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What is better for weight loss – cardio or toning training?


Well the answer isn’t quite as simple as one or the other. In fact, the answer is both! Each type of training has a purpose in a weight loss journey and the secret is to plan both types of sessions into your weekly routine.


So first let’s define what we mean by cardio training?


Cardio training refers to any type of exercise that challenges the cardiovascular or heart / lung system. The aim in a cardio session is to get your heart rate elevated and increase your breathing rate. This increased workload on the heart and lungs causes both systems to become stronger and more efficient and leads to improvements in cardio fitness.

Cardio exercise can be anything from walking, jogging, running, swimming, cycling, skipping, cross trainer, elliptical trainer, grinder, boxing, aerobics class, bodyattack, body combat, zumba and the list goes on. Even recreational pursuits such as tennis, squash, rollerblading, surfing, skating could be an effective cardio workout if done with enough intensity and for a long enough time– the list is almost endless.


So why is cardio good for weight loss?


Well, during a cardio session, you could expect to burn anywhere from 200-600 calories an hour and of course that range is quite large but it really does depend on what exercise you do and the intensity. You can find plenty of calorie burning during exercise guides on the internet to give you a better idea. So keeping in mind that to achieve weight loss, the primary aim is to ensure you are burning more energy out than you are taking in. A 600 calorie workout or even a 400-450 calorie burn is going to be a good start to chewing into that energy balance.


Also as your body gets fitter, you become much more energetic, you tend to be more active and can train a bit harder which then makes you even fitter and it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle of success.



What do we mean by toning training?


For the purpose of this topic, we are going to refer to Toning training as any type of exercise which is resistance based for the purpose of gaining muscle strength and tone. Examples of this type of training could be Machine weights, free weights, circuits, bodypump classes, exercise ball training, pilates, resistance bands, pulleys, crossfit and there are many more examples you might be able to think of.


In order to achieve strength gains in the muscles, a toning session needs to overload the muscles to a point where they are forced to adapt and grow. The process of gaining muscle tone and strength is essentially this (and I’m going to keep it fairly simple in laymans terms). Do the training session, your muscles most likely feel a bit shaky and fatigued afterwards and many of you will have your own stories around these feelings I’m sure. You should ideally then allow a period of rest for the muscles to start to recover and again this could be anywhere from a day to several days depending on the type of strength training you’re doing.


For the next few days after the session, your muscles will repair and grow and increase their capacity for strength and they also take on a firmer look and feel. This rest, recover and repair process actually happens over several days and while this is happening, your metabolic rate remains a bit above what it would in your rested state so in fact the benefits that you gain from toning training extend well beyond the actual session itself.


Are there any other benefits from Toning training?


By gaining lean muscle mass, not only will you achieve more strength and tone in your muscles, you will be increasing your metabolic rate and what I mean by that is the amount of energy your body expends for basic functions. Muscles are the only metabolically active tissue in the body. They chew up calories just be being there so someone with a higher lean muscle mass is going to have a higher metabolic rate than someone without good muscle composition. A good reason for doing Toning training? Definitely!


What does this all mean in the quest for weight loss?


As I mentioned at the start, you need to do both. Cardio training is important for cardiovascular health and improved fitness. It’s going to give you more energy and help your body be more capable of training efficiently so you can make the most of each of your workouts.


Toning training is also going to burn lots of calories while you’re doing your workout but you will be burning increased amounts of energy up to several days later and also increasing your metabolic rate which means you burn more energy day in day out. Toning training also increase your muscle mass which is going to give you tighter more toned muscles and that’s going to give you the impression of a leaner body.


In summary


Train for both cardio and toning. But the most important thing to remember and a little catch phrase I like to use is you can never out train a bad diet. So taking a look at your nutrition is critical if weight loss is your goal. Stick to good nutrient rich foods to make up the majority of your daily intake. Avoid highly processed and packaged foods as much as possible. Increase your intake of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean proteins, good oils, low fat dairy and just use your common sense when it comes to portion control.

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