Burning Fat VS Building Muscle: Which is better for Long-Term Weight-Loss?

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The journey to weight loss can seem overwhelming in the beginning, and with so many different methods, programs, and regimens available, it can difficult figuring out where exactly you should start. Let me begin by saying no one person’s body is the same. Gaining and losing weight depends on a combination of various factors; including, genetic makeup, hormonal controls, composition of diet, and environmental factors such as, sleep, physical activity and stress. Since calories are our bodies main source of energy, the rule of thumb (or energy equation) is that you will gain weight when you eat more calories than you burn, and lose weight when you burn more calories than you eat; otherwise known as eating within a calorie deficit.

Losing weight, like anything in life, requires balance. To lose weight efficiently, there needs to be a healthy balance between the amount of cardio for weight loss and the amount of strength training for fat loss done; along with maintaining a healthy diet of course. 

Weight Lifting vs Cardio: Which burns more calories?

It is important to understand that how many calories you burn directly depends on several key factors, the first being your body size and composition; people who are larger or have more muscle burn more calories, even at their RMR (resting metabolic rate). Secondly, your sex is a dependent factor as well; men usually have less body fat and more muscle than women of the same age and weight, meaning men burn more calories. Lastly, your age plays a role as well; as you get older the amount of muscle in your body tends to decrease, leading to a decline in your metabolic rate.

Cardio for Weight Loss

Cardio machines, spinning, running, swimming, walking, hiking, etc. are aerobic exercises, and are generally considered one of the most efficient ways to lose weight. Thirty minutes of aerobic activities per day is optimal for overall health and should be incorporated into your physical routine. According to HealthStatus, a 180-lb person will burn 286 calories in 30 minutes of high-impact aerobics and 464 calories in thirty minutes of using the elliptical trainer or stationary bike at a vigorous pace. However, as we noted earlier, larger individuals with more muscle mass are able to burn more calories, smaller individuals will burn less. It is also important to incorporate aerobic activity into your routine as it provides many benefits aside from aiding in weight loss. Benefits such as improved cardiovascular efficiency, increased efficiency of respiration and improvement of blood volume, distribution, and delivery to muscles are among these benefits.

HIIT exercises, otherwise known as high intensity interval training exercises, are another type of more vigorous, intense cardio. Many people prefer HIIT to cardio because it only takes around 15-30 minutes to complete a HIIT routine and even though you burn fewer calories at that specific moment, HIIT fires up your system and causes you to burn more calories in the hours after your workout; this is called the after-burn effect (EPOC).  You can read a further in depth article about HIIT exercises and all its benefits, here. (This article also includes different exercise suggestions & how to perform them!)

Thus, as far as cardio for weight loss goes, while cardio will help, you cannot directly target fat; meaning, cardio will diminish fat in your body but it will also diminish muscle mass along with it, which is where strength training for fat loss and muscle gain comes into play.

Strength Training for Fat Loss & Muscle Gain

So, weight lifting vs cardio, you ask? Just like aerobic activity, strength training for fat loss and muscle gain has numerous benefits. Experts recommend strength training at least twice a week, as this will help counteract muscle loss associated with aging.  Furthermore, since muscle mass burns more calories than fat tissue at a RMR (resting metabolic rate), building muscle mass will improve your metabolic rate, granting you the ability to burn more calories after your training session has ended. It goes without saying that if you’re looking to maintain or build your muscle, as well as lose fat, then including strength training in your routine is crucial. Building muscle is a gradual process; however if you’re looking to speed up and optimize your muscle growth, natural muscle builders, for example OptiNOs, can help.

Whereas cardio for weight loss is more effective than weight training at decreasing body fat, weight training is better than cardio for building muscle. A combination of cardio and weights is the best method for losing weight while also improving your body composition.

However, it is important to remember that no training regimen will prove useful if you’re fueling your workouts with feasts of Häagen-Dazs and salt and vinegar chips. The most critical factor for weight loss success is a healthy diet, followed by a good exercise regimen. These two key factors combined will not only lead to greater weight loss, but also better weight maintenance over time. 

Summary:

All in all, the combination of a healthy diet, cardio, and weight training is optimal for helping you become a healthier version of yourself. So when the question of “weight lifting vs cardio,” arises, you now know for a fact that while cardio may burn more calories than weight training in the moment, HIIT and weight training will help your metabolism to stay elevated for longer periods of time and are better for building muscle. Thus, the ideal thing for your health, weight-loss and improving body composition includes cardio, strength training and a balanced diet. All three factors are equally important.