Although many people (perhaps too many!) are telling you otherwise, fat loss is caused by a calorie deficit. How you reach that calorie deficit is a different conversation. You can either reduce the number of calories you usually consume or add physical exercise and burn the excess.
However, and here’s when it gets tricky, calorie deficit also makes you lose muscle. So, the pounds you see disappearing on the scale aren’t 100% body fat; there is also leaving your body.
It would be awesome if there was a way to reduce the calorie intake, burn the extra fat, and, at the same time, keep your muscle. Oh, wait! There is!
In today’s Ask Ted, Ted explains why lifting weights is, 9 times out of 10, the best choice to burn fat. He talks about the benefits of resistance training, the difference between weight loss and fat loss, and why not seeing any changes on the scale after weeks of consistently dieting and exercising can actually be a good thing.
Additionally, he talks about using cardio to reduce stress, the different ways of doing resistance training, and more. Listen now!
- What produces fat loss in your body
- Why you should aim to burn fat without losing muscle
- What is the best type of training for losing fat
- What’s the difference between weight loss and fat loss programs
- Can cardio help you reduce stress?
- And much more…
469: The Ultimate Secret to Fat Loss with Ted Ryce
Ted Talk 146: 14 Weight Loss Lessons I Learned in 23+ Years of Coaching
Ted Talk 161: The Economics of Fat Loss. An Entirely New Approach to Weight Loss
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Podcast Transcription: Ask Ted: Why Are Weights Better For Fat Loss Than Cardio?
Ted Ryce: Have you ever wondered why I’ve said that lifting weights is better for fat loss than cardio? Well, that’s what we’re going to get into in today’s Ask Ted. What’s up, my friend? And welcome back to the Legendary Life podcast.
I’m your host, Ted Ryce, health expert and coach to founders, entrepreneurs, and other high-performing professionals. And we produce this podcast for two reasons. Number one, I’ve been in this business for 24 years, and I’ve ended up down a lot of roads that I wish I didn’t go on, quite frankly, the information was bad.
I ended up overtraining or not getting the results I wanted. And I want to bring you the best information, the most actionable, science-based information on the internet about health and fitness to you.
The second reason is if you’re a CEO, an executive, a founder, an entrepreneur, and you want to fast track your success with your health, I want you to think of me when you’re searching for who to hire.
So, let’s jump into it. Why have I said that weights are better than cardio for fat loss? This is something I was asked recently on social media, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to discuss this in more detail on this podcast, because there are some nuances that you should be aware of because, well, quite frankly, you might be better off doing cardio. But it depends.
So, let’s first talk about fat loss. The first thing that you should know about fat loss is that fat loss is caused by a calorie deficit. I know people say other things, but it’s caused by a deficit. All the diets, keto, paleo, tracking macros, counting calories, doesn’t matter what you do, they all lead to the same result: an imbalance of calories coming in versus going out. And if the calories are lower coming in than going out, you lose weight.
And I use that word on purpose, weight, because some of it might be fat, but some of it might be muscle. And that’s going to be relevant to our discussion here. So you’re going to lose weight.
Now, that’s the first thing you need to know. And it’s much easier, by the way, to not eat 300 calories than it is to go burn it off in the gym. So, what I’m saying here is, if you’re not on point with your nutrition, forget about fat loss. It may happen for you if you go to the gym, it may not happen. And it doesn’t matter if you lift weights or do cardio. So just understand that point.
But let’s say that you’re following—that you’re in my program. Some of my clients have this challenge, where they’re in a calorie deficit. How do we know they’re in a calorie deficit? They are losing weight. They are losing weight. And then they’ll ask, “Well, how should I exercise to make sure I lose fat? Because I want the majority of that weight to be fat.”
In fact, my clients, my goal as their coach is to only help them lose fat. Now, sometimes people will lose a bit of muscle, and that’s okay. But the goal for my clients, at least for me, zero muscle loss, just fat.
And one of the ways that we ensure that this happens is through the type of exercise that we do. Now, making sure that you eat enough protein is important, too, but I don’t want to talk about that today. I want to talk about this question: Cardio versus weights for fat loss.
Now, weights doesn’t do anything magical. Again, I want to be clear about that because it’s worth repeating. You’re not going to go to the gym and start lifting weights and magically lose fat if you’re not adjusting the amount of calories you eat.
So again, you need to be doing that. But when you’re deciding what type of exercise to do, you want to emphasize strength training, lifting weights. And again, it doesn’t have to be lifting barbells or doing machines. It could be any tool. It could be your body weight, could be bands, could be dumbbells, could be kettlebells, could be clubbells, could be so many tools, but some type of resistance training, right?
That’s what it’s actually called. I use “lifting weights” a lot. But we’re talking about resistance training. And the reason why resistance training is important when you want to prioritize fat loss is really simple. Because of what I alluded to already. You’re going to lose weight…
Again, when you’re in a calorie deficit, you’re going to lose weight. And what we’ve learned through studies is that if you lift weights or again, resistance training, it’s going to minimize the amount of muscle that you lose.
This is important for a few reasons. The number one reason is that you’re going to look a lot better. Maybe it’s not the number one reason, but it’s the first reason I’ll share. You’re going to look a lot better.
A lot of people who end up losing a bunch of weight and they’re not happy with the way they look after it’s because a lot of what they lost was muscle. And what I think is actually the bigger, more important reason is that we have some…We don’t actually have solid research showing this.
But some of the scientists that I follow, they say that they think one of the problems with weight regain is that when people are on a fat loss or a weight loss diet, if they lose too much muscle, it triggers regain. It triggers you to be really hungry and your appetite is out of control. You just can’t stop eating.
And they believe the reason this happens is because people lose too much muscle on weight loss diets. So, the number one thing I try to get my clients to focus on here is lifting weights, resistance training. Again, it could be with your body weight, dumbbells, barbells, bands, doesn’t matter. But lifting against resistance in some way because this is going to maintain your muscle mass.
And again, that’s important for the way you look. It’s also important for avoiding the weight regain that far too often happens on most weight loss programs. And there’s actually one other reason it’s really important.
I don’t actually run a weight loss program. It’s a fat loss program. And here’s why this is different. And this is something that—it’s going to sound wrong when I first say it, but I want you to hang in there with me.
I help my clients to lose as little weight as possible and as much fat as possible. Are you with me on that? This messes some of my clients up. I help my clients lose as little weight as possible, but as much fat as possible.
It sounds almost wrong, right? But here’s why this is important and it’s exactly what you should be doing. Think about this. Let’s say that you’re a few months, maybe even a few years behind on your resistance training program.
Let’s say you start my program and you’re on… I show you how to get into a calorie deficit with your nutrition and you’re lifting weights. Let’s say that in the first couple weeks, you lose three pounds. Let me do that again. Let’s say in the first couple of weeks, you don’t lose any weight at all, and you get so frustrated.
This happens to some of my clients, and I ask them of course, I always ask I’ll tell you this in a second, but what I asked them in this case is, “Well, do you feel leaner? Are your clothes fitting differently?” And always, they say the same thing, “Yeah, my clothes are fitting differently. I’ve had to tighten up my belt buckle, but the weight hasn’t dropped. And it’s really frustrating.”
And I’ll tell them, “Well, what probably happened is that you gained muscle as you lost fat.” And if you gained three pounds of muscle and lost three pounds of fat, what’s the net change on the scale? You lost three pounds of fat, gained three pounds of muscle, the change is zero. And this happens to some people.
Now, really, what happens in my coaching program is that I tell my clients to go get either a Dexa scan or an InBody scan so that we can see the differences, so we can differentiate between fat loss and weight loss to make sure that if there’s a change in weight or there’s no change in weight, that it’s coming from the right place.
And this is how we dial in our programs. If we see muscle loss, we can make some adjustments. If we see that it’s nothing but fat that’s being lost, then we keep going. But we use data to make better decisions.
So, these are the things that make it super important. And if we help you build muscle, your weight is actually the main determinant of how high your metabolism is, how high your resting metabolism is—is your weight.
And so if we help you lose as much fat as possible, but maintain muscle mass or even grow muscle mass, you’re not going to lose as much weight as you think, but you’re going to look better, and you’re going to feel better, and your body fat percentage is going to get lower.
I know that could be a little bit to wrap your head around, and if you need to, rewind and listen to it over again, because this took me a few years to wrap my head around, too, and that’s normal. But this is what we’re really trying to have happen.
And so if you’re the type of person—like, I’ve talked to a few people and I had a woman once, she said, “Ted, I really want to join your program, but if you make me lift weights, I’m not going to do it because every time I lift weights, my weight goes up.”
And I said, “Well, that’s what I require people to do in my program, because that weight that’s increasing is muscle.” I didn’t say it exactly like that. I knew she wasn’t someone I was going to talk into buying into this idea. I could tell she had too much emotional attachment to the number on the scale, and that’s not really a person…
She has to be on board with my program, with the way I do things, because this is what I do for a living, not because of anything other than that. And certainly, I’m not going to help her lose weight, including muscle mass, and then have her regain it.
To me, it would be unethical. I couldn’t do it. So, I ended up not working with her. There were actually other reasons, too, but that was one of the main things.
So, you have to wrap your head around this idea, because when you go back into the gym and start lifting weights, you’re not going to lose as much weight as you think, but you’re going to be losing body fat. Your clothes are going to be fitting differently.
Now, eventually, the weight should change. Even when I got super lean in Bangkok in 2019, I was losing about a pound a week. So, when you’re in a deep enough calorie deficit, the weight will go down.
Now, I didn’t lose a pound every single week, but that was the average, about a pound a week. So you will lose weight. But in that initial time period where you’re starting to lift again, you might not see as big of a change in your weight, but if you measure body fat, you’ll see that you’re gaining muscle and losing fat. The scale just isn’t changing because of that fact.
Now, I want to say one more thing, and then I’ll wrap things up. Let’s say that you’re really out of shape. Let’s say you’ve been working hard, you’ve been working long hours, perhaps you’re in a time in your business or career where you’ve had to grind it out.
In fact, I have a client like this now. He came off of a two year, really intense project, and he started working with me recently. I said, “Fantastic. guess what? The bad news is that you’re out of shape. The good news is that you’re primed for change.
Your muscles—because he’s been in shape before—they’re going to come back quick. You’re going to get fast results. I’m super excited to see it.” So, this is the good news. However, sometimes people are really out of shape or they’re under a lot of stress.
I’ve got another client who’s like this who’s under a lot of stress and nothing too crazy, but she’s in the medical field and she is under a bit of stress because of some of the things going on at the business where she works at, where she practices.
She was telling me, “I feel bad because I know I’m supposed to lift weights, but I really feel like I need to do cardio right now.” And I said, “You know what? That’s completely fine. You’re just coming back into exercise or you’re under a period of stress right now. It’s okay to focus on cardio to make yourself feel better, to get in better shape.”
Because if you’re severely out of shape or you’re under a lot of stress, coming back into exercise, or you want to focus more on cardio. Yes, it’s not ideal for building muscle. It’s not ideal for fat loss. But here’s why I like to do this, at least initially.
What I do is I have a client do maybe four to six weeks of cardio to improve their cardiovascular fitness. What happens when they improve their cardiovascular fitness? They start feeling better, they start having more energy. They actually start pushing harder in the gym.
In fact, there was a research study I heard about recently. I listened to Andy Galpin’s four-and-a-half-hour interview with Andrew Huberman the other day. It was fantastic, although quite long, and a lot of information that it really isn’t that applicable or really important to most people.
But it was fascinating for someone like me, who’s a student of the game, right? This is what I study. And he was talking about how there was a study showing they had people—before they started doing a hypertrophy or muscle building routine, they had these people do six weeks of cardiovascular exercise to improve their V02 Max to improve their – which is a marker of cardiovascular fitness.
And they had them also, you know, they got in better shape. And that group of people who did the six weeks of cardio built more muscle than the people who didn’t do the six weeks of cardio and just started the muscle building program right away.
So, this is one example. I wanted to squeeze this in because if you’re the type of person who’s feeling that way, you’re like, “Oh, gosh, I know I got to lift the weights, but I really feel like cardio is what I need for myself right now.”
It’s okay to do that while you’re losing fat, especially if you feel like you need that support psychologically. Cardio makes you feel great mentally, psychologically, emotionally, emotionally, makes you more resilient to stress. It actually changes the amount of receptors in the hippocampus, which is an area of your brain that’s really important for stress.
It’s the most affected area from stress, so it helps improve that situation. So going through that first again, you want to transition to weights eventually, but getting yourself in a place where you’re feeling good because your aerobic conditioning is up—your cardiovascular, aerobic conditioning, whatever you want to call it—you’re in better shape and feeling good, then you can start lifting weights and you may just even get better results.
Again, this is for someone who’s completely out of shape, getting back into shape or going through a period where they’re feeling like it’s hard to stick with the weight training, because of what they’re going through right now because of a stress at work, as an example.
So let me ask you this—that wraps up today’s Ask Ted—I want to ask you, what is the big takeaway for you right now? What did you learn here that you can turn into action for your workout? Is it that you need to dial in your nutrition and get that calorie deficit handled?
Is it that you need to prioritize weights because you read too many times that cardio is the best way to lose fat when you’re trying to lose fat? Because that’s out there, and people say that. Or do you need to prioritize cardio because you’re so out of shape that you’re just getting back into things. And you need to start by building up just some basic endurance, basic health, or because you’re so stressed out.
What is the actionable takeaway? What is something that you learned today that, again, you can put into action into your life? That’s what I want to leave you with. Hope you enjoyed this Ask Ted segment. Make sure you send your questions into me.
If you’re on social media, you can send them to me there. I’m on Instagram and Twitter @Ted_ryce. That’s @Ted_R-Y-C-E. Or you can send me a message to Ted@legendarylifepodcast.com. So, make sure you send in your Ask Ted questions there. Hope you have a great one. Speak to you next time.
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