To fight the establishment of a gut, what is better? Weights or cardio? Here is what science is telling us.
As men age, they tend to develop a gut. It even happens to men who are dedicated runners or those who at least do their daily cardio. A number of studies prove this trend, but all you really have to do is look around at most guys over the age of 35 – the paunchy guts are everywhere!
Many have accepted this. It’s often called “dad bod” and has been attributed to beer and bad diets, as well as the “natural” loss of muscle and subsequent slow metabolism as we get older. Science even has a term for it: age-associated waist circumference increase.
How Do We Stop the Takeover of the Gut?
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health looked into it with a 12-year study on 51,000 male health professionals – from dentists to podiatrists. The study was investigating the effects of weight training vs. cardio (defined as moderate to vigorous aerobic activity).
The study focused on waist measurements and did not rely on BMI (body mass index) or bodyweight on the scale. Both of the latter methods do not take into account muscle gain or loss, hence why they did not focus on them.
The study found a significant relationship between weight training and circumference change. In basic terms, the blokes who used resistance training did not grow a big gut.
It is worth to note that the men performing regular cardiovascular training did better than someone who is sat watching TV, but did no where near as good as those lifting weights in terms of waist circumference. More importantly, the men who weight trained gained the most significant amount of muscle.
The scientists went on to argue that doing both weight training and cardio is probably best. They’re probably right when you factor in other health markers.
The Main Message
If you’re trying to avoid central adiposity – a fat gut – lifting weights beats cardio. That still surprises most people, especially the average guy who assumes that cardio would be the most effective form of exercise for battling the bulge.
EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) from weight training explains this in part. EPOC is the phenomenon where, after lifting, you continue to have a higher energy expenditure at rest for up to 48 hours.
Cardio may burn more calories while you’re doing it compared to most types of weight training, but a lifting workout KEEPS burning calories.
Our recommendation would be to resistance train 2-3x per week, whilst performing a cardiovascular activity of choice 1-2x per week. We always advocate high intensity training where possible as it is very time efficient (< 20 minutes) but to be honest, do what you enjoy to get the heart rate up. f that is long, steady state running, crack on. Just don’t make it the main part of your training if fat loss is your main goal.
Our SPC Men group training programme focuses on maximising our member’s training time to focus on resistance training with bouts of high intensity intervals. We have a proven track record of results using these methods.
So, if you only have time for one form of exercise and you want to avoid dad bod, lift weights. Lots of cardio may slow down the gut growth, but as you age the muscle loss will come back to bite you in the saggy ass.