Fat Loss: Strength or Cardio
The age-old question for fat loss is what is the best type of exercise. Let me preface this with a statement. If you aren’t paying attention to what you eat, it may never matter. You will never out train a bad diet. But since this is not a blog on nutrition, let's talk exercise.
With weight loss, the basic game is calories expended. If you burn more calories than you consume, you should lose weight. Cardio has a tendency to burn more calories in 1 sitting. Score 1 for cardio. All of you cardio fiends out there, not so fast. The beauty of strength training is the afterburn effect. It takes significantly more calories to recover from a strength workout than cardio. For example, you may burn 500 calories in a cardio workout, and only 350 in a strength session. However, over the next 48 hours, you may burn 50 more calories in cardio recovery, but 250 calories in muscle recovery. End result: Cardio =550, Strength= 600. Score 1 for strength. Second strength benefit is muscle growth. Muscle is 5x more metabolic than any other tissue in the body, the more you have, the more calories you burn just being you. Cardio can often result in muscle loss. It is less efficient on the body to carry muscle mass, and the body likes efficiency for cardio. In the scheme of fat loss, the more calories burned means more fat loss. More muscle burns more calories. Score 2 for strength. From the view of body composition, more muscle means that a higher percentage of the body is lean mass… as a result, your body fat percentage is less.
So, in the end, Strength may look like the winner but consider this. Strength exercises that are circuited together can create an anaerobic response. Cardio can act as muscle recovery from strength training. So, my suggestion is that you should have a balance of both. But, I have the ultimate answer to the age-old question… The best exercise is the one that you are willing to do consistently. Exercise done burns infinitely more calories than exercise not done. Move often no matter what it is. Add some strength, add some cardio, add some stretching, and get some sleep! You will look and feel better!
Ryan Golec-Director of Movement and Education at Performance EDU