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Cardio V Weight Training For Fat Loss

November 12, 2022

Cardio or weights for weight loss

If you want to burn fat, you have to do cardio, right?


For the longest time, I used to believe that weightlifting was strictly for building muscle, and cardio was the only way to burn away body fat.

What if I told you that BOTH can be used to help rid yourself of unwanted body fat. Now, before I give you my biased opinion, let’s go over the benefits of each one so you can decide for yourself which one you believe is actually better.

 Table of Contents
Cardio Burns More Calories Per Session
Benefits of Cardio
Benefits of Strength Training
Using Hiit Training to Burn Fat
What Should I do to Burn Fat


Cardio Burns More Calories Per Session

This is going to vary depending on the intensity of the exercise and based off how much you actually weigh.

Let’s just say, for example, you weigh 155 pounds and you happen to be jogging at a moderate pace for 30 minutes. It is estimated that you would burn about 230 calories. Take that same person and have them run roughly 6 -7 mph for 30 minutes, they would burn about 400 calories.

Compare this to the amount calories burned during a weightlifting/strength training session, you’re only burning about 120-220 calories during that time.

Ok, so obviously I burn more calories from cardio workouts, so it’s safe to assume this is the better option.

Well, not exactly.

It’s a little more complicated than that, so bear with me.

Yes, cardio burns more calories per session, but now let’s look at calories burned throughout the whole day!

In one particular study, seven men performed strength training exercises for 30 minutes, and their resting metabolism continued to stay elevated for 38 hours! This means even after you are finished with your workout, you are still burning calories.

Several studies (1,2,3) have proven that weightlifting burns more calories than cardio following the workout.

In addition to extended calorie-burning potential, weight lifting also helps you build muscle.


What you probably didn’t know, is muscle burns more calories at rest than other tissues, specifically fat (1,2)!

So, as you continue to build muscle, the better your body is at burning calories efficiently!


Benefits of Cardio

cardio or weights for weight loss

While there are many different forms of cardio, each similarly provides an array of different health benefits aside from helping your body burn body fat. Some of these benefits are:

  • Improved Cardiovascular Health- Cardiovascular exercise can keep your arteries clear by improving good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and reduce bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood.
  • Lowered Blood Pressure- Cardio can help you control symptoms associated with high blood pressure.
  • Help with Regulating Blood Sugar- Cardio can help regulate insulin and lower blood sugar. Research from a particular study found that people with type 2 diabetes can see these types of positive effects.
  • Helping You Sleep- One study examined the effects aerobic activity had on overall sleep quality. The group reported having better sleep quality and also felt more awake during the daytime.
  • Boosting Your Immune System- One study examined the effects of exercise on sedentary vs active women. The results revealed that aerobic exercise increases antibodies in the blood called immunoglobulins, which essentially strengthen the immune system. The group of sedentary women not only showed zero improvements in their immune system function but also had higher levels of cortisol in their body compared to the active group of women.
  • Potential to Improve Cognitive Brain Function- Aerobic exercise may slow the loss of brain tissue due to adult-onset ageing. So, of course, this theory was researched and put to the test. The research found that adults who were more fit showed fewer reductions in the frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes of the brain. What the heck does that mean? This simply means that aerobic exercise benefits both the brain and the body.
  • Improved Mood - A study was done to see what impact 30 minutes of walking intervals on a treadmill would have on depression after 10 days. The individuals stated they had a significant reduction in symptoms from depression.

Ok, this sounds great, but how much cardio do I need to actually see these benefits?

According to the American Heart Association and the Mayo Clinic, we should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.

Now that we’ve covered the pros of cardio, let’s take a look at how strength training can be beneficial for you.


Benefits of Strength Training

can i lose weight by lifting weights only

Just like cardio, there are a lot of great advantages to lifting weights. Probably the two most obvious ones are the ability to build lean muscle mass and burn body fat. Let’s take a look at the advantages you may not have known about. According to the mayo clinic, strength training can help you:

  • Develop Stronger Bones- By putting your bones under a constant state of stress, this can increase bone density and prevent the development of osteoporosis.
  • Improve Quality of Life- May make everyday tasks easier, allowing you to still maintain your independence into your elder years. It may also contribute to improved balance reducing your chances of falling (this is a good thing!)
  • Control Long-Term Health Conditions- May help reduce symptoms from health conditions such as depression, diabetes, back pain, arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes.

Strength training can also improve insulin sensitivity, reverse specific aging factors in skeletal muscle, improve body composition, and reduce resting blood pressure.

As you can see, pumping iron does more than just build muscle and burn fat. So, I’m guessing your next question is “how often should I pick up the weights?

You should aim to hit the weights at least three times per week. You also want to make sure you are switching up your workouts.

For one, doing the same routine over and over gets boring real fast. Second, switching up your weight lifting routine will make it more difficult for your body to adjust as quickly. This translates to better muscle building and fat burning potential.

To get the most out of your strength training routine, you want to include a combination of various routines such as:

  • Higher Intensity workouts (15-20 reps) with shorter periods of rest (30-60 seconds)
  • Higher repetition lifts with medium intensity (10-15 Reps) with 1-2 minutes of rest time.
  • Heavier Compound Lifts, focusing on strength development (3-5 Reps) with 3 minutes or more of rest. These types of lifts have been shown to be far more effective for building strength according to this particular study.

So, what you’re saying is I should do both of these?

This sounds like a lot of exercises, is there any way to reap the benefits of both without having to devote countless hours exercising every week?

While I would encourage you to incorporate both forms of exercise, there is one more alternative you can add into your workouts, high-intensity-interval-training (HIIT).


Using HIIT Training to Burn Fat

high intensity interval training workout for fat loss

What is HIIT?

It can be defined as short, intense, unsustainable bursts of physical activity, combined with short periods of rest. HIIT workouts range anywhere from 10-30 minutes, depending on your physical capabilities.

Research has shown that HIIT can burn up to 25-30% more calories than other forms of exercise.

Since HIIT is pretty broad in general, let me explain this a little more clearly.

Typically, a traditional strength training routine can take anywhere from 45-60 minutes with single isolation movement exercises. Instead, let’s cut that time in half and make my workout consist of compound body-weight exercises only. So, rather than me doing ONLY a shoulder press exercise, I’m actually going to combine a shoulder press along with a squat.

With these shorter periods of rest combined with compound exercises, I can achieve a good calorie burning workout similar to cardio while reaping the same benefits I would with strength training.

Now, before you get too excited, there are some potential drawbacks to HIIT.

  • It can put a tremendous amount of strain on the body and is not recommended unless you have reasonable training behind you.
  • Due to its high-intensity nature, if a progressive training program is not followed correctly, HIIT can lead to injury and overtraining.

It is recommended to use HIIT NO MORE than 3 times a week, provided that you are in proper physical shape.


Cardio or weights for weight loss - The Final Say

At the end of the day, both cardio and weightlifting can be effective for burning body fat and providing health benefits. My suggestion would be to fit a little of everything into your routine to get the most out of your workouts.

Remember that Exercise is great, but if your main objective is to burn fat, then your best bet is to combine exercise with a proper diet.


Brian @


cardio versus weights for fat loss

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