Strength Training vs. Cardio for Fat Loss

Strength training vs Cardio for Fat Loss. Everyone knows that strength training is what is necessary for muscle growth but cardio is better for Fat loss – Right? 

Incorrect. False. Not True.

Strength training is superior for muscle growth and for fat loss.  A new study by Brellenthin et al. supports that strength training is more effective per minute of exercise than endurance/cardiovascular training for both fat loss and muscle growth. 

You want to lose fat? Strength train!

The research study followed 12000 healthy adults around for 6 years and analyzed the probability someone would get obese relative to their exercise habits and other variables.

The results were as expected –

Those who exercised and those who exercised the most had the lowest chance of being overweight or obese.

When comparing these two types of exercise, those who did strength training at least 2x a week and no cardio had a lower obesity risk than those who did no strength training but did at least 500 MET – Minutes of Endurance training per week.  

Think about that – 500 minutes is 8.3 hours of training a week

And the cardio folks still didn’t lose fat at the rate of those who lifted weights only 2x a week.  

These results are in line with a 2014 meta – analysis of randomized controlled trials by Claksr: during ab libitum diets, strength training induces more long term fat loss per minute of exercise than cardio.   

Lifting weights burns a comparable number of calories per session

 Cardio can burn calories quicker but generally only at intensity rates that are not sustainable for an hour at a time.  However, strength training also increases your metabolic rate over time, whereas cardio/endurance training does not.  Gaining muscle has been found to increase energy expenditure considerably.  

Plain terms – muscle will help you burn more calories day to day – which will keep fat off of you. 

Another big advantage of training with weights – Appetite control.  Strength training generally is a superior method of appetite control when compared to endurance/cardiovascular training.  

Finally, cardiovascular endurance training ends up suffering from constrained energy expenditure, whereas training with weights does not. (Please note super high volumes of weight training could suffer from similar constrained energy but there isn’t any research at this time). 

As a result, in real life settings, over the long term, strength training is far superior in reducing your energy intake and increasing your energy expenditure than an equivalent amount of cardiovascular training.

If fat loss is your goal you are better off strength training. In fact you do not need any cardiovascular training at all if fat loss is your only goal.

Lastly, please note all exercise is better than no exercise. But realize that lifting weights and getting strong is doing significantly more for you and in a much shorter amount of time than spending endless amounts of time doing cardio/endurance training.  

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