I am out of shape(else why would I be here, lol), I weigh 185 pounds, 178cm height(5'9'' I guess). Lately I have been trying to work out and lift some weights for around 4 weeks, but yesterday I was playing a game(cricket) and I felt very heavy and I cannot move faster. What I thought was, If I lift some weights I will lose some calories(I do run daily, but not as fast) and will come in shape. But seems like the opposite is happening.

My goal is to reduce weight, need to reduce atleast 165-170 pounds. Am I moving in the wrong direction by lifting weights and doing cardio at the same time or should I do cardio only for next 3 weeks or something.

My Diet is I eat oats/2 slices of bread in the morning(8:30 am). Afternoon(12:00 noon), I eat office food ranging from chipotle to chinese food(its free, why would I miss it), but I make sure I don't eat much. And I drink two coffees per day. Evening(7:00pm), I eat just fruits usually apple, peach, 2 bananas. Weekends I kinda cut lose not so much(not at nights though). It really sucks, because after doing all these, I did not seem to reduce any weight in 4 weeks, I was 190 pounds now 185 pounds. Just wondering, if doing weights is pulling me back a bit? Please advise.

Actually I am planning to drop dng weights for next 3 weeks and do only cardio. So, if thats the right way to do, how much calories perday, in order to bring down my weight to 170 pounds in 3 weeks(all 21 days). Thanks!!!

  • First of all, going from 190-185 looks like you have lost weight. Second of all, if you've been gaining muscle that'll affect your total weight loss, but that would suggest you've lost more than just 5lbs of fat, and you should really focus on just cutting down your bodyfat %, rather than having a target weight. 4th, you're not describing your weight lifting routine.
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Jul 14, 2012 at 20:32
  • I lift weights thrice in a week. I will do chest, bench, shoulder, fan and other regular ones. But I will try to run all days and succeed atleast 4-5 times a week. Regarding the weight, I would attribute that to, controlled diet. Okay, my point is I don't need a big muscled body(am just 24), I need to be lean and flexible. so, would you advise me to stop all the weight lifting and concentrate on cardio for next 3 weeks? Commented Jul 14, 2012 at 21:11
  • What weights are you lifting, and have you progressed in the weight you're lifting since you started?
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Jul 14, 2012 at 21:18
  • 2
    It doesn't matter what your goal is, you'll be better set to achieve that goal if you lift heavy weights. So I'd never advise you drop weight lifting entirely.
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Jul 14, 2012 at 21:19

3 Answers 3


First let us start with the goal. Fifteen pounds in three weeks is five pounds per week. One pound is about 3500 calories. Therefore you would need a net deficit of 17,500 per week.

That is not insignificant.

I am all in on setting strong goals, but it reaches a point where it may be too aggressive without proper supervision. If like many reasonably active people you could do a 1000cal/hr exercise for 30 minutes you would have to do that exercise about 35 times per week, or 5 times per day every day for 3 weeks, assuming no reduction in calories consumed.

I'd put that as not very likely, no offense. The reality is as you increase effort you will increase your appetite. Adding 2.5 hours per day of intense exercise will lead to a concomitantly large appetite increase. Reducing calorie intake in such a situation will lead to problems unless under very close medical supervision.

That all said, now let us talk about strength training and weight loss. No, let us change it to fat loss. Do not go based on weight alone unless you are needing to meet specific weight barrier goals such as is found in wrestling, boxing, etc.. The reality is you should focus more on the makeup of the body, your composition.

So, let us say for sake of discussion you decided you wanted to drop 9 pounds of fat in 3 weeks, an aggressive but obtainable goal. First you will want to measure or have measured, your current body fat percentage. Second, take measurements. Measure your waist, belly, shoulders, legs, and perhaps arms even. Third, get someone to take a picture of you in clothing that is as revealing as you can be comfortable with. Now get rid of or hide your scale, you won't want to se fit for three weeks. Do all this preferably as soon as you get up but have not had breakfast.

This will serve as your baseline upon which to measure success.

Now you'll want a regimen that mixes cardio with strength training. Strength training has been shown time and time again to be a significant factor in fat loss. It stands to reason as muscle is what burns calories, the more muscle you have the more calories your body needs and thus the more fat burning potential you have. I would recommend lifting heavier weight with fewer repetitions two to three times per week. Cardio can be light on lifting days and a bit more intense on non-lifting days.

For cardio, don't waste your time doing long and slow. Go for Fartlek, or interval training. For example, find a treadmill and do 8 seconds as fast as you can followed by 12 seconds letting it run while your feet rest on the side. Do this for 20 minutes, or as long as you can to get to that point. At the end of the 20 minutes, you are done with it. Walk it down and call it good. Substitute this for your normal running but with less frequency.

Combine that with a sensible diet (I would recommend one which is protein rich, moderate fat, and low in carbs ) and you will shift your composition toward a more muscular and less fat one. The heavy weights with fewer reps will not make you bulky, but it will increase your strength. The interval training will help you with your speed on the field as well. Remember, people work very hard to get bulky - it doesn't happen by throwing some weights around. It takes dedication and very specific hard effort to get bulky on muscle (though it is easy to do with fat ;) ).

And regarding the post that cardio burns muscle, I say it depends on diet. Most people doing a lot of cardio do it "light and long", and don't get enough protein. You can do cardio with an appropriate protein intake and minimize muscle atrophy.

You can also do heavy cardio. Heavy cardio would be putting the treadmill at maximum incline and then doing your running. Another way is a bike machine set on high resistance. You use the same routine but by setting the resistance very high you stress the muscle much more than a light flywheel rotation routine.

Your diet as you relate it appears to be very high in carbohydrates. Shift that to the protein side and you'll see better benefits. You can cut out simple carbs such as grains and switch to vegetables and minimal fruit for your carbs and see better results. Also, for breakfast try to get 20-30g of protein in by the first hour after waking and you will see better fat loss.

Hope that helps. It may be a bit more than the title of your question asked as I tried to answer more of what you wrote in the question itself. After all the correct and simple answer to the title is "No.". :)

  • Thanks Bill: For next 3 weeks I am planning to do high cardio and see, what happens..... I am planning to drop my weight lifting thing for 3 weeks and do high cardio...... Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 23:46
  • Do you offer any suggestions for break fast and Dinner.... ofcourse, Lunch is not in my control.... Thanks.... Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 23:48

The Real Bill touched on some very important points, but I felt the need to add some clarification and supplementary information that simply wouldn't fit in a comment.

Measuring success

You will want to track your body fat as it is the most effective means to measure your fat loss. I use the Navy method which works best for me. With it you only need to measure your height, waist, and neck, then put those figures into a calculator (I made a spreadsheet in Google Docs to handle this). You can still measure weight and use it as a goal metric; the body fat % simply adds context to weight so you can better understand it.

For instance, a 150kg person may have 10% body fat and a massive amount of muscle, whereas another 150kg person may have 25% body fat and no muscle at all; in this example you can clearly see the futility in measuring weight alone and not having the BF% to give you context.

Strength training vs cardio

The Real Bill mentions that muscle burn calories, and as a result strength training is a good opportunity for weight loss. I do not agree, and believe that the purported calories muscles burn are grossly overstated. The problem is that many studies were done on this, but they measured the calories burning directly after the workout, not during a sedentary time. Because of the incorrect approach taken in measuring calorie burn, the studies ended up with exaggerated results somewhere around 40-60 cal burned per pound of muscle. The studies I've seen done that measure correctly are really closer to 4-7 cal/lb.

You've seen first-hand how strength training makes you larger. This is because you need to consume a large amount of calories to stimulate muscle growth, and whatever excess calories consumed goes straight to your fat cells for storage.

Conflicting goals

As you can see, strength training is at odds with weight (or rather, fat) loss. If you want to lose fat, you'll end up with sub-optimal strength gains, and if you want to gain strength, you will end up with sub-optimal fat loss.

My recommendation is to do periods of only strength training, then follow that up with a period of only cardio (commonly called "cutting"). The length of the period is up to you, but it should be something substantial, at least in the 3-6 week range. This allows you to get maximal results in each one and not have your body constantly struggling against mixed signals of what you want it to do.

Realistic goals

Most experts in the industry agree that a safe amount of fat loss per week is in the 1-2 pound range. This means that in your 3 week period you are safe to lose 3-6 pounds of fat, which is well below the 15 pounds you were hoping to achieve. It is important to set realistic goals for yourself based off of industry standards, which exist for a reason. This is not only important because of safety, but also for your long-term success. If you set your goals unrealistically high, and you keep consistently failing them due to their unattainable nature, you are far more likely to abandon your exercise routine because you don't feel like you are succeeding.

This rule applies to all aspects of fitness, so make sure you have clear expectations and reasonable goals defined before you begin your fitness program. Know what your target BF% and weight are. Know how strong you want to be (200kg squat, 350kg deadlift, etc). Target goals are key, as are incremental goals to guide your progress (i.e. week one:lose 1 pound, week 10:lose 10 pounds, week 20:lose 30 pounds).

In summary

  • Measure your body fat
  • Do periods of strength training and periods of cutting.
  • Set realistic target and incremental goals for your weight, BF%, and strength.
  • Moses & Real Bill: Thanks guys for you input. I really appreciate your help. I got your input and Summed it up..... I am planning to take cardio as you said...... and reduce the body fat.... and No I am not a wrestler or someone.... I am an student, my age is 24 and currently doing internship for the summer..... My plan for next 3 weeks is Do cutting, high cardio and I will try to reduce carbo hydrates and increase protein, but not sure, if I can do it.... Thanks for your inputs, keep watching this space, I will update my results.... Thanks a LOT!!!! Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 23:44
  • 1
    @howtechstuffworks If you are motivated enough to come to a forum and ask for help and advice, then I'm sure you are gonna have no problem sticking through and reaching your goals. Good luck.
    – Moses
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 4:32

Lifting weights is great for you as long as you're using proper form and not pushing yourself too far.

Lifting weights boosts your metabolism, even after you're done working out for the day. People looking to lose weight should be lifting. You may see some weight gain from lifting, but remember this is from gained muscle... not fat. A good diet is essential in any weight loss plan.

Remember, doing cardio for an extended period of time, say 20 to 25 + plus minutes, will begin to burn muscle!

  • I don't think saying cardio burns muscle is quite accurate. It'll promote muscle loss if you're above the threshold necessary for the cardio that you're doing, and you don't do work otherwise to stimulate muscle growth.
    – Robin Ashe
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 5:29
  • 20 minutes is a general rule.
    – siouxfan45
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 22:16

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