Is Cardio Really the Best Way to Burn Fat?

July 22, 2012 | Janine DeMichele

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Many women prefer cardio to weight lifting for burning fat. But regardless of their reasons—whether the mistaken belief that cardio burns more fat, or intimidation from weight-room meatheads—women should not rely solely on cardio for their workout regimens.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham recently did a study comparing the effects of cardio to those of weightlifting to find the best way to burn fat. The study determined that when cardio queens and lifters burned equal amounts of calories, the lifters lost only fat, whereas the queens dropped both muscle and fat. Cardio is definitely a great way to burn fat; however, the study proves that heavy lifting increases the body's fat-burning capabilities. Ladies, it is important to build muscle—instead of burning it off with endless cardio—because it facilitates weight loss through fat burning.

There is no reason to believe that weightlifting will bulk you up. Personal trainers in mega-gyms perpetuate this myth to persuade you to purchase their workout DVDs. According to Bill Kreamer, author of Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, women have between 15 to 20 times less natural testosterone than men. The difference in testosterone levels affects the body's visible muscle development. If a man and woman perform the exact same weightlifting routine, the man will gain more visible muscle while the woman will tone without bulking up. It is true that female bodybuilders bulk up, but their muscle mass is the result of endless hours in the gym, supplements and in some cases, steroids.

Finally, desirable fat burning is only attainable through heavy lifting with good form. Lifting with lighter weights cannot spark the overall muscle growth essential for fat loss. The only way to ignite the fat burning process is by lifting challenging weights "in good form for three to six repetitions," says John Berardi, Olympic coach and nationally recognized fitness professional.

So, ladies, when you are done with the treadmill, head over to the free weights for some heavy lifting. Like Berardi says, "After that macho guy gets done barbell curling in the squat rack, throw the bar up on the J-hooks where it belongs and show 'em what kind of woman you are!"

Check out this strength training workout designed for women.

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