjoy doing cardio, then by all means, tear it up out there, but know that cardio alone does not build a significant amount of muscle like strength training would.
And when you carry more muscle on your body you are increasing your metabolic rate. That’s part of the reason why two people weighing the same amount but with different musculature will require different amounts of calories for fat loss, i.e. the more muscular person will likely be able to diet on more food than the less muscular person even if they both weigh 175 lbs. Obviously other factors like daily activity level comes into play but for the sake of making a case for strength training, that’s true.
If your current approach for fat loss consists of various modes of cardio work, then I’d highly suggest adding in some resistance training.
Please don’t fall victim to the mindset of, “I’ll just lose these next 10 lbs AND THEN I’ll start lifting weights.
If you’re a complete beginner, add strength training in slowly and work on proper movement patterns. Hire a local trainer or a coach to guide you through and make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly.
Your call to action:
- Reduce your volume of cardio by 1 session per week and replace it with 1 resistance training session until you’re lifting weights in some capacity at least three times per week. (Not sure what to do? Email me. I’d be happy to help!)
- Let your nutrition be the main driver for fat loss, not your activity. The idea here is to allow your body to recover instead of constantly putting in a stressful state.
- Find a way to make your exercise enjoyable. If you’re not enjoying the process, you’re less likely to stick with it. And what drives real change is consistency over a period of time.
So for those who just want Cliffs Notes – how do you train for fat loss?
- Eat in a caloric deficit
- Focus on resistance training to some degree
- Enjoy the process
To your success,