Whether you workout at a gym or health club near you, choosing the best workout routine has always been the first priority. This is especially true when the end goal is to lose all that extra fat deposited, and many still wonder whether it is weight training or cardio they should focus on.
In this popular debate, while the bodybuilders argue that cardio doesn’t help and that excess fat is shed by increasing muscle mass, cardio enthusiasts seem to loathe weight training and believe that you’ll burn fat only by torching calories when you increase your heart rate.
So which one is actually right for you and your fat loss goals, then?
Let’s find out here.
When the fitness goal is to lose weight by slogging in the gym, the very first thing that comes to the mind of most people is cardio, and not weight training. This is probably due to the fact that the calorie-burning advantages of weight training have not been fully recognised.
For most people, weight training is largely about building muscles, and hence, it takes a backseat when it comes to fat loss.
While the general benefits of weight training include an increase in muscle mass, cardiovascular fitness, and improved body composition, it is equally effective as cardio for fat loss (especially in the long-term!) because of the increased muscle mass and its ability to continue to burn more calories at rest.
If we were to believe the experts, then the more muscle mass you have, the better will be your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), as more calories are burned post-workout. Additionally, weight training leaves behind a certain level of muscle damage that increases metabolism during the recovery and repair process. Although prolonged and intensive periods of cardio (running, cycling) can also generate post-workout afterburn due to muscle damage, it is certainly not for the whole body and not at the level of regular resistance workouts.
Another advantage of a balanced weight training regime is that it allows you to cover all the primal poses of the body, including squats, push, pull, lunge, hinge/bend, twist/anti-twist, and gait, thereby working enough muscles of the body to help you attain correct posture & shape.
Most of the cardio machines/exercises, on the other hand, typically work in a particular movement pattern for repetition, which can lead to muscle imbalance and is not as effective for posture.
Fat loss typically occurs when one creates a calorie deficit – burning more calories than they eat. Different people have different approaches to achieve this goal of weight loss. While some prefer to go on a strict diet, the healthiest and most efficient way is to combine cardio, weight training, and a healthy low-calorie diet.
The benefits of cardio specifically in your fat loss journey include:
Cardio exercises boost your heart rate, thereby pumping blood faster and making you sweat & breathe harder, which is an effective way of burning more calories. On average, a 150-lb person can burn approximately 150-160 calories via a brisk 30-minute walk.
A typical weight training session needs to be followed by rest to recover and grow stronger. However, a cardio routine can be followed most days of the week without having to worry about overtraining or injury.
One of the benefits of cardio exercises is that you can easily make minor changes in the intensity of various cardio exercises, such as jumping higher, running faster, or trying new activities to help you accelerate your metabolism.
There is no denying the fact that cardio is a great way to burn calories. However, once the cardio routine is over, you are also done burning the calories. On the other hand, weight training keeps your metabolism high for a long time, post your workout, along with the muscles you build, helping you burn calories just by staying stationary.
The logic behind this process of how we burn calories after a weight training workout session lies in EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). This means that the body still needs oxygen after exercising, at a higher rate, which helps in burning more calories.
While both weight training and cardio have their own benefits as well as flaws, the effects of these two vary from individual to individual. The number of calories burned during a workout session largely depends on the type of exercise, individual body size, and the duration of the particular workout.
A lot of people stress the fact that a cardio workout helps you burn more calories than weight training in the same amount of time. However, what is generally overlooked is the fact that balanced weight training boosts metabolism over time and is more effective in burning calories even after a workout.
If you wish to make your fat loss journey smooth and easy, the focus should be on striking a balance between cardio, weight training and a well-balanced & healthy diet. While a cardio workout helps you burn more calories than a weight-training workout, your metabolism remains elevated for longer after weights as compared to cardio. A combination of both cardio and weight training is, therefore, an ideal exercise regime when you want to speed up your weight loss goal and improve your overall fitness.