Fat Loss: Cardio vs Weight Training

Fat Loss Cardio vs Weight Training

Fat Loss: Cardio vs Weight Training

As the old saying goes, it’s 70% diet and 30% training that determines your body shape. I definitely agree that nutrition plays the biggest part in your overall results but your progress will be strongly enhanced by the way you train.

The first time I saw my abs I did purely weight training as well as being strict with my diet. In order to take my physique progress even further, I strategically began to add in a progressive amount of cardio in addition to my strength training and strict diet. As my knowledge improved and dedication increased, I was able to put myself into a position to compete in my first Men’s Physique competition. By having the right balance of both weight training and cardio I was able obtain a muscular and lean body shape that I previously was unable to attain beforehand. Not everyone will want to go to the extreme of a physique show, but the same fat loss principles will still apply.

To lose fat you need to consistently stay in a calorie deficit for the majority of your fat loss phase. Both cardio and weight training can help you get reach this deficit. However, the process to which it helps fat loss is distinctly different and we will discuss these differences as well as giving recommendations on how you can use both forms of exercise to optimize your results.

How does cardio help burn fat?

The amount of calories you burn in a cardio session will generally be higher than a weight training session (depending on the intensity of each workout). This can help you burn through more calories than you’re consuming, thus creating a calorie deficit. The main issue with higher intensity cardio is that it promotes higher levels of the cortisol hormone. When cortisol levels are too high it can lead to muscle loss and fat gain also becomes easier. Lower intensity cardio promotes a lower level of cortisol but it’s a lot more time consuming and arguably very boring.

How does weight training help burn fat?

After a weight training session, your EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) becomes elevated so you burn a higher amount of calories for up to 38 hours after your resistance training workout. The amount of calories you burn in a cardio session is usually limited to just the duration of that particular session. There is less of an after-burn effect.
The more muscle mass you hold, the higher amount of calories your body will use up. A higher resting metabolic rate will help you burn through more calories even in a rested state. As long as you keep training consistently and progressively, you can maintain and potentially add to the muscle mass you attained. It’s the weight training that helps you build that round booty for the ladies or those boulders for shoulders for the guys. Cardio on its own can help you lose weight but it won’t have the same body sculpting effect as weight training.


Cardio is sometimes overrated for fat loss and weight training can be overlooked, but in reality a well structured strength training program should be the base of your fat loss program in addition to proper nutrition. Having a good diet reigns supreme when it comes to losing fat as you can’t out train a bad diet. The next step would be to gradually add in cardio when necessary. The combination of weight training and cardio will not only enhance your fat loss results, but also your cardiovascular health. You
can afford to eat more food and still stay in a calorie deficit if you do both cardio and strength training. Eating more food will help you keep your metabolism higher as well as making it easier to adhere to your diet.

The type of cardio you choose to do will depend on the individual. If you’re trying to maintain as much muscle as possible during a fat loss phase, then a progressive amount of steady state cardio might be the best option. HIIT style cardio might be better suited for those short on time as you get the most bang for your buck in terms of burning calories as quickly as possible. It’s not one size fits all, a good coach can point you in the right direction to help you reach your goal.

Once you find that perfect balance of diet, weight training, cardio, you will be well on your way to achieving your dream body!


By Rishi Haria – Lab Coach

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