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There is a massive misconception by many people these days that weight training is somehow the most effective method of burning fat. Nothing could be further from the truth. Powerlifters are generally fat (not always, but generally) – but their muscles are enormous. Marathon runners are usually lean, but their muscles are generally small. Cardio is better than weights for burning fatand it is arguable whether burning fat takes place at a meaningful level when lifting weights – unless you lift weights in a fasted state (8 hours and more after your last meal).
To justify these statements further – there is not a single high level professional bodybuilder who uses these so-called high intensity interval training methods (relating just using to weights) in order to get lean. Bodybuilders use cardio, at lower intensities, in what is called the “fat burning zone,” in order to get lean.
There are very good reasons for this. If you want to maximise the size of your muscles you lift heavy weights for suitable training volumes. You then recover. You cannot challenge those same muscles again in a bid to burn fat (through cardio at high intensities) – because that will compromise the ability of those muscles to get stronger or bigger.
High intensity cardio excercise DOES burn more fat (per minute of training time – which is efficient for most of us) but this is not ideal for a bodybuilder aiming for maximum muscle mass. Such individuals would rather train in the “fat burning zone,” using mostly actual fat to fuel the exercise – even if it requires an hour or two of such low intensity exercise to burn the target fat amounts. Because the exercise intensity is low in the “fat burning zone” it does not compete so much for the hormonal recovery pool which fuels muscle and strength gains.
Remember – any of you who are healthy can get up right now and walk 20 miles. This does not require specific preparation, it is within your natural training capacity. This also infers that it does not call on your recovery reserves in the same way as exercises which require a lot of training to become better at them – so it allows muscular development to benefit almost fully from the hormonal reserves (and does not compete with muscle-building activities for hormonal reserves). However, walking 20 miles still burns a huge amount of energy – without as much of an adaptive demand.
It is not efficient but it is effective.
Note also that although all of us reading this can probably walk 20 miles without preparation, not many of us can get up and run 20 miles – or even 10 miles – without a training programme and a training build up. This suggests that preparing to run those distances competes with muscle building activities for adaptation resources/hormones.
For this reason, a long distance runner will never be able to achieve his or her full muscular development potential when in full training for both running and lifting weights. The two training systems rely on the same pool of hormones for recovery and adaptation, so the hormone pool is potentially halved by doing two different methods of higher intensity training.