There are two types of people in this world: those who love cardio and those who despise it. If you're the latter, trying to lose weight and refusing to do an ounce of cardio, we've got good news: it's not necessary for weight loss.
"I don't think it's absolutely necessary," Rondel King, MS, CSCS, CES, and exercise physiologist at NYU Langone's Sports Performance Center, told POPSUGAR. "What it comes down to is energy in, energy out." Although cardio won't make or break your weight loss, Rondel said it does help. Another form of exercise that will help you lose weight, and build lean muscle while you're at it, is weightlifting.
The Benefits of Cardio and Weightlifting For Weight Loss
"Having the cardio would definitely increase your cardiorespiratory fitness, and it'd just make you more functional in general," Rondel said. On the other hand, resistance training "would give you more muscle mass, and as a result, you will boost your metabolism and your resting energy expenditure. It'll be higher because muscle is the most metabolically active tissue in the body," Rondel explained. The bottom line: the more muscle you have, the more calories you will expend.
How Muscle Helps You Burn More Calories
To understand this better, Rondel said, "Think about muscles as little furnaces for utilizing energy (they store energy as well)." According to Rondel, "The more muscle you have, you just expend more calories in your resting metabolic rate. . . . The resting energy expenditure is higher with individuals with more muscles." He further explained that this is because individuals with more muscle mass are generally more active. Implementing strength training into your workout routine will help you lose weight, but it's also important to watch your caloric intake.
How Your Calorie Intake Affects Weight Loss
When it comes to the amount of calories you consume, "It's all about balance," Rondel said. A football player needs more muscle mass to excel on the field, and as a result, they'll need to consume more calories than the general population. If you're very active, you're going to need an adequate amount of calories to fuel that activity. If you aren't exercising much and eating a surplus of calories, Rondel said "that essentially puts you in a positive energy balance where you're eating calories you're not utilizing." When these calories aren't utilized, they get stored in the form of fat.
In contrast, if you're very active and your caloric intake from food is low, you'll experience weight loss in the form of losing fat or potentially losing muscle. To prevent muscle catabolism, you'll want to eat enough calories to fuel activity. This will also prevent you from feeling hungry all of the time. He explained that if you're trying to lose weight, "your activity needs to be higher than the energy you're ingesting." To figure out the exact amount of calories you need, Rondel recommends getting a resting metabolic test and consulting a dietitian to create a nutrition plan specific to your goals.
At the end of the day, there isn't one training modality or one diet that will help you lose weight. We encourage you to continue doing research and to try out different diets and training methods in order to find what works best for you. Before starting a new diet or training program, be sure to consult experts in those respective fields.