Strength vs. Cardio – What’s better for fat loss?

There is a lot of information out there about fat loss and how to reach your goals. And what’s best. With a list longer than a CVS receipt of things you should or shouldn’t do. It can make your head spin and have you questioning your very existence. I get it. I’ve been there. Some people will swear up and down all you need to do is lift weights. And some will say don’t touch weights with a ten foot pole because “OMG, YOU’LL LOOK MANLY”. I’m happy to report, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. But not in the you’ll look manly realm. Throw that nonsense away.

Strength and cardio both have pro’s and con’s when it comes to fat loss and building more resilient bodies. And most importantly, they both have a place at the table.

Like with most things there is no one size fits all. But I guarantee you if you lift some weights 2 – 3 times a week for roughly 45 minutes, and get some moderate to higher intensity cardio in 2 – 3 times week for 45 minutes too (and eat your protein) – you’ll be on good footing to get to your goals. Let’s dive into WHY though.

When it comes to strength training we all know it has benefits for LIFE, as far as being able to help your buddy move. Or picking up your grandkids. Or just being able to get through the day. But what about the benefits for fat loss? Well – when you build muscle you create a type of “after burn” effect. What this means is that you’re building muscle after you’re done working out. This requires more injury to heal the muscle you’ve basically just beaten up. Meaning – your body will use more calories to fuel the healing processes. Not only does your body require more energy to heal and build the muscle, your body requires more energy with having more muscle to simply function and stay alive.
You know when people tell you “x product” will boost your metabolism. This is kind of that – but without being a b.s. “fat loss tea”. The more muscle you have, the more your metabolism will increase as it’s pumping a lot of energy (calories) into the muscle to simply move it.
So by gaining muscle mass – you can improve your metabolism. Which will help with fat loss.

So – Strength training will create energy/calorie burn during AND after a training session. But what about cardio?

Well – you can think of cardio as more of an “in the moment” calorie burn. Most people will burn more calories with cardio when doing that specific activity vs. when they do strength training. Obviously there are ways to merge the two and get strength and cardio in together – we typically refer to this as conditioning. But we’re just looking at cardio on it’s own right now.

Your body will require more energy to move your body in a run/swim/walk/dance/ect than it would by just standing there. Makes sense right – you burn more gas driving your car than you do just idling it. Thus when you’re doing that activity the gas tank will go down quicker. But once you stop and turn off the car – no more energy burn is happening. Thus – unlike strength training – you’re only burning excess calories when you’re actively moving.

That’s not a bad thing though! Cardio has it’s place in fat loss and a lot of other areas. Like heart health. The quicker your heart is able to return to a resting heart rate, the healthier your heart is. Which is good for preventing things like heart attacks and heart disease. Plus – you’ll want a strong ticker for pumping the extra blood you’ll need to those bigger muscles you’re building 💪🏼

SO! Is this really a vs. ? Is there a winner in the fight ring between the two?

Nope! Strength and cardio both have their place when it comes to fat loss AND your overall health. As a coach who loves functionality it would be irresponsible of me to recommend one over the other. I personally believe (and research will back me up 😉) that you need a mix to hit your goals AND stay there. That does not mean that I LOVE cardio. If you’ve taken a class with me, you know I hate the dang thing. But I do it.

As always though – both types can take whatever form you want/need. You could do bodyweight workouts, or lift weights for strength training. For cardio you could swim, dance, run, speed walk or anything else to get that heart rate up.
At the end of the day – find what works best for you, what you’ll ENJOY and stick to long term. And it’s okay if you want to mix it up and pick up different things! Just move your body and eat your protein. You’ll be on your way to hit your goals and be strong for LIFE.