Cardio VS Weight Training – Which Is Better For Weight Loss?

Last updated on February 24th, 2019 12:45 PM

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about cardio and weight training. Some people love cardio while others can’t stand the thought of it. Others don’t really like the idea of lifting weights while some people swear by it.

No matter what camp you’re in, both cardio and weight training can help you get that lean and toned body you want. But which one is better for your goals? And which one will help you drop body fat faster?

The answer isn’t as simple as you might think. First things first. Let’s take a look at just what counts as cardio.

WHAT IS CARDIO AND WHY YOU NEED IT?

cardio vs weights - cardio burns more calories

Cardio, also referred to as endurance or aerobic training, is any exercise that gets your heart and lungs pumping at a steady rate for an extended period of time. So we’re talking exercises like jogging, swimming, cycling, dancing, power walking, etc.

Cardio exercises power through calories and help you burn more fat. This makes them ideal for people who want to lose weight and stay lean.

Weight loss (or maintaining a healthy weight) is just one of the reasons why cardio should be incorporated into your weekly workout schedule.

Cardio will also help strengthen your heart. It helps you breathe more efficiently. It can even reduce your risk of long-term health conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even diabetes.

So whilst cardio training will help you look amazing on the outside, it will also keep you healthy and amazing on the inside as well!

Most studies suggest that just 30 minutes of cardio exercise every day is all you need to start seeing results. It doesn’t even have to leave you feeling sweaty and exhausted—though getting your sweat on can be a great way to reduce stress. And you can break that 30 minutes up as you need to, especially at first.

RELATED POST: WHICH IS BETTER FOR FAT LOSS – WALKING OR RUNNING?

So if cardio helps me burn through calories and keeps me lean why do I need resistance training, you might be wondering!

Let me explain!

WHAT IS STRENGTH TRAINING AND WHY SHOULD YOU INCLUDE IT IN YOUR ROUTINE?

cardio vs resistance training - metabolism

Strength training, also referred to as resistance training, involves exercise that strengthens your muscles by working against the resistance of weight or force. Though it is sometimes referred to as ‘weights training’, I have intentionally avoided this label here. You don’t actually have to lift weights to perform ‘resistance training’.

Resistance training also includes working against the resistance of bands (for example; Pilates) or the resistance of your own bodyweight (for example; when performing the plank, or a sit-up).

So if you want to lose weight but also tone your muscle and avoid the so-called skinny fat look, I would recommend that you don’t skip resistance training.

I know that some women tend to stick to cardio and avoid resistance training in fear of bulking up (I used to be cardio only kind of girl), but there are ways to do it without getting too muscular.

HOW TO DO WEIGHTS WITHOUT BULKING UP

Even though this may be a bit controversial, I’m gonna say it anyway – a lot of women don’t go to the gym to build serious muscles. A lot of women, myself included, prefer a leaner look. And depending on your body type, lifting heavy weights could give you more muscle than you want.

That is why I encourage the use of light weights (with more reps and sets), bodyweight exercises or the use of resistance of bands or equipment, such as those used in Pilates. These types of resistance exercises give the strengthening and toning effect of lifting heavy weights, without the muscle bulking effect. Have a read of this blog post on how to do weights without getting bulky!

CARDIO VS WEIGHTS – WHAT’S BETTER FOR WEIGHT LOSS?

WHAT BURNS MORE CALORIES – CARDIO OR WEIGHTS?

During your cardio workout, you will burn a lot of calories. If the debate was just about which style of exercise burns more calories during exercise, then high-intensity cardio wins over resistance training (assuming you are giving it 100%).

However, the question I really want to answer here is which type of exercise is better for overall weight loss. This is where it gets interesting.

Resistance training also burns calories during your workout, but it has an added benefit of an increased afterburn effect, where you will continue to burn calories after your workout as well.

So if endurance training is excellent for burning calories and helps keep you healthy on the inside, then why bother with resistance training? After all, resistance training will probably not burn quite as many calories whilst you are training.

WEIGHT TRAINING INCREASES YOUR BASAL METABOLIC RATE

The answer comes down to your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). This is how many calories your body burns just keeping your body functioning internally.

Most women’s BMR’s burn somewhere between 1200-1500 calories in a day. And most workouts will only burn around 300-500 calories. So your BMR makes a big difference as to how many calories you burn, how much you can eat (without gaining weight) and your body’s ability to lose weight.

By doing resistance training you are working to increase your lean muscle mass and raise your BMR, so that your body becomes more efficient at burning calories, even when you’re not exercising!

This is why resistance training is just as important if your goals are to burn fat and trim down!

But this isn’t the only reason you should incorporate some resistance training into your fitness plan.

Resistance training has numerous health benefits, such as:

  • Supporting your ligaments and bones and reducing the risk of injury.
  • Helps keep you strong and mobile, especially as you get older.
  • Gives you subtle and feminine definition.
  • Supports good posture.
  • Reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
  • The definition you can gain through resistance training helps prevent the appearance of cellulite.

RELATED POST: HOW TO FIX A DAMAGED METABOLISM

CARDIO VS WEIGHTS – WHICH BURNS MORE FAT

what's better for weight loss - cardio vs weights

Strictly speaking, you burn more calories and more FAT when you do cardio exercises, especially low-intensity cardio.

To get energy, your body constantly burns both carbs and fat. Sometimes you’ll burn more fat and sometimes carbs. It all depends on what’s readily available and what type of activities you’re doing.

In order to turn fat into energy, your body needs a lot of oxygen that’s going to oxidize (burn) that fat. So when you’re resting and breathing normally, oxygen is readily available and you can burn fat at a slow and steady pace. For example, when you’re power walking, your body is in the so-called fat burning zone and it can burn fat more efficiently than when you’re running or lifting weights.

When you do high-intensity workouts like running or resistance training and you’re struggling to breath normally, there’s not enough oxygen to burn the fat. So your body starts burning carbs first since it doesn’t need oxygen to do it. That’s why when you’re running or doing resistance training, your body burns carbs first and foremost.

However, high-intensity activities like running raise your fat-burning threshold and help you stay in the fat-burning zone for longer. The results – you’ll burn more fat.

So yeah, if you want to get maximum results, I would recommend that you combine low-intensity cardio with high-intensity activities like running and resistance training.

AND WHAT ABOUT HIIT?

fat burning hiit

I also consider HIIT to be a form of resistance training, but HIIT has the benefit of burning lots of calories (like cardio) and it also the after-burn effect. So it is very effective.

However, a lot of traditional HIIT training is very focused on your lower body and if you’re an Endomorph or a Mesomorph body type it could cause bulkiness.

That’s why I design my own HIIT routines that will help you get all the benefits of HIIT without adding unwanted leg muscle. :)

Check out some of my HIIT workouts that won’t cause bulkiness.

RELATED POST: HOW TO DO HIIT TO BURN MORE FAT

SUMMARY

To sum it all up, both cardio and resistance training are excellent ways to lose weight and burn fat! You can get great results doing cardio only, and you can get great results doing resistance training only. But I think you will get better results by combining the two.

Cardio training is more effective at burning calories during training and it burns more fat. But resistance training will increase your BMR and help make your body more efficient at burning fat long after you have stopped training. It is also better at toning your body up.

So if your fitness goals involve burning fat, trimming down and improving your overall health, then try to incorporate both cardio and resistance training into your weekly workout schedule. Together they will help improve your health and have you looking and feeling fantastic!

Remember, you don’t have to push it super hard or go super-fast.

Take your time. If you’re not used to doing cardio, start by going for a walk around the neighbourhood every afternoon. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and run in place during commercial breaks. 

As you build up your endurance, you can tackle longer and more intense cardio sessions. 

For weight training, you’ll need to carve out time every few days to get a good session in. That doesn’t mean you have to rush out and join a gym. Find a spot in your home or out in a park where you can move and run through a simple bodyweight exercise routine.

Or you can try out my 3 Steps to Lean Legs program which is designed to give you maximum results!

Check out these AMAZING results from girls who used my Lean Legs Program:

START MY 3 STEPS TO LEAN LEGS PROGRAM

I have developed my own well-balanced workout program that incorporates resistance training and cardio (both high and low intensity). The program is designed to give women the lean and toned look that they are after, and understand how to do resistance training without getting unwanted bulk.

Find out more about my program here and of course, if you have any questions, feel free to ask!xx

Love,

Rachael


Picture of Rachael

Rachael is an Australian born certified personal trainer and nutritionist who holds a Bachelor degree in Science.

After struggling for years to find an exercise and diet program that is tailored to women striving for lean and toned body with no bulk she designed her Lean Legs Program. This program is tailored to each body type and focused on helping women get toned but feminine bodies, without getting bulky.

Her mission is to empower women and help them stay in shape in a healthy and balanced way.

2 comments on “Cardio VS Weight Training – Which Is Better For Weight Loss?”

    Nina says:

    Hi! Is it ok for me to intermittent fast on the two days of the 5:2 diet (not eating breakfast)? Will this help me lose fat especially around my stomach thanks! xx

      Tijana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      I’ve consulted Rachael about this and she says that although she personally has never tried 5:2 diet, it should help with overall weight loss. Also, here’s a blog post that you might find useful. :)
      I hope this helps! xx
      Love,
      Tina

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