Posted by: Annie | 2005/12/15

Body fat %

Dear Fitnessdoc,

I am 27 yrs old, 1.69m and weigh 74kg. I've lost 13kg (on my own) since the beginning of this year and joined the gym 3 weeks ago. My main focus so far has been cardio ex. i.e. the treadmill (run & walk) and cycling. I do this for 45min x 4 days a week. I checked my body fat % on the Body IQ machine yesterday and my body fat % is 31%. This is in the 'fair' range according to the machine. It seem like a hell of a lot though!! What is your thoughts on this and what does it actually mean? What is the healthy body fat % for someone with my stats? I would like to go down to about 68kg. My lifestyle consultant is advising me to incorporate more toning in my ex routine and to cut down the cardio to about 20min per session. However, from my experience reading this forum, you've always stressed that cardio is the fat buster (preferably 45min of it). So what should I do? I was thinking of doing 20min cycling, 20min treadmill & 10min on toning. Does this sound ok?

Thanks for all your valuable advise,

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageFitnessDoc

Hi Annie

There is logical reasoning behind the advice you have been given. At least, the advice to do more toning exercise is good, and I agree with it. What I don't agree with is that you should sacrifice the cardio in order to do it. As I have said many times, doing regular cardio burns far more calories than weight training. Where weight training is beneficial, at least for weight loss, is that it helps increase the body's metabolic rate in the LONG TERM. What that means, practically, is that once the weight is off, it stays off. But I really do believe that getting weight off requires a focus on cardio training. If you look at how much energy a cardio session burns compared to weight training, there's no comparison. And the misconception is that cardio only works on the metabolic rate during the session. Perhaps you have noticed that if you do a nice hard training session, you feel warm or 'alert' for a long time afterwards. I know people who can't exercise in the late afternoon because they can't sleep for 5 or 6 hours after exercise - that is nothing more than the body's metabolic rate being elevated for hours after exercise. So it's an oversimplification to say that cardio works for 40 minutes a day, weight training for the whole day.

So where does this leave you? I feel that you should continue your cardio training as you have done, making changes only enough to include regular weight training. I'm not sure of your time constraints, I will assume that 50 minutes is the maximum length of time you have at your disposal, and 4 days a week. If you could find a fifth day, you would have a lot more to play with. However, why not take 2 days a week of 45 minutes of cardio, and 2 days a week where you do about 30 minutes of cardio (broken up as you want to, perhaps 15 minutes cycling, 15 minutes treadmill) and then do an extra 20 minutes of weight training. That means that you will have 2 sessions a week where you get 20 minutes of weight training in. Is that enough? I guess that depends. I think it is, because your focus is on toning, so you only need to do 3 sets of 15 repetitions, and you don't need these huge rest periods in between. Therefore, in 20 minutes, you can quite easily fit 7 or 8 exercises in, or do the supercircuit at the gym twice in those 20 minutes.

Now, onto your goals from training. I believe that you will be able to get under 70 kg, this seems a realistic goal. One thing that you must remember is that as you get fitter and fitter, you will be able to exercise at a higher level each time. This helps you lose more weight and so your results may even accelerate as you get fitter, as long as you don't allow yourself to stagnate in the training. The weight training may cause your weight to rise slightly as you gain muscle mass, so don't worry if you find that you reach a plateau in weight loss, as long as you are getting stronger and fitter, you are making progress.

Good luck

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Our users say:
Posted by: not fitness doc | 2005/12/15

Hi there,

Keeping the cardio up is good, but weight training is a hell of a lot important as it will increase your lean muscle mass which burns more calories througout the day (muscle burn calories, not fat).

Cardio does burn cal, but only while busy and a short while afterward while weight training will UP your resting metabolic rate.

Toning is after all the building of muscle... but 10mins are defininately not enough (unless you only train 3 muscle groups which are almost useless).

use your time in the gym effectively by focusing on what the dif ex will do for you after your training session

Good luck!
You've done well so far

Reply to not fitness doc

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