How to lose weight? I have spent the last 20 years plus as a Health Coach helping people do just this, lose weight. And I can honestly tell you from my own experience it goes way beyond the equation Calories In versus Calories Out.
While I think this is the end game so to speak, how you get there and the influences you need to overcome, and the environment you must create, are anything but typical for each person.

The question often argued over, especially in the fitness world is ‘what’s best for weight loss? Cardio or weights first?” Most fitness experts can present a strong argument either way on what they believe to be the best combination for getting the most from exercise. ‘weights then cardio’ or ‘cardio then weights’. I don’t think either of them is wrong but having a strong stance either way and not being flexible, that is a problem.

One of my first questions

The question I always ask a new client is what do you want to achieve from your fitness training? And from there I can give the best advice as to what to do first.

Unfortunately, many trainers can be influenced by their own bias and their advice and exercise prescription may be in conflict with their client’s individual goals. It is a bit like going to the hairdresser and asking for a particular hairstyle and being told ‘I will give you the haircut you deserve’. Be sure your fitness professional understands what it is you want to achieve from exercising so the training matches your goals. Don’t get stuck with a perm when you wanted a fringe cut.

Most people who decide to exercise come with a couple of reasons

  • to lose weight ( ‘I want to lose weight and tone up”) or
  • to increase their aerobic capacity (“I want to get fit”).

First, let us examine what is the best combination for those of you wanting to lose weight.

While the science on this is fuzzy it appears the best option if weight loss is your goal is ‘weights first then cardio’. And I agree too. From the many years of doing this job, I’ve come up with my own prescription for fitness for weight loss and found I get better results, in terms of fat loss, for my clients if I have them doing Strength Work then

Exercise physiologist Mart Montenegro of Women’s Health Mag studied weight loss and agrees in her Cardio or Strength Training article…

When you start your workout with weights, by the time you get to the treadmill or bike your anaerobic energy systems will already be tapped out, meaning your body will have to resort to burning fat to keep your aerobic system going strong

Muscles have their own stored energy source known as glycogen which is mainly sugar. Initially, when doing weights your muscles use glycogen to power them.

As the reserves of glycogen begin to diminish your body will ideally begin to burn fat to replenish your glycogen reserves and provide energy for your continued effort.  If you view your muscles as a sponge and glycogen as a liquid, weight training wrings out the glycogen and places your body in a ‘fat burning’ mode.

From my own experience particularly working with my clients who have a weight problem, weight training is very effective for weight loss and most people can do it. Also, the practice of weight training is empowering and motivating.

Here is a short clip I did showing you a very basic routine for Strength Work you can do at home with some dumbbells or at the gym. Follow this with some of your favourite cardio training for an effective way to use exercise to lose weight.

Here’s the clip…

Next, let us have a look at the best combination of cardio/weights for those you want to get fit.

To ‘get fit’ means to increase your body’s ability to use oxygen, in other words, to use less oxygen but do the same effort.

For example, say you use 1 litre of oxygen to run around the block, as you get fitter and improve your aerobic capacity, to run the same block you may only use half a litre of oxygen.

To get fitter in general means you become more efficient and effective at using oxygen.

If this is your goal for exercising without a doubt your best combination is ‘cardio before weights’.

People who would fall into this category would be people training for a fun run, a triathlon, or are happy with their weight but want more energy and vitality.

Strength training will provide some benefit but the focus of training needs to be for the improvement of the heart and lungs.

Cardio training can be running, walking, skipping, swimming, dancing, any activity you enjoy which results in a greater demand for oxygen over a period of time; that is, it puffs you out.

I hope I made what can be a confusing and emotional topic simple and clear for you.

Bottom line, if weight loss is your goal: weights then cardio and if getting fit is your aim: cardio first and some weights after for strength.