If you're looking to lose weight, you might be wondering: Should I focus on doing cardio or should I weight train? The answer, for those of you not interested in hanging around for the "why" part of the answer, is both. What matters most is the way you train, the system you train under, and your lifestyle.
The cardio vs. weight lifting question stems from the days when "cardio" usually meant going to a low-level aerobic class and "weight lifting" meant spending a couple of hours in the “free weight room,” chatting with your buddies between attempts at "out-benching" each other.
These days, most workout programs incorporate both, often during the same workout. Most "cardio" work has an element of resistance training, either in the form of added weight or plyometric movements, while most "weight lifting" work has a cardio element because it's done in circuits.
There are two myths inherent in this age-old question. The first is that weight training will make you bulky. The second is that cardio doesn't build muscle. Let's dispel these once and for all.
Gaining bulk is hard. I wish I had a nickel for every time I've seen a hardcore gym rat who's been lifting for months, desperate for a few pounds of lean muscle mass, blow his stack when he hears a woman say, "Weight training will make me bulky."
It takes a ton of energy for your body to add muscle. During the initial stages of any kind of intense training, especially one you're not used to, your body releases excess amounts of the hormone cortisol, which causes your body to retain water. Some people think this means they are bulking up when, in reality, it's just the body adapting to the training. It happens whether you are trying to gain or lose weight and has nothing to do with gaining actual muscle mass. Once your body adapts to the new training, the cortisol release ceases and your body flushes the excess water.
This second myth is trickier. Low-level, steady-state aerobic training will atrophy muscle, so it can be true. But "cardio" hasn't meant aerobic zone training since Richard Simmons' heyday in the 80s. Cardio is a catchall term for any training that elevates your heart rate for the entire workout. These days, since almost all weight training is done circuit style, your heart rate remains elevated during both cardio and weight training workouts. Modern cardio training is almost always an offshoot of interval training, which means it's a mix of aerobic and anaerobic training. And this builds muscle.
Probably the easiest example to help you understand this is to look at some of the Beachbody® Success Stories. Take a look at the results from INSANITY® and those from P90X®. INSANITY is a "cardio" program that uses no equipment. P90X, on the other hand, requires you to lift weights every other day. Yet, the results you'll see from the two programs are remarkably similar. People tend to both lose weight and gain muscle. Adding muscle increases your metabolism and that's what helps you lose weight . . . as long as you're not eating too much.
The best way to lose weight is to follow a solid training system that targets weight loss. A system takes into account your entire lifestyle, workout, diet, sleep, and supplements. Why? Because all of these things affect your body's ability to change.
The key to weight loss is to change your metabolism. While it's easier to alter your metabolism through weight training than cardio, both will do it if the workouts are well designed. The word you're looking for to make this happen is intensity. By that, I mean you need to force your body to work in the anaerobic realm. Because your body depends on air to live, forcing it beyond its ability to breathe causes it to release performance-enhancing hormones to survive. When done consistently, these hormones change your metabolism.
Of course, you'll die if you stay in the anaerobic zone for too long, which is why you only do anaerobic work in short intervals. In between these intervals, your heart is working out aerobically to recovery. As long as the breaks between your anaerobic sets are strategic, you get a powerful cardio workout during every anaerobic workout. For example: circuit weight training—consisting of many sets to failure, with short breaks—is not only a great anaerobic weight training workout, but also a very effective workout for your cardiovascular system as well.
The next factor when it comes to boosting your metabolism and losing weight is recovering properly between workouts. This is why having a system is so important. Intense anaerobic training is stressful for your body. You need this stress to change your hormone balance, but if you overstress yourself, it will lead to problems in the form of overreaching and, if you do it too long, overtraining (both responsible for maladies from lack of results to injury or illness). A proper exercise program takes this into account by scheduling different styles of workouts next to each other to create a balance between intensity and recovery.
Your nutrition and lifestyle are very important for proper recovery. The better you eat, the faster you recover. Ditto for sleep. (I don't care how many episodes of Game of Thrones you need to catch up on.) Sleep is when your body produces its natural PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs). So get your shuteye!
All of this is why Beachbody never sells individual workouts that aren't attached to a program—or system—for your training. It's not that doing random exercise isn't good for you. It can be. However, we design workout systems that synergistically combine aerobic and anaerobic training (along with sundry other types of training, not to mention proper nutrition) to give you results. That way, it's much easier for your body to change its metabolism, and for you to lose weight.
To recap, whether your exercise routine is focused on cardio or weight training has very little to do with whether you'll lose weight. The best training programs have elements of both aerobic and anaerobic training and the important factors for weight loss are: pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone (aka intensity), eating enough to recover (but not too much), and resting enough between your workouts. Balance these factors correctly and your metabolism will shift and the pounds will melt away.
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And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration. You can also read a more scientific (not to mention snarky) take on many of the topics we discuss here at The Real Fitness Nerd blog.
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Wondering what to snack on this summer? Here are eight of our favorite summer superfoods! All of these fruits and veggies are in season all summer long. That means they're not only available locally, but they're at their peak of deliciousness!
And, as always, go organic when you can. Organic foods will help you avoid pesticides and herbicides, and often contain higher levels of nutrients than their nonorganic cousins.
There's not much in nature that's naturally blue, but these tiny berries are! They're also one of the richest sources of antioxidants. Studies suggest that 1–2 cups of blueberries a day could help reduce cholesterol, and a diet high in blueberries (2–2-1/2 cups of blueberry juice made from fresh blueberries) may improve memory.1 Oh, and we almost forgot to mention . . . they're high in proanthocyanidins, a component that may help reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Try them with this recipe: Blueberry Smoothie in the Recipe Section below.
Buttery avocado is a dieter's dream. It tastes rich and creamy (in fact, in some parts
of India, it's known as "butter fruit"), thanks to its high concentration of
monounsaturated fats. But, don't worry—not all fat is bad for you. A study
conducted at the Reina Sofia University in Spain revealed that avocado's high
monounsaturated fats, when consumed as part of a reasonable, balanced diet, may help reduce belly fat! And, that's not all. Monounsaturated fats help lower LDL cholesterol, as well as decrease the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke.2,3
Try them with this recipe: Mexi-Cal Tacos
Lemons not only bring out the flavor of food, but they're also great for digestion. Dr. Oz recommends combining lemon juice and ground flaxseeds to aid digestion, thanks to the pectin in the lemon juice and the fiber in the flaxseeds. But, they do much more. They also contain a compound known as limonin that stays in the body up to 24 hours after consumption and can help cancer cells from rapidly growing,4 and their high levels of vitamin C—one lemon contains 1/3 of your recommended daily allowance (RDA)—can help protect the body against osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and help you absorb iron. So, go ahead, squeeze it on everything!
Try them with this recipe: Lemon-Garlic Chicken Thighs
In need of fiber? In just one cup, these little jewels contain 30% of your daily dose of fiber and 60% of your RDA of manganese, a mineral critical for building strong bones and cartilage. They're also a great post-workout snack, due to their high levels of ellagic acid, a compound that reduces inflammation.5 However, don't get too excited about their ketones, the chemical that gives them their unique scent, just yet. While it's been touted as a "miracle fat burner," the scientific jury is still out on whether the supplement works for people as well as it did for mice.
Try them with this recipe: Super Berry Orange Popsicles
Watermelon and summer were made for each other. Clocking in at 92% water, this classic summer snack is one of the most refreshing ways to hydrate on a hot day. And, while we don't suggest you skimp on the sunblock, its beta-carotene and flavonoids have been shown to reduce the risk of sunburns and skin damage caused by UV-B rays.6 Also, did you know that its red hue isn't just for looks? It comes from lycopene, a powerful antioxidant most often associated with the tomato, known for fighting inflammation in the body and promoting cardiovascular health.7 And a final fun fact about this fruit packed with vitamins A and C: The black seeds are a good source of protein, zinc, and iron. They're not very tasty raw, but try them toasted like pumpkin seeds.
Try them with this recipe: Watermelon, Mint, and Feta Salad
As a kid, our favorite treat was strawberries . . . blanketed in powered sugar. But, while that snack is undoubtedly sweet, we've come to love these berries without their fattening topping, which is great because a single cup of them provides 100% of your vitamin C for the day and a mere 47 calories!8 Additionally, these little fruits contain the antioxidant anthocyanin and other phytonutrients that can reduce inflammation, and their ellagitannins may be responsible for helping to decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes when they're eaten 3 times a week or more.9 For the fruits with the most flavor, choose smaller berries over larger ones. Another easy way to check sweetness is to cut them in half—easier done at the farmers' market than the supermarket. The redder the center, the sweeter the taste.
Try them with this recipe: Strawberry Salad with Spinach and Feta
This staple of Italian cooking actually originated in Mexico. It's also one of the easiest fruits to grow in your backyard or on your patio. This shiny, bright red globe is a nutrient-packed powerhouse that has been attributed with the ability to prevent prostate cancer, breast cancer, and promote heart health. They can help you absorb calcium, thanks to all that lycopene, as well as vitamins A, C, and E.10 To get even more benefits from tomatoes, cook them in heart-healthy olive oil as the lycopene is fat-soluble.
Try them with this recipe: Gazpacho
Pickled or raw, these crunchy veggies are great for you! Cucumbers contain three types of the polyphenol lignan, a compound that may reduce the risk of heart disease and guard against a variety of cancers.11 Enjoying a pickle with your sandwich isn't only tasty, it could also improve your immune system's ability to ward off disease.12
Try them with this recipe: Tomato and Cucumber Salad
What are your favorite summer fruits and veggies? Tell us at mailbag@Beachbody.com.
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In case you didn't hear us the first 5 million times, drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water every day is key to good health. It keeps you hydrated, flushes out toxins, keeps your skin looking fantastic, and helps you stay full so you don't reach for an unhealthy snack.
Despite all these benefits, it's easy to forget to knock back a few glasses of H2O daily—probably because, on the boring scale, drinking water ranks up there with watching paint dry, going to traffic school, and listening to Gregorian chants. But it doesn't have to be! Here are 10 easy ways to flavor your water so that it's something you look forward to.
Tip: No muddler? A food processor or blender will do.
*For a clear beverage, strain through a cheesecloth.
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We love that you all flood our mailbag with questions, suggestions, and responses to our articles. We've decided to start publishing some of our favorites. Write us! You could see your letter in the next issue! Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for newsletters, I always enjoy reading them.
Thanks, Myrna! We do understand the "bean" problem. Perhaps you could persuade them with this black bean salad?
When you don't have much money you become more creative in the kitchen! God bless you all. Love you guys!
Great ideas, Damaris. Unprocessed food is almost always better for you and the idea to purchase fresh spices and veggies will result in more flavorful meals!
(Makes 1 serving)
P90X/P90X2 Nutritional Information:
Body Beast Nutritional Information:
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†Results may vary. Exercise and proper diet are necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss and muscle definition.
Please consult with a physician before beginning any exercise program.
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