Steady Cardio vs Resistance Training for Fat Loss - Which is Better?

When it comes to burning fat there are a lot misconceptions out there and it can often be a bit of a minefield when trying to establish the most effective way to achieve this. If you are one of the many people that are confused about how to lose weight and tone up, or frustrated that you aren't getting anywhere allow me to enlighten you...

First and foremost before we get to onto to training I want to start by making sure that nobody is under any illusion that the ONLY way to burn fat is to be in a calorie deficit - a state where you are burning more calories than you are consuming. Now while this isn't the be all and end all when it comes to losing weight, it is the single most important factor. Essentially your fat mass is your body's reserve store of energy, so if you are eating the same amount of energy, or more than you are using then your body will never get to the point where it has to use your fat mass as fuel. There are 2 ways you can get yourself into a calorie deficit:

1) Eat fewer calories
2) Increase your energy expenditure (exercise)

The simplest and most effective way is the former, however exercise will make things a hell of a lot easier - plus you will get the accompanying fitness benefits and improvement in muscle tone. So to answer the question of which is better between cardio and resistance training as it relates to fat loss, we need to establish how effective they are at increasing your energy expenditure.

Steady Cardio
Steady state cardio is characterised by low to medium intensity exercise that is carried out continuously, often for a period of in excess of 30 minutes. On the positive side steady state cardio is great for burning calories because it keeps your heart rate and oxygen consumption at an elevated level for a sustained period of time. Most people will burn around 500 calories in 45 minutes of jogging - not bad at all considering you need to be in a 200-300 calorie deficit each day in order to lose weight. However, the benefits of steady cardio with regards to fat loss stop as soon as you are done training. Resistance training on the other hand can help you establish a calorie deficit even after you've left the gym...

Resistance Training
Resistance, or weight training involves performing repetitive movements under some degree of load and is carried out intermittently in the form of sets and reps - e.g. 3 sets of 10 reps of squats. Now while you won't burn the same number of calories in an equal amount of time as steady cardio, resistance training elevates your metabolic rate for a period of up to 48hrs post exercise. So the calorie burning benefits of resistance training extend well beyond your 45 minute training session. In addition, when you carry out resistance training on a consistent basis you will start to increase your body's muscles mass. This further increases your resting metabolic rate because energy is required to maintain this additional lean mass.

In summary, it is difficult to determine which form of training burns more total calories as this will vary from person to person. For best results I would always recommend a combination of both steady cardio and resistance training, however if you are only able to train a couple of times a week then I would prioritse resistance training because of the longer term benefit of increasing your resting metabolic rate. If you have any questions about anything I have mentioned in this article I would love to hear from you so please feel free to get in touch anytime.


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