Fat Loss Effect of Weight Training vs. Cardio

October 8th, 2007 by Paul Johnson

There is a common belief among many, that cardio is better than weight training for fat loss. Is there any research to back this up or could even the opposite actually be true?

Low intensity cardio vs. weight training studies:

Unlike low intensity cardio, weight training has a significant boost on post-workout metabolism. A study published in Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002 Mar;86(5):411-7. Epub 2002 Jan 29. showed that weight training caused a significant increase in metabolism for 38 hours post-workout.

Another study Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 31, No. 9, pp. 1320-1329, 1999 was done comparing diet, diet and cardio, and diet plus cardio plus resistance. Guess who lost the most fat? The one who combined weight training with the other two factors. In fact, the cardio group only lost one more pound of fat than the diet only group.

The best study I have found was in published J Am Coll Nutr. 1999 Apr; 18(2):115-21, directly compares resistance only to cardio only. The cardio group did 4 hours of low intensity cardio a week. The resistance group did 2-4 sets of 8-15 reps a excercise for 10 excercises, 3 times a week. Both groups were on a 800 calorie deficit. Both lost fat, but the weight training group lost far more fat and unlike the cardio group, they maintained all their lean muscle.

As you can see from the studies, weight training is far superior to low intensity cardio, for burning fat and raising metabolism. The main importance we can see from these studies, is that weight training and diet, are the main factors behind fat loss, not low intensity cardio.

HIIT cardio vs. low intensity cardio:

The article has been discussing only low intensity cardio, but HIIT cardio on the other hand, is a much more effective at fat burning than low intensity cardio.  HIIT cardio can be just as effective as weight training for fat loss according to recent studies.

  1. sue on December 11th, 2007

    I have been working out for a year now (mostly aerobics) and have not lost any weight. I eat a very healthy diet ( fish, vegetables, fruit ) with very little junk food, however I do enjoy my wine. I have seriously started weight training and have been faithfully working out 4 – 5 times a week. I also swim mostly because it is easier on my muscles. In the last three weeks, I have lost only 3 pounds but I feel very tight and “sore” at times as well. I really don’t care about the weight as much as the toning of my body. I’d like to get into my size 8 jeans again. I am now wearing size 10.

  2. heather on May 30th, 2008

    In response to the metabolic increase post weighttraining I’d like to add that there are MANY studies that prove just the opposite. There is a difference, don’t get me wrong, but generally the metabolism increase lasts only 12 hours post exercise and the increase is not significant. We’re talking 2-10 extra bpm depending on the fitness level of the individual. In responsde to the girl posting on Dec. ’07 – Here’s the answer – cut out the wine, cut out butter and used olive oil sparingly, and quit overtraining. You might want to tone it down a bit. Make sure you are shedding FAT not muscle. Train in your fat burn zone and your fit zone and those pounds will melt off. Also, limit fruit – it’s a sugar.

  3. Sandeep on November 14th, 2008

    If you are working out for over a year than keep changing your worout plan every month as body gets used to of it, cardio is an essential to weight loss fat loss but some muscle also burns with cardio but thats okay as long as you are doing HIIT 20 MINUTES 3 times a week.

    Overtraining will also burn muscle by increasing cortisol levels.