Cardio Vs. Weight Training: Which Is Best For Weight Loss?

Fat loss is one of the most common reasons people exercise. If you're looking to lose weight, you're probably wondering if you should focus on doing cardio or hit the weights. The short answer is both. What matters most is the way you train and your lifestyle.

Confusion Over Fat

When it comes to weight loss, a common source of confusion is the word "fat." First, it's important to understand there is a big difference between dietary fat and body fat. Dietary fat, the fat you eat, is burned as fuel. Body fat, the spare tire around your waist, is your body's way of storing excess calories not used – regardless of what food they came from. When you aren't exercising, your body operates on about a 50/50 split between carbs and fat. Long, steady cardio, however, makes your body burn more of that dietary fat. Unfortunately, this doesn't necessarily mean that you're losing more body fat.

Cardio Power

Deciding what type of cardio you'll do is a major factor to consider for your weight loss program. The common steady-state cardio (running at the same pace for a prolonged period) may not be the best option. Because it has the potential to burn more calories in half the time, high intensity interval training, or HIIT, has become increasingly popular as a weight loss option.

The Right Movements

Not all resistance lifts are created equal. If your goal is to lose fat, stick to compound movements that work large muscle groups. These exercises activate the most muscle fibers, which will make your body burn more calories for fuel, helping you get rid of that excess fat. Squats, pushups, and pull-ups are all body-weight exercises that fit the bill to help jump-start your metabolism.

The After-Burn Effect

It's true that you can burn excess calories, which will reduce your body fat, by going for a run – but that effect only lasts for a few hours. Resistance training, however, will force your body into a highly desirable state called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. Sometimes called the after-burn effect, this EPOC state will cause you to burn excess calories for up to 24 hours after your workout.

Striking the Balance

For maximum benefits, combine cardio and resistance training in a single workout. One way to do this is to use a circuit program. Chain several compound exercises together, hitting all major muscle groups, moving quickly between each. Circuit training not only burns more calories in less time but also helps you burn fat without losing muscle.

The Key

Here’s why it's so important to lose fat without losing muscle. Let's take Jim who is 200 pounds with 25% body fat. Jim cleans up his diet and jogs everyday and manages to lose 30 pounds, but 10 pounds are muscle. Jim’s body fat only decreased to 18%. On the other hand, if Jim lost 30 pounds of fat without losing any muscle, his new body fat percentage would be an impressive 12%. Now that's lean.

So in order to get the lean, toned, athletic body you want, you must lose fat without losing muscle.

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