The #1 question on everyones mind, WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO BURN FAT?
For someone to tell you it's cardio, they would be lying to you. If someone said it's weight training, they're also lying. Why? Because they both have a place, but first we need to work out what someone means when they say 'cardio' and what someone means when they say 'weight training'.
I could say cardio is going for a 2km walk with my dog each night after work. Does this mean I do cardio every night? Not really. I could say I do a Les Mills BodyPump class 3 times a week, does this mean I do weight training? Sort of, but for arguments sake, not really.
The classification for this post will be that cardio consists of low intensity, long duration exercise.
Cardio more often than not refers to doing 25-60 minutes of non-stop, low to medium paced exercise with little to no change of difficulty to spike and/or drop heart rate for variety. If this is what you mean when asking the question if it is better than weight training for fat loss, then it's a simple no. Long duration cardio is not better for fat loss than weight training, providing the weight training is high quality and the right stuff to achieve the desired outcome. Long duration cardio also puts excessive stress on the body. Our body's don't like stress, so our body releases cortisol. Our body shouldn't be doing that very often at all! Cortisol is our stress hormone and the more of it we release, the more weight gain occurs, more often than not, is fat gain. So why keep doing it?
Long duration cardio can and will burn calories, but it lacks a very crucial element for burning fat. Muscle building. Lean muscle mass burns the most calories, so you need as much of it as possible to be, and stay, as lean as possible. This will only come from resistance training, or weight training. Performing compound movements (moving across more than 1 joint) at heavy, low rep sets as well as, with lower weight but higher rep sets will help build the most lean muscle mass. In turn, this lean muscle mass will burn the most calories while you're body goes about its day-to-day activities.
By only performing cardio, you will not be building this lean muscle and the only calories you will be burning are those while you are running, walking, cycling, or swimming. Over a long duration of cardio, it is also quite common for the body to start breaking down muscle tissue as energy. It is recommended to increase the intensity of your cardio to place a higher demand on the cardiovascular system to perform at a higher rate, helping to build "cardio fitness". Things like sprints, hill sprints, and other high intensity sprint work will greatly impact your body positively.
The below graph shows you the difference in calories burned during and after a weight program vs a cardio program. You can see that running on a treadmill burns the same amount of calories as weights while doing it, but in the 24-48 hours post, it almost completely stops. With the weights program, working off a 1 minute rest in between sets, you will burn the same as the treadmill for the hour of exercise, but you'll burn 610 calories in the next 24-48 hours! That's more than you burned during it!
Imagine if you repeated this every day, or 4 days a week! Over 4 workouts, you'll burn an extra 1,984 calories. If you maintain this for 48 weeks every year, you'll burn an extra 95,232 calories per year by doing weights over cardio. That is the difference between achieving your goal, and not. Also, when you do weights, you also create better shape and density around the body. So you'll be leaner, tighter, and have better muscle definition.
If you are burning an extra 1,900+ calories per week, imagine all the extra food you could eat and not gain any weight, providing your food choices were good ones!
When it comes to a weight training program that is best suited for fat loss, you also need to make sure you're performing the correct exercises, sets, reps and rest periods.
Weight training is all about getting stronger, with perfect technique. Performing the high energy demanding lifts like deadlifts, squats, bench press, chin ups, are all staples in your training regime, and should be done every single week. This will not only burn the most calories, but it will also enhance body shape faster than anything else. The heavier the weight, and the lower the reps, the more your body will need rest, so make sure you give it enough.
Performing heavy sets on some days, and lighter weight and high rep sets on other days is a great alternative. Heavy sets of 1-6 are a great way to increase your max lifts, then dropping to sets of 10-20 will help you build endurance as well as burn extra calories. Combine this with accessory exercise like; lunges, pushing and pulling movements, core work, arms, rotation movements, and much more, they will add up to give you a fantastic result in both your body composition and fat loss goals.
So the next time your goal is to lose body fat, and you think the quickest way to do so is to go for a run, think again. Go to the gym, grab some weights, and start lifting them. Your body will thank you for it, and then you get to eat more food and look better doing it!
Stay healthy...and strong!