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Does Lifting Weights Burn More Fat Than Cardio?

A personal trainer sets the record straight.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

Picture this: You're in the gym, torn between pumping iron and hitting the treadmill. You find yourself wondering, "Does lifting weights burn more fat than cardio?" Well, let's break it down.

When it comes to fat loss, both weightlifting and cardio have their benefits. On the one hand, lifting weights helps build muscle and boost metabolism, leading to more calories burned even at rest. On the other hand, cardio enhances the immediate calorie-burning effects of activities like running, cycling, or swimming. So, which holds the key to achieving your fat-loss goals?

Allow me to explain the pros and cons of lifting weights and cardio for weight loss. We will settle the eternal debate and then spotlight the best benefits of both workout options! Read on to learn more, and when you're finished, be sure to check out Here's How Long You Need To Walk Every Day for Weight Loss.

Does lifting weights burn more fat than cardio?

fit woman holding dumbbell with measuring tape around waist, concept of ways to get a leaner body

When you hit the weights, you're not just sculpting muscles and building strength; you're also stoking the metabolic furnace. Here's the lowdown: Muscle tissue is metabolically active, meaning it calls for energy (calories) to sustain itself, even at rest. Muscles burn more calories than fat tissue, which simply lounges around. So, the more muscle you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories your body needs to function at rest. Picture it as your body's engine, churning through calories even when you're not working out, as it repairs and rebuilds muscle tissue.

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Now, let's address cardio. Cardio exercises like running, cycling, or swimming can burn a significant amount of calories during the workout itself, leading to an immediate calorie deficit, where you burn more calories than you're taking in. It's like hitting the reset button on your calorie balance, helping you shed those unwanted pounds.

The benefits of cardio don't stop there. Cardiovascular exercises improve heart health and boost endurance, making everyday activities feel like a breeze. Plus, they release feel-good endorphins, leaving you with that post-workout glow and a spring in your step.

The verdict? Embrace the power duo of weightlifting and cardio, sprinkle in a well-balanced diet, and watch those pounds melt away. Weightlifting helps build and maintain muscle mass, which boosts metabolism, while cardio exercises burn calories and improve cardiovascular health resulting in an excellent one-two punch for weight loss. It's not just about burning fat; it's about sculpting a stronger, fitter you—one rep, one stride at a time.

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The benefits of lifting weights for burning fat:

mature, fit, and strong woman holding dumbbells flexing her muscles at the gym, concept of exercises for upper-body strength as you age

Lifting weights isn't just about building muscles and sculpting that dream physique; it's also a powerful tool for torching calories and propelling you toward your weight-loss goals. Sure, a balanced approach including strength training, cardio, and proper nutrition is key, but let's zoom in specifically on why weight training should be a non-negotiable part of your fitness routine:

  • Increased muscle mass: Weightlifting helps build and maintain muscle mass, which elevates your basal metabolic rate, leading to more calories burned throughout the day.
  • Enhanced metabolism: The metabolic demands of muscle tissue mean that even at rest, your body burns more calories than fat tissue.
  • Afterburn effect: Intense weightlifting sessions can lead to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), where your metabolism remains elevated for hours after your workout, aiding in fat loss.
  • Improved body composition: While cardio may lead to weight loss, weightlifting helps shape and tone your body, resulting in a leaner, more defined physique.
  • Increased strength and functionality: Building strength through weightlifting can improve your performance in daily activities and other forms of exercise, allowing you to burn more calories overall.
  • Hormonal benefits: Weightlifting can positively influence hormone levels, such as testosterone and growth hormone, which play a role in fat metabolism and muscle growth.

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The benefits of cardio for burning fat:

woman doing stair runs, concept of cardio exercises for faster weight loss

Engaging in cardio boosts more than cardiovascular health and endurance; it's also a dynamic strategy for incinerating calories and propelling you toward your weight-loss aspirations. Let's spotlight the reasons why integrating cardio workouts should be a cornerstone of your fitness journey:

  • Calorie burn: Cardio exercises such as running, cycling, or swimming are excellent for burning a significant number of calories during the workout itself, creating a calorie deficit conducive to fat loss.
  • Improved heart health: Cardiovascular exercises strengthen the heart muscle, improve circulation, and lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease and promoting overall health.
  • Enhanced metabolism: Regular cardio workouts can boost metabolism, leading to more efficient calorie burning throughout the day, even at rest.
  • Stress reduction: Cardiovascular activities stimulate the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that help alleviate stress and improve mood, which support your weight-loss efforts.
  • Increased endurance: Engaging in regular cardio training improves stamina and endurance, enabling you to exercise for longer durations and at higher intensities, further aiding fat loss.
  • Versatility: Cardio exercises come in various forms, making it easy to find activities you enjoy and can incorporate into your fitness routine. This increases adherence and long-term success in weight loss efforts.
Jarrod Nobbe
Jarrod Nobbe is a USAW National Coach, Sports Performance Coach, Personal Trainer, and writer, and has been involved in health and fitness for the past 12 years. Read more about Jarrod
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